You’ve invested in marketing, advertising, and curb appeal, and your traffic counters are showing that it’s paid off. Arguably the most difficult part is over: you’ve gotten the customer in the door. Now, how do you keep them there? According to our research, although retail loyalty programs are a great engagement tool, the best way to win repeat business? Stellar customer service!
Last month we spoke about best retail hiring practices, and how the charisma and customer service skills of your sales associates can make or break a sale. You’ve hired based on behavior; now’s the time to train your team to use those relevant traits, along with the technical and selling skills that drive sales.
Remember, it’s better to hire a someone with a positive presence and teach them to sell, than to hire a seller and force a personality upon them.
In our retail personalization survey targeted at 400 consumers, we saw that while 68% of participants were at least “likely” or “very likely” to revisit a store due to personal experience, 42% have not received a personalized in-store experience during the last six months. Clearly, there is a missed opportunity here, and training a staff that will fill that void will be an essential component to success.
Consumers still prefer the personal touch when it comes to retail, according to recent research from GetApp. The research found that one third of shoppers rate salespeople as the 'strategy' most likely to impress them when they walk in a store. The presence of salespeople proved more popular than displays at the point of purchase, innovative use of floor space, and in-store technology such as video walls and way-finding kiosks. A key takeaways for retailers is that you should not invest all your resources in in-store technology and use of real estate, at the expense of having well-trained, knowledgeable salespeople on hand to help.
Instead, Karen McCandless of GetApp recommends, "retailers should ensure they provide proper training for their sales staff to ensure that they are adding value to the customer purchasing journey, as well as equipping them with the right retail store software to help differentiate their store. To enable success, retailers should ensure that salespeople, any innovations in their in-store real estate, and technology are used hand-in-hand to ensure the best experience for the customer, as well as connect this to other channels such as their website and mobile app."
We revisited the team at In The Pink Stores, Inc. to chat about their best tips for training retail associates. With over 200 seasonal employees, their management team has been able to hone in on how to train a staff that will offer its customers the personalized experience, for this is what shoppers have come to expect.
Here are six of In The Pink Stores’ best tips for training sales associates:
1. Set the example, and give them something to mimic. Staff will lead by example and echo behavior they see.
2. Feel out their learning style. Says Samantha Salamack, “I usually ask staff to both read [our training guide] and then verbally go through it with them. Some people learn better by listening vs. reading! Most staff work very well off of lists & clearly understanding what is expected of them to do a good job.”
3. Quiz them on the product. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than a sales associate not being able to answer basic questions about what they’re selling. If you’re an apparel store, have your staff try on every item in the store as it applies to them. They should be able to answer how does this run? and does it come in other colors? without hesitation. And with accurate inventory management, they will also be able to respond to do you have this in a Medium? within a matter of seconds.
4. Throw them in! Says Salamack, “Staff with less experience don't want the background info on why things are done a certain way. Experienced hires usually overthink training. Once staff are seasoned and understand basic protocol, it is helpful for them to know WHY things are done a certain way. My best learnings are from my mistakes!”
5. Let them work with customers and coach them with items to offer. Discreetly give options and feedback while they are helping customers. Give feedback often and find out what motivates them. Offer them a contest or a goal; ie. receive a $25 gift card with every $500 sale you make today.
You want customers to love your sales associates like they love their hairdresser, for the authentic relationship that develops over time. Customer service expert, Adam Toporek, adds that, "listening is crucial to customer experience. For frontline reps, listening is central to understanding the customer’s emotional state, establishing rapport, and deescalating difficult situations. At the managerial and executive levels, listening to customers, whether it be through a formal voice of the customer program or more anecdotal forms of data collection, is at the heart of understanding the customer’s current experience and what they expect from future experiences. In the end, we don’t learn from speaking; we learn from listening. Always remember though, that listening is only the start, understanding is the goal."
By consciously hiring and training retail store employees to be resourceful, empathetic and strategic, you will meet customers on their terms and provide them with shopping experiences that are truly memorable. Your staff will be empowered to be a driving force in boosting sales and retaining customers!
Learn more about how Springboard Retail's cloud POS software can support retail loyalty, customer management and strategic selling: