When embarking on a shopping trip, what does the sales staff’s level of service look like? You may be wondering how it should appear? Customer service can take different forms. Are you greeted by a sales associate or made to feel unwelcome or in the way? Is your experience adequate, below target or remarkable?
Recently, I read an article on RetailWire that delved into the subject. David Zahn from Zahn’s consulting questioned whether sales training is fact-based or relationship driven. Focus is placed on product features including technology, fashion, or price. David argues that a sales person’s people skills have been taken largely for granted and are not developed and nurtured through training.
As a customer experience manager, I am not sure I agree with this theory because many companies (including the one I work for) have re-examined how to obtain and retain a superior sales force. Two key practices, hiring and instruction, are evolving in order to meet or exceed customer’s expectations.
zombies need not apply
OK, you probably haven’t had too many zombies helping you through the checkout at your favorite shopping spot. Think deeper into why you prefer this establishment. Is it the superior product, or the likability of those who work there and the company culture that attracts these associates?
When hiring for a sales staff, it is crucial that he or she is a fair representation of your brand, and that he or she is passionate about the company as well as the product. Too often emphasis is based on experience and not personality.
Are candidates able to think on their feet and improvise when necessary? Of course you want someone who can follow rules, but someone who is creative in her approach and empathetic towards others beats experience in my book. You can teach someone sales, not empathy.
not even a well trained zombie?
Once you establish who you want working with your customers, they need proper training how to offer unmatched service. You have the people who love what they do, and where they do it, now capitalize on it by investing time into them.
If you want them to create a perfect denim fold, teach them how and give them the necessary tools. But, by all means don’t forget that although your store will look prettier because of the way product is displayed, it doesn’t take the place of customer service. By teaching them to be attentive to customers instead of being task focused, you will see better customer satisfaction results.
is it measure able?
There is more than one way to measure customer satisfaction. Here are a few I could think of:
- Top-line sale increase
- Repeat clientele
- Customer experience survey scores increase
- Less employee turnover (well, that is more about the internal customer, but it still counts!)
What are your thoughts about the state of retail customer service? Please share your thoughts and stories about good and bad experiences.