In a time when retail stores are struggling to achieve the sales targets or budgets assigned to them, it can be easy for the team to become disheartened and loose motivation when they see these targets being missed week after week.
Although hitting a sales target is the ultimate goal in terms of sales performance, when this becomes a difficult task, leaders must look for strong performance or results worthy of praise in other areas. This can be found in the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) measured in retail.
One such KPI is Average Sale, also referred to as Average Transaction Value, which refers to the average dollar value or spend of customers per transaction. Even though the number of transactions or sales in a store may be low, stores with a higher average sale show the store team are utilising the extra time they have with customers, to build a quality sale. This is through establishing value in higher priced items, with customers benefiting from additional features or a higher quality product.
Items Per Transaction
Average Sale will also increase, if the team are taking the time to understand customers’ wants and needs and recommending additional items to suit. By showing customers products that enhance or compliment their main purchase and ensuring they have the complete solution or package when they leave the store, will reflect in the average number of items sold per transaction.
It’s not only additional products that may be introduced to customers but also the additional services offered by the business. These services may include extended warranties or service plans, which not only benefit the customer in terms of peace of mind but such services commonly have a higher gross profit (GP) for the business. It increases the average spend of customers as well as the bottom line.
While customer traffic may be low, stores can still have a strong conversion rate, or a high closure rate of the customers that do visit the store. By focusing on engaging customers, showing genuine interest in understanding them, building relationships and offering the best solution tailored to their wants and needs, customers are more likely to purchase thereby, increasing conversion. They are also more likely to become a repeat customer when the team provide them with the best experience possible, which important in tough times.
When a team are being recognised for their achievements in a midst of significant challenges and uncertainty, morale is more likely to remain positive. These and other KPI’s can show the leaders of the retail business, that the team are maximising opportunities both for the customer and for the business even during slower periods.
It isn’t uncommon for people to go into panic mode when they learn they have to give a presentation, with public speaking being one of the greatest fears of the human race.
There are plenty of simple tips and tricks that can help the inexperienced speaker make their presentation a success. The most common include pointers on body language, structuring content and how to use visual aids such as PowerPoint.
There are a few tips however, one might not consider as a new presenter but are extremely useful.
Prepare but don’t over prepare.
Being prepared for a presentation is absolutely vital. Not only being familiar with content but physically practicing the presentation out loud. Talking through what you are going to say to an empty room, can help you effectively verbalise ideas and build confidence.
There is a danger however in over preparing as being too rehearsed can make you inflexible. If you are relying on memorising a script and someone asks an unexpected question, it can be difficult to respond naturally without becoming flustered and thrown off track. The key is to be prepared with key points and overall structure but not to the point it makes you rigid.
Don’t try to be funny.
Everyone likes to think they can make the audience laugh by telling the odd joke however, this can often go wrong. There is nothing worse than laughing at your own joke but the rest of the room is staring at you wondering and waiting.
If it’s appropriate, tell a story or use an analogy, which can sometimes lighten the mood. This can also help you as the presenter seem more personable and relatable.
Don’t just talk, ask.
Rather than talking at people, ask questions of the group to show your interest in them. Do this early in your presentation to encourage engagement and be sure to involve the audience at regular intervals.
A word of caution; avoid asking questions that could provide controversial responses that you are not prepared to discuss or address. Any comment or response you ask for, must be acknowledged. Prepare in advance the questions you will ask, how you will ask them and at what point. Even requesting a show of hands can make a presentation seem less of a lecture.
One last tip is to understand that nerves are completely normal. Even experienced presenters feel some form of nerves however, some learn to channel these nerves into energy or passion in their topic. The audience has no idea what is going on inside of your head. You might be a bundle of nerves on the inside but what they see is a confident, calm and in control presenter.
When the atmosphere within an organisation is negative and the mood of employees is low, this sparks concern regarding the organisations climate.
Organisational climate can be influenced by both internal and external factors. It can change quickly through a single internal incident or event, which can cause a change in atmosphere based on how the event is interpreted by the people within the organisation.
