The global fast fashion industry has undergone remarkable growth in the 21st century. Thus, the industry has become very competitive. Some of the renowned international industry players include Mango, Hennes & Mauritz, and Zara. Traditionally, the industry players mainly focused on operations, production management, and process improvement. As one of the industry players, Zara specializes in offering diverse fast fashion products such as footwear and apparels. The firm is renowned for its new product introduction.
Zara’s product development cycle is estimated to be 14 day, which is remarkably short compared to the 6-month industry average. This approach has enabled the firm to introduce approximately 10,000 new designs every year. This aspect shows that Zara has adopted a product-oriented approach. However, the growth in intensity of competition has increased the significance of customer service management within the industry (Choi 130). Choi cites different aspects that include product alteration, personal selling, repair, refund, or exchange, gift-wrapping, and the inclusion of a variety of payment methods as some of the fundamental issues that constitute customer service (130). This paper involves a critical analysis of customer service at Zara. The purpose is to identify the areas in which the firm has excelled and how it can improve its approach towards customer service.
Customer service at Zara
Zara has attained an optimal market position in the international market. The company is ranked 58 amongst the most valuable brands in the world. The firm’s performance can be attributed to the adoption of the product-oriented strategy. The firm produces over 840 million garments annually. Zara has developed a customer service policy to increase the level of customer satisfaction. The policy is based on the concept of allowing the customer control the course of interacting with the firm.
Personalization of customer service
Zara has developed sufficient capability on how to offer personalized customer service. According to Lee, personalization of customer service is a critical element in an organization’s effort to entrench customer loyalty (29). This assertion arises from the view that offering personalized customer service increases the chances of customers identifying with a firm and its products. One of the approaches that the organization has adopted in offering personalized services is the integration of electronic customer-relationship management system [e-CRM]. Lee identifies an increase in the use of electronic technologies by online retailers to enhance their competitiveness in customer service (29).
In line with this trend, Zara has emphasized the electronic channel of communication with its customers. The firm recently implemented a Radio Frequency Identification [RFID] system that enables the firm to identify and track individual products within its logistics systems. The integration of the e-CRM technology has remarkably enhanced Zara’s capability concerning the pre-purchase and post-purchase customer service. A study conducted by E-tailing Group and MyBuy showed that over 75% of customers are concerned with receiving personalized post-order communication (Lee 29). Zara must ensure that it relies on different electronic systems in understanding consumer behavior to enhance its effectiveness in offering personalized customer service. Thus, the firm should leverage on data generated by different electronic systems as a source of market intelligence.
Timely response to customer complaints
In addition to the above issues, Orsburn stresses the importance of organizations’ customer service departments ensuring that specific complaints on a product are immediately rectified (79). Zara has developed adequate capability in responding to customer complaints. Additionally, to improve its response to customers, the company has implemented an effective system that ensures that all the customer complaints around the world are channeled to the headquarters (Levine par. 6). Thus, the company can address the customers’ complaints from a central position. The firm should not only rely on its implemented customer communication system to leverage on this capability. On the contrary, the firm should assess customers’ complaints and compliments on its customer service approach made on the different online platforms such as social media platforms. The rationale for this approach arises from the high rate at which social networks are increasingly being used in spreading the word of mouth amongst consumers. This approach is critical in enabling the firm to develop relevant market intelligence that will contribute to considerable improvement in its brand image.
In 2014, the firm responded to increase in complaints about the branding of one of its kids t-shirt products that seemed to promote the Wild West films. Due to increase in customer complaints, the company made a formal apology on the affected customer groups and immediately withdrew the sale of the specific t-shirts in all its online and brick and mortar stores (Arthur 3). This move underscores Zara’s efficiency in managing and safeguarding its brand reputation.
Customer service training
Zara Incorporation appreciates the contribution of offering a unique experience for customers shopping for fast fashion products at its store. The organization has integrated customer service training as one of the vital approaches to achieving this goal. The purpose of implementing customer service training is to enhance the level of skills and knowledge amongst the customer service representative. The outcome is an improvement in the efficiency with which the customer representatives adopt customer-centric approaches in serving clients.
