How often have you heard, "man, customers are just so demanding"? Or worse, been on the receiving end of a sales associate who a) knew less about the product than you do b) was more interested in chatting with a co-worker than engaging with you or c) wanted to help but just didn't have the tools or empowerment to do so. (Or, all of the above.) It just can't be stressed enough, today the customer is firmly in charge with more choice, information and power than ever before. In order to thrive in today's retail climate your front-line sales staff have to be trained as positive, proactive and savvy retail brand ambassadors. But how?
Great customer service is the baseline today. Exceptional customer service is a differentiator. And delightful customer engagement is where all retailers who are invested in growth need to be. According to Rob Oglesby in The Role of the Store by boutique strategy and management consulting firm The Parker Avery Group, "The largest and most complex changes in traditional retailers will come from the ranks of over 4.5 million hourly employees they employ. The role of the sales associate will change and evolve from a "doer of tasks" to a "creator of experiences." Whether it relates to fulfillment options, item knowledge, or convenience of checkout, as brick and mortar's role in the omnichannel environment continues to evolve, the responsibilities of these employees will never be the same." Couldn't have said it better.
78% Of customers say that competent customer service is the single biggest factor
contributing to a positive customer experience. Genesys.
Ready to start making a customer service shift in your store? By focusing on a few basics you can adjust the mindset of your sales staff from a transactional focus to that of an empowered, brand ambassador. The end result will be a retail customer experience that fosters loyalty and ensures a consistent brand experience. Customers will not only leave happy, they will leave with the items they want, with a perceived value that is higher than the actual item itself. And, in the best cases, a relationship and experience that they will actively try to replicate - by coming back again and/or sharing it with the world. With a bit of training, the right tools and a clear policy outlined, here are a few steps that you can take to begin to move your organization in the right direction.
5 Retail sales techniques and strategies to turn your sales associates into brand ambassadors.
1. Empower your team with the right tools.
Whether that be clear and consistent policy guidelines to elevate or solve issues as they arise or POS software that gives all employees access to real-time data for inventory or customer history, the right tools are essential. Customers expect all employees to be able to solve their problems or look up inventory on-the-fly. Today's cloud-based POS software allows anyone to look-up inventory across all channels anytime, anywhere on any device! Banish the situation where your sales staff says that online and instore inventory are managed separately OR that they have to refer a customer to a Manager to solve an easy issue - like a price adjustment.
2. Encourage your team to view their role as problem solvers
If you foster an environment where the sole focus is on how much more they can add on to a customer's ticket in that single interaction, you loose the opportunity to build a relationship. Encourage your staff to ask questions, figure out what the problems or issues are, and work towards offering solutions - even if they are solved outside of your store. Maybe counter-intuitive to old school retailers, but today it's essential. Customer's expect a personalized experience and the more your team can learn about customers - and archive that data in a robust POS customer management system - the more personalized your interactions can be in the future (marketing for example). Building trust is about listening, people love to shop where they feel comfortable and engaged.
3. Foster a proactive, yet authentic communication style.
Goodbye, "is there anything I can help you with today?" Hello, "these beautiful summer dresses just came in, do you have any special summer events coming up?". When sales associates use bland, predictable language, customers glaze over and resort to predictable responses. "Just looking, thank you". Encourage your team to find creative ways to engage customers. Just hearing the unexpected jolts customers out of the normal banal interactions and can spark a meaningful conversation. Being authentic is crucial and being able to tell stories is a very powerful tool. Your team should love the brand, have firsthand experiences with your product and enjoy sharing their skills and knowledge.
4. Demand that your team are product experts.
Customers have access to tons of information at their fingertips. There's nothing more frustrating than being in a physical store and talking with a sales person who knows less about the product than you do. But sadly, too often that is the case, which gets more complicated when sales associates just make stuff up in order to have an answer. This is not acceptable. Your training regimen should include product training, brand training, quick access to technical specifications and a thorough understanding of the processes and procedures of your retail business. Proactively managing expectations is a huge part of a retail brand ambassador's position.
5. Ensure that your team is empowered to make decisions
HBR's article, Here’s How to Actually Empower Customer Service Employees, says it well... "empowering the front line starts with senior leaders, who have the authority to ensure frontline voices are heard. Senior leaders need to help match their customer promise to the capabilities of the front line while listening closely so they can help align the culture, training, work processes and reward systems." We couldn't agree more. If your team can't find the information they need, doesn't feel empowered to solve problems and is unclear of your expectations, there will be a dropoff in their engagement (which of course impacts the customer expereince).
Only 33% of hourly employees feel empowered to resolve a customer's issues.
It's time for front-line sales to become highly effective, well-trained and empowered brand ambassadors who can seamlessly provide the customer experiences your customers expect and you will need in order to grow and thrive. Evaluating your tools (especially your POS and Retail Management software), providing resources and clear expectations, as well as training your team to take a customer first approach will get you on the right path to success.
Learn more about how Springboard Retail can help empower your team: