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Quick fix training tips for outstanding customer care

When it comes to retail, fewer things matter more than providing quality customer service. KIZER & BENDER offer practical ways to improve the impression left upon customers.

While it’s true that we live in an ever-changing world, in the realm of retail,
one truth is standing the test of time – the importance of high-quality customer service.

Relationships with valuable customers can be broken in an instant due to poor service.

According to a recent study by Redpoint Global, a customer engagement and data management company, 39 per cent of customers surveyed said that will not do business with a business that fails to offer some kind of personalised experience.

Furthermore, business consultants Verint Systems recently released a report revealing that 64 per cent of customers surveys have switched companies at least once due to poor customer service.

Retailers should take note of the visceral reaction customers have to poor customer service, and conversely, reflect on the lasting impact positive interactions can have on the way a customer views a business.

Over the years we’ve written extensively about customer service, or more to the point, the lack of it. Bad service is rampant in every type of retail store and we've experienced it ourselves.

For example, a salesperson at a bridal store who couldn’t be bothered to help us find the perfect gown for an upcoming wedding. A waitress, who took one meal to our table, then waited a further 25 minutes to deliver the second.

Then there was the staff member at the arts and crafts store who couldn’t tell us about the products on offer because “she’s not a crafter.” We could go on forever, and we’re sure you could too.

Too many customers expect to receive poor service from staff members who are not equipped to do their jobs.

If you’re honest, you might even be willing to admit that bad service occasionally happens in your store as well. And when it does, it’s a big deal. There’s an older retail study to consider:
• 15 per cent of customers will refuse to shop at a store again due to poor pricing.
• 15 per cent of customers will refuse to shop at a store again due to poor product selection
• 70 per cent of customers will refuse to shop at a store again due to a negative interaction with the staff.

Let that sink in for a moment! The good news is that the 70 per cent statistic is within your control.

How important is training in your store? You have a big opportunity right in front of you.

Customers who visit your store will come with high hopes and lists in hand. The way they are treated while in the store determines whether they return, and perhaps even more importantly, what they tell others about what they think about your store.

Here’s one last statistic to consider – according to research performed by business consultants thinkJar, just one in 26 customers will report a negative experience to the business itself.

That’s just 13 per cent of customers! This means that if your staff negatively impact the reputation of your store, the chances are you may not even hear about it. The reputation of your store will be damaged, and you won’t have the chance to rectify the issue.

Today is the perfect time to get your staff focused and back on track!

Back to basics

It’s important each member of staff has a thorough understanding of the basic principles of customer service.

There should be no uncertainty over exactly how you expect customers to be greeted, and how returns, special orders and requests are to be handled.

Try to remember that not everyone shares the same perspective on social graces or has benefited from etiquette training.

What might seem like common sense to you, with the benefit of experience, may not have occurred to a youngeremployee.

Share with your staff the important impact quality customer service has on your business and the role they must play within its implementation.

Prepare new hires for success

New hires need to feel comfortable and productive from their very first day on the job.

A New Associate Orientation Program will ensure that they do. All employees need to feel a sense of victory and accomplishment, so assign each new hire a simple task to complete on their first day of work. Remember to meet for a quick discussion at the end of the shift to discuss how the day went.

One effective approach is to pair each new employee with a veteran of the business who can mentor them throughout their first weeks on the job. Most employees focus on making a good first impression and it’s a lot easier to ask an assigned mentor a question than it is to ask the boss.

Hands-on training

Make product knowledge an important part of your training program.

It’s dangerous to assume that every staff member knows every product inside and out, so consider hosting monthly meetings that focus on new product lines. Don’t forget about new applications for old favorites and covering the basics.

To make it more straightforward, select one particular category per meeting and discuss what’s important about the product, its application, and technique. Make these meetings hands-on training sessions; it’s much easier to sell a product once you’ve handled it.

When the store is quiet you can conduct your training right on the sales floor.

It’s easy to point out what’s important about a product category when it’s right in front of you. You’re sure to attract the attention of customers, so let them in the fun. They might even have a trick or two to share.

Daily 10 

Gather your staff on the sales floor each morning, or at least three times per week, for a short meeting before you open for business.

Talk for 10 minutes about products, techniques, applications, customer requests, policies, trade shows, industry news, associate experiences, and upcoming events – whatever makes sense that particular morning.

Offer your staff the opportunity to share any information they feel is important too, as their perspective can help you gain stronger insight into the views of your customers.

Clear and consistent communication keeps everyone familiar and in the loop, as well as on their toes.

Give me 5! 

Here’s another daily exercise that will encourage increased sales performance.

At a staff meeting, hold up a product and ask the sales staff to list any items that could be added to the purchase to increase the value of the sale.

Add-on selling is good for business and it’s good for customers. You’ll up your average sale and customers won’t have to return to the store to pick up the additional items they need but forgot to buy.

On-going training programs

Devote one store meeting a month to staff training.

Between these meetings, provide access to books, websites, and videos for staff members can study on their own. We know retailers who allow their top performers to attend classes offered at trade shows.

Others have set up in-store ‘universities’ where employees are rewarded with raises, and even promotions, each time they earn a new ‘degree’ as a part of the training.

Clear expectations

Set aside a few minutes each morning to complete an opening checklist that outlines everything planned for the store across the coming day.

The checklist should include the daily overall store sales goal, departmental goals, item of the day, in-store specials, classes, and upcoming sales, events, and promotions.

In short, anything and everything staff members need to know about the store.

Managers can also prepare a closing checklist of tasks that need to be completed before the store re-opens the following day. The internet has many templates available if you don’t have time to design your own.

Business cards

Every member of staff – full and part-time – should have business cards that are personalised with name and title.

You can buy hundreds of business cards at most instant printers at very little cost. salespeople, in particular, are worth this small investment.

Remember that each card that’s distributed as a mini-advertisement for your store.

Let your stars shine! 

Why do all the training yourself when your experienced members of staff
can help out?

Many stores have employees who excel in differing areas. Allow experienced employees to do the hands-on training for that category or product line.

You can incorporate these experienced employees into the approaches listed above too - don’t be afraid to delegate!


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Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender

Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender are retail strategists, authors and consultants. Learn more:

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