Another internal influencer on climate includes the actions of the organisations leaders. If employees perceive a leader as being unjust or making misguided decisions for example, this can lead to shared perceptions such as disappointment, insecurity or worse.
Climate can also be influenced by external environmental factors, such as a downturn in a market or negativity surrounding an industry. An example of this is the retail sector, where retailers have experienced a drop in foot traffic and sales in recent years. This can influence the ‘vibe’ within stores and drag down the energy of a team.
How the organisation responds to such external influences can determine the impact it has on the internal climate. Positive environmental factors can give climate a lift such as a stimulus or market growth.
Another major factor that can influence organisational climate, is how the employees feel about the culture of the organisation. Culture and climate are not the same thing. Culture is the way the organisation does things, as opposed to how the people within the organisation feel about the way it does them. Culture refers to the values, principals and norms developed over time. If the culture of the organisation isn’t healthy or employees perceive the common behaviours and occurrences as ineffective or inappropriate, the climate will be negatively impacted.
When a climate issue is identified, it is common for team building activities and short term mood boosters to be introduced by leadership. However, there will be little long term impact on the climate without addressing the cultural issues that may be influencing it.
This can include identifying out dated or ineffective systems or values that have become ingrained in the culture. Common patterns of rewarding poor performance, lack of communication, the absence of a strategy or focus to name a few, can all be patterns people within an organisation perceive as negative or unfavourable.
When employees sense a genuine desire for change for good, with a positive culture and effective leadership, environmental influences and occasional incidents may cause a short term glitch in the climate, but the overall atmosphere and its effect on employee motivation behaviour can be minimal.
Many businesses are guilty of doing things a certain way, simply because that’s the way they’ve always done them. Sticking with methods that worked in the past but no one has thought to or had the courage to update. While a certain approach may have been successful in the past, they aren’t necessarily going to guarantee success in the present or the future.
Many industries today are very fast moving. With new technologies, changes in trends, more informed customers etc., businesses run the risk of being left behind if they stay with the same processes that once worked but aren’t relevant today.
Classic examples of this are policies and procedures that are outdated and have never been updated to suit today’s circumstances. Businesses can quickly be seen by customers or clients as being out of touch if they don’t seem to be moving with the times. Although long time customers may desire the familiar, attracting new customers means being relevant. Finding a balance between the two can be tricky.
A successful business, who were once a leader in an industry, can quickly lose their advantage. It is dangerous to become complacent and be of the mindset of being untouchable therefore, continuing on exactly the same path ignoring the need to evolve. While the competition find new and improved ways of doing things, they can soon overtake the one time leader.
To prevent this from happening, leaders within a business must be open to change, being open to adapting and adjusting to an ever-changing world. Seeking out new ideas, information and being on top of industry trends and changes. Leaders cannot afford to let themselves become stagnant and resist the need to embrace new platforms and ways of doing business that didn’t exist ten or even five years ago but are vital in business today.
Employing from the outside the company for key roles can help with this. While it is great to promote from within, having fresh eyes and a different voice can bring different ideas and a new approach that people who have been within a business for a long time, may not have. It’s vital these people are listened to and empowered to make the necessary changes, rather than viewed as radical outsiders.
Businesses who were once hugely successful can soon become a news story of another business closure because they didn’t evolve. They must learn from the mistakes of other businesses who have gone from the top of their game, to non-existent simply because they were set in their ways and weren’t open to change.
Having spent years training in the retail industry, much of my work has involved developing sales and customer service standards and techniques to help retail salespeople provide customers with a positive shopping experience, as well as increasing sales for the business.
As with any procedure, selling steps are generally developed for use in best case scenarios, when customer traffic is consistent but at a level in which allows a salesperson to follow each step, executing standards or techniques by the book.
During the Christmas period, trade takes on a completely different pattern. Stores that are usually quiet become hectic with people lining up to be served. Even though staff have a much reduced time frame to provide a high level of service, customers still want and deserve a quality experience.