Despite this approach, Zara’s customer service training is lacking in the cultural approach. Available secondary data shows the existence of complaints about racial discrimination at Zara stores. One of the notable cases entails the existence of claims of discrimination on black customers and employees. A report released by the Centre for Popular Democracy in 2015 affirms that Zara has adopted a ‘special order’ coding in its customer service. The coding is used in denoting orders from black customers (Chapin par. 2). Thus, the employees are alerted to watch the customer’s behavior within the store with the objective of minimizing cases of shoplifting. This aspect indicates the existence of racial profiling within the store whereby black customers are associated with shoplifting.
The integration of the ‘special orders’ denotation might lead to bias in service customers based on their race. This aspect illustrates the existence of a gap in Zara’s customer-service training programmed. The existence of biased customer service might lead to negative customer experience amongst the Africans and African American customers. Thus, if the firm does not make the necessary adjustments, the firm might encounter a significant decline in its customer base.
Zara incorporation should integrate the concept of equity and equality in its customer service training to mitigate such occurrences. The firm can achieve this goal by implementing a cross-cultural training program. The firm should understand that cultural differences are a source of strength in serving customers. This approach will ensure that the employees understand the importance of treating customers equally irrespective of their demographic characteristics and cultural differences. By making such adjustments in its customer service training, Zara Incorporation will succeed in entrenching a customer centric approach in its customer service delivery.
Zara accustomed experience blueprint
Customer experience is a fundamental aspect of an organization’s long-term survival. However, the science and art behind the provision of customer experience is blurred. Arthur affirms that offering excellent customer experience has continued being an elusive aspect in many organizations (3). However, organizations must put the necessary efforts in improving their effectiveness in providing customer experience. Failure to improve the level of customer experience leads to negative consequences such as customer disappointment, missed revenue opportunities, legal costs in the form of fines and reputation damage (Arthur 1).
It is imperative for organizations to develop a customer experience blueprint to avoid such occurrences. The purpose of the customer experience blueprint should serve as the basis for designing future customer experience. Zara has implemented a comprehensive customer service blueprint. The customer service blueprint is comprised of several aspects. The first component that the organization has focused on entails physical evidence. The firm has achieved this goal by ensuring that its brick and motor stores are strategically located. The company is concerned with improving the level of customer service through implementation of online platforms. This move has improved the efficiency with which consumers access the firm and its products. In addition to the above aspects, Zara’s approach to customer experience is further entrenched through the adoption of effective interior designs. Most customers who visit the store appreciate the store ambience that the store has developed. For example, the firm has ensured that the stores are decorated using appealing colors. Subsequently, customers tend to spend a substantial amount of time shopping within the store.
Secondly, the firm has implemented customer service training to improve service delivery. The training has contributed to considerable development in the level of understanding on the fundamental issues that the firm’s customer service representatives should follow in the process of interacting and serving clients. One of the issues that the company has focused on in the shopping process entails providing customers’ freedom during the purchasing process. The customer service representatives are further required to treat customers with respect and courtesy. Moreover, the customer representatives are always there to provide customers any help needed during the process of purchasing. This aspect shows that Zara has adopted an active role in the consumers purchasing process. Levine emphasizes that the contact that a customer service representative establishes with the customers influences their perception towards the firm and hence the chances of developing repeat purchase behaviors (par. 5).
Zara has further integrated onstage technology in its customer service blueprint. The firm has achieved this goal by implementing different technologies such as the RFID. The application of this technology has contributed to significant improvement in the efficiency with which the firm offers customer care. For example, by using this technology, Zara has been able to enhance the efficiency with which customers can use the technology in making a real-time inquiry on the availability of a specific product in the firm’s physical and online store, viz. Zara.com. Therefore, one can argue that the system has improved the effectiveness with which the firm stocks or restocks a particular product on a specific store. Thus, the technology aids in monitoring the firm’s distribution process. Therefore, the technology has made customer service at Zara to be seamless.
The outcome entails an improvement in the level of customer care hence contributing to the firm’s efficiency in offering customers a unique experience.
