>Customer Service, Where Did It Go?

Customer Service, Where Did It Go?

We all know how important customer service is, particularly with luxury items – customers expect to be valued.  The necessity for tight margins and reducing expenses (primarily in staffing), paired with the option customers have to order online “with no necessary personal interaction”, has greatly increased the importance of delivering great customer service and a “memorable shopping experience.

Like you, I had several customer service experiences this holiday season. Unfortunately, more were negative than positive.   I actually experienced the same situation twice at two different retailers; when the salesperson informed me, ‘They didn’t have the item in stock and I should order it on Amazon’. Offering to order it for me would at least have provided service not to mention saved a sale for their company. Clearly, it was easier to send me to the competition than be bothered by my desire to make a purchase in their store.

Another experience was in a store that was short staffed. What made it worse was the salesperson was more interested in clocking out than assisting me. He stated he had to leave and maybe someone else could help me? There was no offer to turn over the sale, no apology, simply he “had to go” (it was 10 minutes until the hour, by the way!).

On another shopping day, I inquired about an item in a locked case. As the associate went to pull it out, I asked the price… When told, I responded with, “That’s outside of my budget” … HE WALKED AWAY!  Never to return… seriously. In each case, the salesperson lost the sale which was clearly not a concern to them, but the store also lost the sale which should be a concern to the owner.

Hopefully nothing resembling this sort of attitude exists in your store, but as the owner you must be creative to keep it out of your store. Ask yourself, “what motivates my staff?” Is it a team spirit, a healthy competition, a spiff or financial incentive? Regardless off the incentive that works for your team – it all must start with 2 important components - ATTITUDE and TRAINING.

Timetrade.com notes that many consumers will pay up to 20% more for a better retail experience.  When asked, “What do you value most when shopping in a retail store?”

47.3% prompt service

26.2% personalized experience

17.2% smart recommendations

9.3% other

A positive attitude can drive sales even when knowledge is lacking. I admit, that, more than once, I have bought something because I liked or trusted the sales associate and appreciated the extra effort they gave in assisting me. Creating a positive attitude in your store is the key to continued success. No doubt owners and managers are the appointed cheerleaders. 

Training is also key.   Your staff deserves to be trained and kept up to date on everything that your customer may ask. Sadly, we have seen customers come into a store with a piece of advertising looking for an item, and the sales associate didn’t even know that a mailer had gone out – let alone how to find the merchandise the customer was looking for. This is a management issue and a compelling reason for regular staff meetings.

There is really no excuse for associates to lack product knowledge. At a minimum, the internet is at their fingertips. However, as the owner, you must provide direction as to what you want your staff to know about particular lines or products you carry.

We encourage stores to have the staff train one another by dividing up the store with each associate becoming an expert in an area. The associate then shares what they learn with the entire staff. This is an excellent way to cross train, create experts in certain areas, involve the staff, and provide topics for store meetings.  It is also important to practice and role play - “It is better to practice on each other (staff) vs. practicing on your clients”. 

We also recommend that you   ALWAYS cross train. Never allow yourself to be in a position of being handicapped if you were to lose an employee. This applies to every area of the business; not only will it give you peace of mind, but it will remove the potential of being held hostage.

Make it a priority to ensure that your staff is in step with you on the priorities of the store, that each team member has a positive-contagious attitude and is trained and cross-trained. This will win you customers in the coming year that will never want to shop anywhere else.

Customer service has fallen to an all-time low, so it doesn’t take much to be a stand out!

The goal is to WOW your customer -  which will build repeat business.  They buy from you because they like you, trust you, and appreciate great customer service. Let’s make this the year we raise the bar.