Retail staff almost need two different sales and customer service training programs. One which upskills them in the complete sales and customer service process, providing tools they can apply throughout a majority of the year. There also needs to be a version covering how to adapt those skills, in order to obtain positive outcomes in high traffic and high pressure periods.
This includes how a salesperson would greet and approach customers when it is quiet in store, as opposed to when it is busy. This is because, customers tend to be more resistant to assistance from a salesperson when they are only one of a few customers in a store. When it’s busy however, they are often eager for assistance, wanting it in a timely yet polite manner.
It’s not only the initial greeting where salespeople need to adjust but also how they build rapport, establish value in merchandise and ensure the customer has the complete solution. Salespeople must be able to adapt in these areas, to continue to be successful in different conditions than they work in during the rest of the year.
The Christmas trade period often attracts new customers to a business, where they find themselves serving customers they wouldn’t normally encounter. This is the perfect opportunity to ensure these new customers are provided with a great experience, encouraging them to return during quieter times. It is therefore vital that salespeople not only ensure all customers are being served but being served well during this time.
This period is the busiest time of year for many retailers, with many counting on a significant amount of their annual business in the period of eight weeks or so. Therefore, it is important staff are empowered to maximise the traffic at this time of year. If they’re not, the increased traffic the Christmas period brings, can be a terrible waste.
Many of us have worked for a business, who have spruiked a bold vision and mission statement, a fancy declaration of grand ideas and promises but taking no action to see these promises fulfilled.
No wonder people’s opinions of a vision and mission statement are torn. On one hand, they see them as empty words, with the only intention of winning favour with customers or clients. On the other hand, as an employee we want to feel part of something. Knowing that the time, blood, sweat and tears we invest, is for more than just making someone else a lot of money.
There are several key elements that need to be considered for a vision and mission to be successful:
Create a realistic vision
The statement needs to be a clear expression of what the business is trying to accomplish, a common cause or purpose to work towards that people can connect with. Employees need to be inspired to engage with the vision, through encouraging their involvement and creating an understanding of why it is of value or benefit to them personally and to the business.
Have a strategy to achieve the vision
The business needs to be committed to living and breathing the vision. This includes having a clear strategy. Breaking down that vision into bite sized chunks or tangible steps that can be understood and carried out in the real world. There should be structures in place to empower the staff which includes resources, relevant policies and procedures that help and not hinder that vision.
Develop the team to connect to the vision
For a vision to be realised, everything within the business needs to be in support. Starting with clear communication throughout the organisation, with every department, at every level on board and clear on the part they play.
For people to be empowered to fulfill a vision, they must have the relevant skills and knowledge. This means training and coaching to develop the team, allowing them to confidently put into practice what is asked of them.
Lastly, the leaders in the businesses must display their commitment to the vision in everything they say and do. Creating a climate that is supportive, motivated and positive.
A vision and mission statement can go either way, an expensive PR exercise that people roll their eyes at or, a morale lifting cause that give the team something to work towards. The business must be genuinely committed to making that vision a reality, turning words into action.
As a trainer, the introduction of eLearning in the early 2000’s and its subsequent growth, can seem like a significant threat to our role. Replacing facilitator led or face to face training with a cheaper and seemingly easier way of upskilling staff, has great appeal for businesses.
Training delivered online through a Learning Management System (LMS), is certainly a smart option for businesses. It is a convenient means of delivering training, allowing employees to access and complete courses through their PC, laptop, tablet or even their mobile phone.
It is also cost effective, particularly for those businesses who have outlets or offices nationally or even globally. No longer are they faced with the substantial costs involved in getting staff to a venue, which regularly includes travel expenses, accommodation and a mountain of other expenses. Learners can complete training at their own pace, in their own home or work location.
eLearning is a great way of onboarding new staff, upskilling in basic product knowledge and the introduction of simple policies and procedures. For training of more humanistic subjects such as sales and customer service however, face to face training is still ideal.
While modern eLearning platforms do provide the ability for learners to be part of discussion groups, the value participants obtain from real life group discussions, as well as hearing the experiences and insights of others, adds great depth to the learning experience. Not to mention the morale and motivation boost that comes from gathering a team in one location, who may otherwise never get the opportunity to put a face to a name or to the voice on the other end of the phone.
