Here at the start of the 21st Century, technology and globalisation are changing the rules of business competition. Improvements in manufacturing processes mean that manufacturers in low cost economies, wherever they may be in the world, are able to produce high quality products relatively cheaply.
So how does the buyer choose which product to buy? Increasingly, how the product or service is delivered is becoming more and more important. Excellent customer service might, for example, mean the ability to deliver and install a Plasma TV within 24 hours, better support when things go wrong, friendlier and more informed staff, or perhaps the ability to speak to a real person rather than an automated machine.
Customers have immense choice; if they aren’t happy, they can take their custom elsewhere. What’s more, they will tell other customers to do the same.
A perspective on customer service from John Lewis:
In the retail sector there are always new roles and initiatives emerging, but at John Lewis it is our focus on a high level of customer service that differentiates our business from our competitors.
We at John Lewis are optimistic for the future of retail and we are constantly looking at how to better meet our customer’s needs, through adapting our offer and being innovative in how we deliver an outstanding assortment of services and products. We see our main challenge as finding new ways to bring our fantastic reputation to a wider audience, whether through our department store expansion plans, developing new store formats or broadening our multi-channel offer.
There is no doubt that exciting times lie ahead for the retail sector. At John Lewis there are a large number of opportunities for those who join us, whether in one of our department stores, distribution facilities or head office. There are many good training programmes offered by retailers, and we are proud of our learning and development scheme which is designed to allow individuals the opportunities to progress in both the direction and at the speed they feel is right for them.
Our advice to you, if considering a career in retail is to really take advantage of this fast moving pace. View customer service as your number one priority, wherever you work, and take a flexible approach to how you work and how you progress. For instance, being geographically mobile, considering secondments to gain new skills and being prepared to take sideways, as well as upward, moves to progress your career.
Laura Whyte, Personnel Director, John Lewis Department Stores.