Zara has integrated effective backstage contact employee actions to create a unique customer experience. This goal has been achieved through the integration of information communication technology. This aspect highlights Zara’s dedication to communicate with customers. One of the areas that the organization has performed exemplary in relates to order confirmation and tracking. Some of the customers that I interacted with affirmed that Zara sends emails and messages confirming the receipt of a purchase order. Additionally, the firm keeps in contact with the customers during the entire purchasing process. The purpose of communication is to assure the customer that their order will be delivered within a specific timeframe. However, the company provides customers an option to change the delivery timeframe.
The company has taken the customer service communication to a new level. The customers affirmed their satisfaction with Zara’s option of giving them the opportunity to track the movement of their products through the distribution chain. The firm has achieved this aspect by providing customers a link that they can use. One of the customers said that the link is hosted under Aramex.com. The constant communication that Zara undertakes during the order fulfilment process has played a remarkable role in minimizing customer service contact. Furthermore, the constant communication illustrates Zara’s effectiveness in anticipating and addressing customer needs. Furthermore, the incorporation of these activities has played a fundamental role in enhancing the development of a positive customer perception.
The company is further committed to establishing unique customer experience by ensuring efficient and fast delivery of the product to the customer. Therefore, to achieve this goal, Zara has contracted the services of courier firms. The purpose is to ensure that customers receive the product ordered within the specified timeframe. An example of courier firm that the firm has contracted in Europe includes DPD Group.
Evaluation of the usability of Zara’s website
Zara incorporation has appreciated the contribution of web-based technologies in offering customers a unique experience. Subsequently, the firm has developed an official website that it uses in interacting with customers. In developing the website, Zara has emphasized on the concept of usability to improve the level of interaction with the clients. Most customers that I interacted with were of the opinion that Zara’s website is one of the most efficient e-commerce sites. They cited different features of the website such as effectively designed search box. The search box is positioned optimally on the website by locating it away from other text boxes and does not change. Upon making a search using the search box, the other content of the website completely disappears hence giving the customer an opportunity to view the search results together with the product image without being interrupted by other contents.
The website also provides customers autosuggestion based on commonly searched abbreviations and phrases. Additionally, customers can filter the search results based on product category. Therefore, customers can locate easily the item category that they are searching. The firm has also ensured that customers can easily access the website through Internet-enabled mobile devices such as mobile phones. This move has made it possible for customers to establish and maintain communication with the firm using their mobile phones. However, one of the shortcomings of the website is that it does not give customers an opportunity to search for products based on distinct product characteristics such as price and color.
Customer service comprises a critical element in an organization’s quest to achieve sustainable financial performance. The rationale for integrating customer service is to establish a unique experience. Zara has attained excellence in different services and operational capabilities. Some of the areas in which the firm has developed competence in relates to the personalization of customer service and ensuring timely response to customer complaints. This goal has been achieved through the integration of effective and efficient information communication technologies such as the RFID. Moreover, the organization has developed an effective and usable website, which further contributes to improvement in the level of customer service. The firms approach in customer service is further enhanced by the adoption of a comprehensive customer service blueprint. The customer service blueprint is aimed at sustaining the firm’s efficiency in offering sustainable customer service.
Despite its commitment towards the adoption of technology in offering unique customer experience, Zara has failed to appreciate the importance of culture in its customer service training. This situation is well illustrated by the increasing complaints about racial discrimination against black customers. Therefore, the firm has an obligation to embrace the importance of cross-cultural aspects in its customer service training. The integration of cross-cultural training will play a fundamental role in ensuring that all customers are treated with a high degree of equity.
Arthur, Little 2009, Developing a customer experience. PDF file. Web.
Chapin, Adele. Zara used a code word to allegedly profile black shoppers 2015. Web.
Choi, Tsan-Ming. Fast fashion systems; theories and applications, New York: CRC Press, 2013. Print.
Lee, In. Trends in e-business, e-services, and e-commerce; impact of technology on goods, services and business transactions, Hershey: Business Science References, 2014. Print.
Levine, Staurt. How Zara took customer focus to new heights 2013. Web.
Orsburn, Eve. The social media business equation: using online connections to grow your bottom line, Boston: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.