When staff physically attend training, a facilitator has the ability to guide learning, respond to live questions and recap or review where necessary. Although online learning has the ability to create quizzes, tests and assignments to assist learners in understanding and recalling information, there isn’t the ability to apply newly learned skills in role plays and other activities often included in live training sessions or workshops.
eLearning is certainly a great platform for businesses to upskill, refresh and develop their team however, there is still a place for face to face learning or even blended learning; with a combination of online and classroom training. Through offering an array of subjects through various training methods, both personal and business growth can be the result.
At eighteen years of age, I applied for a sales assistant position at a well known, high end department store. The first step in the recruitment process was a group interview with twenty to other eager candidates. The interview started with a speech made by a company representative, boasting about the brilliance of the organisation and how anyone would be desperate to work for them. I remember thinking at the time how arrogant their approach was. This perception was confirmed when I did not hear a word after the interview from the “too good” company. Not a surprise since the two hour, exhausting session was an unorganised mess.
For years following the encounter, I refused to set foot in one of their stores. I told numerous people of my experience, specifically their arrogance and disrespect of people’s time.
Fast forward twenty years, this time the interview was for an executive position within a large Australian retailer. The interview seemingly went well and was advised I’d hear back regarding the next stage, with several other applicants still to be interviewed. Several weeks later, I was still left wondering therefore, I called their office only to be told a decision had not yet been made. Coincidentally, I bumped into one of the interviewers who was genuinely surprised that I had not yet been notified, as the decision had been made some time ago. In his embarrassment, he confessed I had been unsuccessful as they’d decided to go with someone internally.
A week later, I received the phone call from their office, telling me now for the second time I had been unsuccessful. As someone with experience in human resources, I was completely dumfounded by how unprofessionally things had been handled. I obtained the impression this organisation did not value transparency and communication and to this day I avoid visiting their very big chain of stores.
Unfortunately these stories are common, with businesses having hap hazard, unprofessional and sometimes disrespectful recruiting practices. Employers must be mindful their candidates are also potentially their customers.
Just as a business is evaluating the applicants’ suitability for a role, an applicant is also making a judgement or evaluation of the business. They have an insight into its inner workings, which can expose all sorts of inadequate practices and a glimpse into its culture and values.
Not only may a candidate re-evaluate their desire to work for the company but their overall impression and desire to do business with them as a customer may also be influenced.
When we visit a business, we generally rate the level of service based on that which was provided by the person we predominately interacted with. This may be a salesperson, shop assistant, waiter or service attendant depending on the nature of the business.
Our overall experience however, is influenced by every representative of the business who we encounter along the way. These are people in positions who seemingly play minor roles, hovering on the sidelines or acting as the support crew. Although our contact with these people may be fleeting, they can either add or detract from an experience turning a positive one into a negative in an instant.
One such role is security personnel. Security staff can be the very first point of contact, as well as the last person a customer encounters when visiting a business and we all know how important first and last impressions are. Although they may have minimal connection to the business itself, rather external contractors hired to provide a security presence, if this person is unsmiling, unfriendly or worse rude or abrupt, this can have a detrimental impact to an otherwise pleasant experience.
Delivery drivers can also be the positive or negative icing on the customer experience cake. A friendly, knowledgeable, helpful salesperson has masterfully sold a new television or lounge suite to a customer who is excited about the delivery of their new purchase only to have their excitement shattered due to the sloppy looking, disinterested delivery person who clumsily unloaded the goods and refused to take the packaging away.
Receptionists are another example an important point of contact for clients or customers, responsible for the welcome and farewell to an office, as well other administration tasks. They play a pivotal role in the experience a customer has when utilising any of the professional services, with their demeanour, efficiency and presentation all contributing to a customer’s perception.
Other representatives that have the power to influence a customer’s experience include; installers, service technicians, door greeters, cashiers and ushers.
