The associate is the key to the customer experience

As technology continues to advance and consumers change the way they shop, the customer experience also needs to evolve. The key is that it is all about the customer. Convenience and reducing frustration and aggravation are key priorities for most consumers. Whatever retailers can do to personalize the shopping experience and make it easy will go a long way towards earning loyalty and increasing sales.

While leveraging technology and self-service options are compelling options, I think some retailers are losing focus on customer service. As retailers look to cut costs by reducing staff in stores, it can have a negative impact on the customer experience. The big advantage that physical stores have over online shopping is the ability to provide a truly personalized shopping experience. However, if you don’t have enough sales associates in your store, you risk frustrating customers that are looking for assistance but can’t find an associate.

Consumers continue to spend time in stores because they seek unique experiences and the ability to touch and feel products. Creating the necessary customer experience also relies on well-informed and available sales associates. Today’s information-savvy consumers are not satisfied with just a ‘warm body’ or ‘one size fits all’ experience – they expect retailers to put time and effort into establishing and offering a personalized experience. Associates are a vital component of this effort, which means retailers need to effectively, train, educate, motivate and arm store employees with tools to ensure that they can and will fulfill the customer’s desire for a personalized experience.

Retailers can enhance their customer service offerings by empowering associates with mobile tools to access customer information based on providing associate-facing and customer-facing applications on their phones that leverage customer information. Knowing what is in the customer’s closet, what they have previously purchased, or even what other customers with similar profiles are mixing and matching together offers associates valuable data that can be used to tailor the shopping experience. In BRP’s 2018 POS/Customer Engagement Survey we found that 51% of retailers agree that empowering associates with mobile tools is a top customer engagement priority.

Providing associates with the tools needed will go a long way towards making the customer’s shopping experience personal and convenient without any added aggravation. The key is to remember the customer is the center of the universe.  Do your customers feel this way?

I appreciate your feedback on this topic. Please share your comments and opinions below.


Ken Morris

Ken was CEO and President of LakeWest Group and founder of CFT Consulting and CFT Systems, a retail software company. Earlier in his career, he held retail information technology executive positions at Lord & Taylor, Filene’s (Macy’s), Talbots, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, and Sears. His experience is with strategy, selection development and deployment of retail management systems and processes.


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