Has the High Street Become Extinct?
How Shopping Online, Outsourced Call Centres, and Telephone Answering Services Have Changed Customer Expectations
A lot has changed on the UK high street since the heyday of the department store in the 1970s and 80s. With the rise of internet shopping, more and more big names are leaving the high street and a change is in the air. A new wave of independent retailers are taking over prominent shop front locations, and with outsourced call centres and telephone answering services they can provide the customer service needed to compete with the big chains.
Over the last few years we’ve lost many of the names that were once staples of the British high street. Woolworths, JJB Sports, and Comet are just a few of the shops that have disappeared from our towns in the last decade. And, with recent news that BHS is yet another casualty, it looks like the trend is set to continue.
For many it is the rise of internet shopping giants like Amazon and eBay that has changed the face of our towns forever. But this isn’t the first wave of change to hit the high street. From the shopping centres of the 1980’s, the retail parks of the 90’s, and the megamalls of the 2000’s, the high street has always had competition and it has had to adapt to survive.
The Threat of Online
Without a doubt, online shopping has been the biggest threat to the high street so far. The convenience of shopping from home combined with outsourced call centres and telephone answering services mean that the online giants are able to provide levels of customer service never before seen on the high street.
Long gone are the days of family shopping trips on a Saturday afternoon for a chat with a salesman and a look round a showroom. Customers in 2016 expect to be able to buy when they want, and to have their phone call answered by a friendly call centre operator at a time convenient to them.
This change has come as a huge shock to many high street companies, and only those who have been able to change to meet customer expectations have been able to stay afloat. But how does the future look for the high street?
So – the online giants have come to kill the high street with convenience and fantastic customer service. I can buy online at a time convenient to me – it’s great. I can have my phone calls answered late into the evening – fantastic. But if there is one downfall to online shopping, and one place where the rules of convenience and customer service get thrown out of the window, it is when it comes to delivery and dealing with the dreaded courier companies.
Don’t get me wrong, most courier firms provide a fantastic service. But there have been times when we have all had to deal with the courier from hell. The courier who can only deliver between 9 and 5, can’t provide a time slot, and flings your parcel in their van to leave a pile of broken rubble. And when you try and call them up there is no telephone answering service, just an automated machine that can’t understand you (this is particularly bad when you consider how affordable and professional outsourced UK call centres can be).
It is the challenge of delivery that means many retailers are choosing to keep a presence on the high street to offer click and collect services. In my opinion this is how online shopping makes the most sense. You can shop at home from your sofa whenever you want, get your phone calls answered at your convenience, and then when you’re free from work you can go and pick up your order. It is a win-win situation for shoppers and for the high street.
Independent Retailers Taking Back the High Street
Even with the advent of click and collect, many big names have left our high streets for good which has created fantastic opportunities for the independent retailer. The number of empty shops in our town centres has led to a rise in independent boutiques who only 10 years ago would have been priced out of the market in desirable town centre locations.
Although prices can be higher with independents than the big chains, independent retailers often have product knowledge that can be lacking in national chains and this is always a big draw for customers. Independents can even compete on the customer service front too by outsourcing their call centre and telephone answering services.
In order to provide a round the clock help line and compete with online retailers, independent business owners can turn to a call handling specialist to help with their telephone answering. These services make sure no customer is left out in the cold, and the close relationships call handlers build with their clients mean customers won’t even know they’re talking to an outsourced call centre.
The future of UK high streets
While online shopping may have changed customer expectations of service and convenience, the great British high street isn’t extinct yet. It will do what it has always done and adapt to the changes thrown at it. Through outsourcing call centres and an affordable online presence through web platforms like Shopify there is no reason a local high street boutique can’t compete with the big online retailers
The customers will do what they always have done and vote with their feet (and their wallets). It is the job of the high street to have the online accessibility and the telephone answering services expected of them to make sure the customers vote in their favour.