It is not uncommon for these types of positions to be filled by contractors or temp staff, unaware of the business’s expectations or standards on how to serve customers. Even when these roles are filled internally, they are often overlooked when it comes to the provision of customer service training, yet these roles can have an enormous impact on a customer’s overall experience and therefore, the service reputation of the business.
The words training and coaching are regularly used interchangeably. While both are vital ways to improve and develop employees, they are best used at different times, utilising different techniques.
Training is the process of instructing or teaching skill or knowledge. This may be information regarding a product, process, procedure or skills such as selling techniques.
In a workplace, training is provided to ensure employees have the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to do their jobs competently. As training is often conducted at the time employment is commenced, the term ‘in training’ or the title ‘trainee’ may be used. Training can also be provided for existing or long term employees, when new instruction or information needs to be transferred. For example, the introduction of a new policy, procedure, product or service.
Training can be delivered one or one or in a group environment. While training can be conducted on the job, it is commonly provided in a more formal manner, such as in a class room, via structured sessions or even eLearning modules.
Coaching occurs after training, once a person already has the skill or knowledge. Rather than educating or instructing as is done in training, the focus is on how the person applies that skill and knowledge on the job.
Coaching, should always be one on one, as its best tailored to an individual. It is less formal, adapting to the situation and needs of the person being coached. Providing a supportive environment in which the coach guides a person’s development through encouraging them to reflect and identify their own opportunities for improvement, is the key to effective coaching.
Training without coaching is almost doomed for failure. While training may have a short term impact on a person’s confidence and performance, this is unlikely to be sustained without ongoing coaching. Trainees must evolve into coachees, where a behavioural approach is taken to develop a plan or strategy on how they will apply the learned skills and knowledge in real life situations.
Without training, there is unlikely to be long term application of concepts learned. If a person is not encouraged to use newly learned skills and knowledge, it is quickly forgotten.
While refresher training may be provided at intervals, effective coaching is ongoing. As obstacles arise, skills develop and other factors come into play, coaching can see a person’s confidence grow, motivation levels reach an all-time high and their potential reached.
Recently, I went on my first visit to the United States of America, spending six days in Hawaii on a business conference plus leisure time. This was my first experience in a country where tipping is customary.
I was aware prior to my visit, unlike in Australia, tipping is part of everyday life in the US, understanding the low minimum wage see’s employees relying on tips to make a living. Although I knew it was custom, I was surprised to see in some cases a certain percentage automatically added to a bill. At other establishments, a gratuity amount was calculated and printed on a receipt, with the customer asked to select an option between 15%-25% on top of the total.
I was prepared to pay tips particularly in restaurants, however what I wasn’t prepared for was the poor customer service that was provided in most cases across a wide array of service areas. Retail stores, food outlets, bars, restaurants and tourist attractions, the service level overall was sub-standard.
I was completely surprised by the lack lustre approach taken by staff when serving customers. Even in high end hotels and resorts, we had to hunt down servers or wait staff to place food orders and refill drinks. One would expect in these venues, staff would be attentive and eager to increase their earning potential through providing high end service to cashed up tourists.
Sadly, I didn’t identify any outstanding service provided throughout the days we spent on the famous tourist island. Most staff were simply going through the motions, struggling to produce a smile or in some cases, basic manners.
Perhaps it was my perception or understanding of tipping in general, seeing it as a way of recognising exceptional service. Rather it seems it is an expectation regardless of the standard of service provided, making tipping less of an incentive and more like an expected subsidy of their wage paid directly by the customer.
I found myself torn, not wanting to offend or disadvantage the person by neglecting to pay a tip however, I also struggled to reward poor service.
In a location such as Hawaii with its large portion of clientele being tourists for whom tipping is not necessarily the norm, these customers need to be given even more of a reason to tip. Where the service provided is at such a level, that a customer shows their gratitude to the person who served them, because they want to not because they are expected to.
The question I’m most often asked by managers is “How do I motivate my team?” Keeping a team focused and moving towards a goal, is a pivitol part of having a successful team and business, it’s no wonder managers are eager to know how they can master the art of motivation. The answer is in the word itself, with the word motivation coming from the Latin word ‘movere’ which means to move.
