Retail staff are on the front line and therefore responsible for delivering and championing great customer service. Some of your employees will be natural salesmen and women and while this is great for sales it may not always be what's best for your customer. Retailers should be imparting the importance of listening to customers as well as talking to them. How your staff conduct themselves on the shop floor has a huge bearing on sales, reputation and ultimately, customer retention.
Retail employees need the ability to read a customer, as well as the skills to deliver on their expectations. Empowering employees with a solid foundation of training benefits everyone. Staff who have a good product knowledge feel capable dealing with customers and those customers are more likely to buy from credible staff. Consumer confidence in your brand fuel sales, growth and profits.
Who are your customers?
Ipsos Retail Performance, a retail analytics specialists, examined the relationships between retailers and customers.Their findings revealed key differences between certain demographics. All customers are different, this means a one-size-fits-all approach won’t yield overly positive results. Examining your key demographics is a good place to start. Younger customers are generally found to be more evasive than older people when being approached, potentially down to tighter time constraints. Culture and geography were also shown to influence consumer expectations, with British shoppers tending to prefer being allowed to browse without interruption. This is in direct contrast with American and Chinese shoppers who were more inclined to respond to assistance due to high level of staffing in their retail stores.
Alison Barker, client analyst at Ipsos Retail Performance notes “Talking not only improves the chances of increasing conversion rates but also the up-sale options of customers purchasing additional packages and upgrades,” So how do you approach the evasive British shopper? It begins with a warm welcome. All customers should be greeted by a member of staff. Smiling, open body language and a friendly “Hello” represents your brand in a positive light.
What not to do
Don’t stalk the customer around the shop floor. Shops should be a space where people are welcome to browse. Allowing them the freedom and respecting their space is an integral part of not pressuring customers. If you don't this will only serve to drive them out and bad experiences are unlikely to see them return. Poor customer service is reportedly costing UK businesses £15.3 billion a year. Being more in tune with customer requirements are key to ensuring happy customers and repeat business.
What's in a word?
As much as it’s important not to follow customers around, floor staff should be aware of customer movements to identify if they need assistance. Approaching customers with open questions rather than a traditional “Can I help you?” is more likely to be met with a positive response rather than a simple yes or no answer. Questions such as “What brings you in today?” opens up more potential avenues for conversation. The response can then be followed up with more qualifying questions to establish the customer's needs and assist them accordingly. This helps build rapport with the customer and establishes a human connection rather than the customer feeling like they are simply being sold to. It’s important not to interrupt the customer as this can undermine any rapport building you’ve already established.
Examining the phraseology of staff members can reveal some very telling mistakes. Saying “no, we haven’t got…” without a follow-up suggestion, highlighting negatives “It’s been so slow today,” or the worst offender “I don’t know”, all damage the reputation of your business and definitely cost you sales. Retailers must recognise comprehensive staff training programmes are the only way to limit costly mistakes and turn browsers into buyers.