To anyone who has ever worked Retail: We understand your pain. Long days, longer nights, abusive customers, aching feet and no comprehension of the word “holiday” are in no way unfamiliar to the millions of Retail workers in the United States alone. Those who have found themselves immersed in this daunting world of Retail knows it can also be a brute to manage properly- especially considering the difficulty involved in hiring quality employees. There is nothing easy about finding the perfect retail employee with the necessary flexible schedule who is great with people, can stand on their feet all day long, can live off of minimum wage, and are overall honest and hardworking people. These employees are a rare breed, and no hiring manager can expect every employee to boast all of these great qualities. However, there is a lot that can be done to manage the non “go-getters” who exist in nearly every retail setting.
When we, (as Retail experts) recognize that managing a vast cross-section of employees in a workplace is never easily accomplished, it is best to simplify and identify the single most important piece of any Retailer’s mission: customer satisfaction. And remember, the key to loss prevention is your front-line associates providing premium customer service. If each employee can focus simply on helping customers, the retailer has already won the sale as well as the loss prevention battle.
It seems simple, doesn’t it? Help the customer. But maybe this is not as easy as it sounds. What if the customer seems standoffish? What if the customer says they are “just browsing”? When is it appropriate for an employee to step-in? When is the customer actually looking for assistance? When do they wish to be left alone for a more independent shopping experience? These are all questions that retail employees may be asking themselves when a customer walks through their doors- and they are all valid questions that should be thought through carefully in order to give the customer a pleasant and memorable shopping experience. Let’s break down the steps to answer some of these questions and take one step closer to guaranteeing a quality repeat customer.
The first thing every retail employee must do when a new customer walks through the front door is assess the situation. Every shopper is in need of something- whether it’s the need for a new outfit or the need to get out of the house for a sunny afternoon, there is always a reason that this customer has walked into your store. Identify the need, or problem presented by the customer. Without perceiving this need, no help will be given and the customer will walk out the door unassisted.
Once the employee has identified the shopper’s motives, they must take responsibility to help take care of the customer. It is easy to give up responsibility and let the shopper do his or her “own thing” and browse around the store- but without some sort of direction from the employee, the shopper will become complacent and leave the store (most likely without purchasing). However, if the employee takes the initiative to help the customer, they are one step closer to a positive customer experience.
In the event the employee does take the initiative and realizes they are responsible for the customer’s satisfaction, helping them may not necessarily be an automatic response. “Why should I help?” “What’s in it for me?” “What’s the ‘big deal’ if I let this one walk away, unassisted?” These are all questions employees may ask themselves upon the arrival of a new customer. Unfortunately, employees may often find more costs than benefits of helping out a customer. It is truly up to the retailer to put in place incentives for hard working employees who go “above and beyond” to attempt to help customers- which leads to the final step in this decision making process.
The employee decides to help the customer. This is great news! The employee is all hands on deck, ready and willing to go above and beyond to help the customer in any way they can. It seems as though the process is complete and confetti should be flying along with trumpeting music- but not so fast! What if the employee does not know how to help the customer? It is imperative that the employee has been fully trained and has a complete understanding of the retailer they are working for- and thus are actually capable of helping customers. A great employee with all the right qualities would be completely wasted without proper training and a vast knowledge base of everything the retailer has to offer.
Assuming that the employee has in fact had ample training, and is equipped to answer customer questions and appropriately assist the customer, the employee may at that point offer help to the customer and with any luck, make a sale.
It is important as a manager or any other retail staff to be vigilant and conversant with the process each employee exercises upon the arrival of every new customer. It may seem like a simple statement- “Help the customer.” But in fact, it is much more of a process where- with proper training and incentives, the main objective of customer service can not only be met, but exceeded in expectation.