New technology putting pressure on retailers to enhance customer service
Latest research has shown that new technology is increasing the pressure on retailers to enhance levels of customer service as they compete for tech-savvy customers.
The research from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills highlights that two million new roles are expected to be needed in the retail, wholesale and automotive sectors over the coming decade – with almost a quarter of new staff performing customer service roles.
It also shows that companies of all sizes need to have staff capable of merging digital, IT and web-related skills with traditional customer service.
Toby Peyton-Jones, director of HR, Siemens UK & North West Europe, and a UKCES commissioner explained: “As technology has boomed shoppers have become more and more informed in their buying choices and demand a far higher standard of customer service as a result.
“Staff in Apple stores are expected to do far more than put products in bags for customers - they can set up your new device, demo products and features, provide a walk-in tech-support service and use the devices they are selling to process the sale.
“Meanwhile those working in stores with less high tech products are not immune. They still need to use technology to do things like locate the nearest product for the customer, and resolve problems and issues to deliver a faster, slicker service.
“For retailers to keep pace with the expectations of their customers it is therefore vital staff are trained in the technical skills they need, and given continuous training to stay on top of developments and trends.”
The report highlights the rise of "ROBO-shoppers" who research online and buy offline. It says this has led to a decline in brand loyalty and placed more emphasis on good customer service as retailers are required to go to even greater lengths to encourage discerning shoppers to purchase from them over rival outlets. Businesses are also having to adopt more flexible approaches of interacting with shoppers, as the face of customer service continues to evolve.
In addition, the study shows that social media, text message responses and online instant messaging are rapidly replacing telephone services for consumers looking to reach customer service teams, and businesses increasingly have to ensure staff have the knowledge and skills to manage such platforms effectively.
Chief executive of UKCES Michael Davis said: “Technology is evolving at an increasingly rapid rate, and although it may seem difficult to keep pace this report highlights the importance of businesses investing in the skills of their people to ensure they do not get left behind.
“Technology is continuing to sculpt and mould the way we live our lives, and is doing so in an increasingly wide variety of ways. To keep pace, employers must take an equally flexible and varied approach to training staff. Online courses, webinars and other digital platforms mean it is easier than ever to find ways of ensuring workers have as much knowledge as possible at their disposal - allowing businesses to remain competitive in such a rapidly changing landscape.”
Training provision amongst retailers has also been found to be lacking by the report, with almost half (45%) of employees in retail, wholesale and automotive sectors receiving no training at all.
The findings come ahead of the launch of a new competition under the UKCES UK Futures Programme, which will allow employers to bid for a share of £2 million dedicated to resolving problems with training, low pay and progression among retail and hospitality sectors.
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