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It looks like it’s going to be a hectic Christmas for retailers. Retail Excellence Ireland states that for the first time since 2007, the retail sector has grown for three months in a row. These figures show that customer confidence has recovered and this bodes well for the Christmas season. Does this mean that the recession is in its closing stages? My answer would be that we have ways to go yet before we see the back of it, but for retailers, it is great news that customers are buying again. So, let’s help them in the pre-sale process.

Surprisingly the figures from Retail Excellence Ireland reveal that IT computing sales declined. Is this a surprise though? IT goods are usually bought last minute during Christmas. It is the mothers waiting until they have received their children’s Santa wish list (which contains a PlayStation 4 and 15 games) or the crafty buyer waiting for the best possible prices before stores close. There is a lot of buying for other people going on at this time of year and pre-sale customer service has to be immediate, reliable and factual.

Here are five tips for pre-sale customer service:

1. Be Easily Reached Online

Not exactly a ground-breaking statement but it’s not as simple as having a good website if you’re not getting the web traffic you’re missing a lot of sales opportunities. There are marketing tools out there to bring your site closer to the top of the first page of a Google search. 44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine. (Source: Interconnected World: Shopping and Personal Finance, 2012).

Content marketing is the new strategy that all SME’s should utilise. Writing blogs, using Adwords, creating a Newsletter and Social Media are all ways of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). All these will make sure you compete with the Amazon’s and Argos’s this year.

2. Match your offers with customers’ expectations

There is no point offering great ‘buy one get one free’ deals if your customers are more interested in shipping costs. It’s a trap that can be easily avoided if you pay attention to your customers. London-based software company OrderDynamics discovered the mismatch in service and expectation.

Customer relationships retailers offering vs customer expectations

[The report “Customer Relationships: The rules of attraction,” is available online.]

As seen from the chart above delivery is a big thing for customers nowadays. If you can display ‘Same day delivery’ on your website you get a competitive advantage. Also, it seems that companies need to have better interaction between their website and stock. Today your website needs to be up to date consistently; it helps keep your customers’ expectations at a manageable level which avoids confusion and irritation.

Take some time to understand your customer’s decision chain and what is most important to them.

3. Omni-channel Customer Support

It’s a real buzz word right now. More than two-thirds of shoppers are considered Omni-channel consumers. Modern day buyers are now researching and purchasing over a wide array of channels. 43% of all spending will be online, up from 42% last year [Source: USA today].

One channel you can utilise to ‘one up’ your competitors is live-chat. 90% of consumers will always check a website before e-mailing or calling a company (Source: Synthetix, 2014) and having an instant messaging service on your website will guarantee a reduction in shopping cart abandonment. Online customer service (live chat) improves the chance of a purchase by 40%-60%! [Source:]. If you outsource this live chat facility to a call centre you can relax in the knowledge that even when you’re asleep your customer’s queries are being answered within seconds.

4. High-Quality Customer Service

Ensure that whoever answers the live-chat, email or phone call is prepared to upsell, offer detailed product knowledge and incentives. This can be difficult for your in-house team due to the fact that over Christmas the sheer volume of calls can put a strain on your business. You could hire new staff to confront this demand but the cost of hiring and training can be expensive. Outsourcing customer service to a call centre reduces this cost dramatically as well as having all the technology already in place to provide a professional service.

5. Decision Power

Empower potential buyers with the “Decision Power” – offer them the possibility of buying online or over the phone, and delivering the product at home or collecting it on your shop (“click & collect”). 90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal whether that’s smartphones, PCs, Tables or TVs. (Source: Google, 2013)

Now is the time where you can gain a real competitive advantage for your business. By creating a relationship with a call centre your business will be able to handle what comes this Christmas and beyond. Above all, it will allow you to compete on more platforms for customers and give you more time to enjoy the holidays.


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