In such a highly competitive industry as retail, complacency with a winning formula is dangerous. It’s important to consistently improve on your offering to customers and to push the boundaries, even if it’s a risk that could impact your business.
That’s not to say take a risk on something that could close down your business, but take calculated risks and be comfortable with the fact that you could take a hit before you get the new formula right.
We recently trialled 30-day free exchanges. This is an initiative that allowed customers to get a free exchange on a product they weren’t happy with (even after weeks of using it) and that was purchased within a 30-day period. The feedback to this offer was great – we had people wanting to exchange some products.
That’s right, I said great … about exchanges.
Any retail or business owner, would argue that I’m crazy, as many retailers have the opinion that exchanges are a headache, are costly and are a sign of a negative experience. To the contrary, this was music to our ears.
If you’re a company that prides itself on customer service, as we do, then you have to realise that perfecting the service you provide is just as crucial an investment, as the investment in the product itself. You can’t have one without the other; you just won’t survive in the current market conditions.
The lessons we learned from this endeavour were invaluable; as the feedback we received included comments on the functionality, performance and sizing of the products.
After analysing this feedback we are now able to provide more thoughtful product information on our site, which ensures that we can get it right with customers the first time. Customers embraced this offer because it gave them a more flexible shopping experience and in an efficient and timely manner. They were also able to receive products that were more suitable to their lifestyles.
On the flip side, it did impact upon our business (due to the costs involved in taking back the product, and not being able to re-sell it), but in the grand scheme of things, this exercise has made us a better company – and how can you put a cost on that?
For a business that is just starting up, it would be difficult to absorb the impact of a calculated risk, but once you have established a solid enough position, I would encourage business owners to find new ways to improve their service.
Here are a few pointers:
- Give your initiative a time limit – it’s important to give your initiative enough time to be embraced by customers (good or bad), but not so much time that it could seriously impact your business.
- Give it a good shot – put the strongest offer out to market. You can’t dip half a toe into the water; you won’t get a true indication of whether it has worked.
- Nothing is negative – there is always an opportunity, even with negative feedback. This is where the gold is.
- Challenge yourself and your business – it only makes you a better business leader to continue to get out of your comfort zone.