From online to offline, local to international, as consumers we are presented with unprecedented levels of choice as to where we shop today. We’re even able to read the news on our tablets and smartphones, meaning we don’t need to head to the local newsagent.
This new approach to retail and convenience is delivering many benefits for consumers but retailers are finding it increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Never underestimate the power of strong customer service.
While a large business will often use technology and data to personalise their communications with customers, small retail businesses remind us of the importance of the face-to-face interaction and how much it’s valued in today’s digitally connected society.
We are all human after all, so whilst a website predicting my next purchase is helpful, the added value of a personalised face-to-face experience in store can never be underestimated. Recent research has shown that faced with a rational choice, emotional attachment wins over cost when it comes to a customer’s retail decisions.
We regularly assist clients in getting their customer service ‘fit for business’, and whilst many strategies are industry or sector specific, here are some good basics to implement no matter your product line.
Tip 1 – Hire passionate service providers
Everyone puts on a good front in the interview process. I’m sure you have heard “I love people’ from many an eager applicant. But how do you know?
One retailer serious about the customer experience undertakes a rigorous interview process to recruit new service providers which would be well worth adopting if you want to separate the passionate retailers from those who just want a job.
They create a workshop environment and role-play customer interactions across a broad range of products to test the applicant’s ability to exceed the customer’s needs in a variety of situations. This is a really great way to interview for knowledge, confidence and genuine service ability.
Tip 2 – Product knowledge
If you have employed the right attitude and ability, the next key ingredient to maximising customer satisfaction is through knowledge of the products and services you sell.
Especially in the peak trading times, many a retailer is guilty of hiring in casual staff, teaching the basics of register operation and letting them go. There is no way that this new team can provide a customer experience, the best they can do is put through a transaction.
Set both your team and your business up for success by structuring product information sessions explaining the range and product features and role-playing through a customer experience outlining the benefits of the products. Customers want, and deserve more for their dollars than a bag and a receipt and talking through the benefits of a product with a customer opens up the opportunity for an add-on sale.
Tip 3 – ‘Cover the floor’
Just as a footy team has positions to ensure all the ground is covered, so should the retail shop floor. Divide your shop floor into sections and assign each section to a team member who is responsible for replenishing, presentation and most importantly customer service.
There are many good reasons to have this practice in place but here is just one.
It is very frustrating for a customer who is focused on considering a purchase to be approached more than once by different team members. The customer is there because they want a product and whatever we can do to assist that purchase is our role. Being approached multiple times also tells the customer you are not really focused on them at all as you would know that they had already been previously approached.
On the other hand, to not be offered assistance when you need it or to be ignored completely is worse. Having one team member assigned to an area provides personal service to the customer and within easy reach.
Tip 4 – Create atmosphere in the store
There is much being written lately about creating entertainment in retail. The general message is that focusing on how the customer feels when they shop will increase their positive experience and therefore increase their purchase cycle and/or basket price.
For smaller specialty retailers this can be in lighting, aroma, sound or even interactive media. Of course, the most powerful influencer to how a customer will feel is their interaction with other people…so back to tip 1!
Tip 5 – Deliver on your promise
As retailers we invest many dollars into driving traffic into our shops. Big dollars are spent on marketing activity to promote a product or service external from the store environment and so the very least we must do when we promote in this way is be ready for a response.
If you have managed to hit your target and a customer is choosing to plan their day around a trip to your shop, you must deliver.
At the very least, ensure every one of the team knows:
What has been promoted
How it has been promoted
All the features and benefits of the product
Where the product is
How much of the product we have
Where to get more
What to do if we sell out
We know that great customer service comes from a consistently motivated ‘effective people’ working as a team. Nothing will replace a structured training program implemented throughout the year to reinforce consistent service skills behaviour to maximise the customer experience.
Contact us now to find out more about ‘effective people’ training sessions or more ways to improve your business fitness.
Brian Walker is founder and CEO of retail consulting company, Retail Doctor Group. He specialises in the development and implementation of retail and franchise strategies.