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4 Things I Would do to Improve Retail Customer Service

I went to a sports store today to buy soccer shoes for my son. After about ten minutes of perusing the footwear, we decided to go to a different store to compare prices. Not once during that ten minutes did a store employee approach us - they were too busy talking in the corner about something obviously more important than making sales.

As it turns out, the competition wasn't much better in terms of service, and their merchandise was more expensive. Upon returning to the first store, I hoped that the sales staff would notice that we had come back and help us choose the right pair of shoes. Instead, they continued to stand off to the side and chat among themselves.

We asked for a pair of shoes to try on and it was my turn to stand off to the side and chat. I whispered to my wife that if I was the store manager, I wouldn't have been pleased with their apathetic attitude. She replied that they probably don't feel that they get paid enough to be helpful.

It was then that I remembered an article that I had  read in the Atlantic in 2014 about what it is like to work in retail. The upshot is that the workers are on their feet for the entire day, they are distrusted by their employers, they have to be nice to customers who aren't nice to them, and they are paid very little.

While all that might be true, what is the point of being a retail sales person if you don't try and sell? How do you justify your salary? What excuse should a sales person give to their employer if a potential customer walks out of the store to go to the competition?

It boils down to attitude. It is a failure of the store manager, the chain, the franchise executives, and whoever is in charge that the sales people don't care enough.

So if I was in charge, what would I do?

Training
First and foremost, I'd give my employees the tools to be better at their jobs. I would teach them how to make customers feel that the sales person is there to help them. Sometimes customers will be willing to pay a higher price if they are sure they are buying the right thing.

Environment
I would improve the work environment and culture to encourage a more customer-focused attitude. If everyone working in the store is similarly highly engaged in their jobs, the culture will change for the better and the work ethic will improve.

Incentives
I'd offer incentives for reaching sales targets and give bonuses to employees for solving customer problems that result in sales. Being penny wise and pound foolish is, well, foolish. The basis of economics is incentives - what's in it for me? Make it worth their while to go the extra mile.

Consistency and Improvement Programs
Lastly, I'd engage a Mystery Shopping service provider, like Glassfish Customer Service Professionals. Companies like these can help to obtain measurable data and implement programs and systems to improve customer service and maintain it at a consistently high level.


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