First, it’s important to understand that people motivate themselves. They make conscious and unconscious choices to want to do things and achieve a goal. Therefore, the best way to encourage people to be motivated, is to create a motivational environment.
There are many things a manager can do to create this type of atmosphere. One aspect is ensuring people feel valued through encouraging team members to provide input and contribute. People also feel valued if they are recognised for their efforts. This may be through a simple thank you and/or compliment or a more formal means of recognition where relevant.
This is where it’s important to be aware that people are motivated by different things. This is very much the case when it comes to recognition. For example, some people revel in being publically recognised and made a big deal over, where as someone else would be demotivated by this approach and prefer a quiet pat on the back.
A common way of motivating people is through monetary remuneration. Bonuses and incentives have long been a means of keeping people working to achieve goals however, not everyone is money driven. Some people prefer additional responsibility and will take on additional tasks without any monetary compensation, simply because the autonomy and trust placed in them is motivation in itself.
Many people are motivated by the opportunity for self-development through training and opportunity. When people feel as if they are growing and improving, they are more inclined to be motivated.
Understanding what demotivates people is also important. Practices such as micromanaging can have a detrimental effect on the motivation of a team. People don’t want to feel they are being watched constantly, with little room to move and their creativity and personality stifled.
Overloading people with unrealistic workloads can also destroy morale and motivation, as can underloading. When people don’t have tasks that keep them moving, challenged and interested, motivation levels can take a hit.
While there is a long list of factors that lead to motivation or demotivation, the key is undoubtedly clear. A manager or leader must be ever mindful of the environment or atmosphere they are creating and making it one in which team members make a conscious choice to want to be motivated.
Whether you believe a person is born a leader, naturally having leadership attributes or, a person who has learned these skills through theory and experience, there are certainly a combination of leadership characteristics that a good leader has. These include; empathy, flexibility, being forward thinking and innovative to name a few.
There are however, three characteristics that can make a good leader, great.
A great leader is accessible and easy to approach in any situation. Their team feel comfortable to ask questions and to bring issue to their attention as they arise which can foster an open and supportive culture. If the team also feel safe to share ideas with the leader, this encourages contribution and collaboration making the team stronger as a result.
No one willingly follows a person who lacks confidence. This isn’t to be confused with being cocky or arrogant but having a certain assurance in oneself can be attractive and reassuring to a team. Of course a leader needs to remain open to feedback and input from others but showing no sign of doubt or uncertainty can boost the confidence of a team.
Great leaders are also confident and positive about situations, the future and in the people they lead. Their belief and conviction is encouraging, particularly in tough or challenging times.
There is nothing worse than being unsure or nervous about what mood or reaction one can expect from their leader on any given day. Regardless of what is happening in their personal lives or the pressure they are under, a leader’s response and reaction must always be steady and in line with the team’s values and mission. As a result, they are dependable and the team feel safe in their presence rather than walking on eggshells.
Consistency also means being fair and equal with every person within the team, regardless of their position, history or relationship with the leader. They treat everyone with the same level of respect and hold people equally accountable.
A great leader is always looking to grow and develop their skills. They understand the leadership characteristics they are personally strong and capable in and take action to improve those that may need strengthening.
There is no doubt being approachable, exuding confidence and unswerving consistency, can help build trust in a leader. Trust is a key in great leadership, without it, leadership is difficult if not impossible.
There are many reasons customers experience poor service in a retail, sales and service business including; a lack of resources, outdated policies and procedures and poor choices of behaviour made by staff to name a few. There are however, several widespread causes of the provision of poor service.
The first is a lack of training of staff in the fundamentals of customer service. Staff must be skilled in areas such as how to be polite, professional and effective communication. If they don’t have an awareness and understanding of these and other essential elements, inadequate service can be the result, simply because they don’t have the skills.
In some instances staff may be well trained however, if management are not clear on the standard of service the business expects to be provided to its customers, staff don’t know exactly what is required of them. They haphazardly provide customers with the level of service they feel comfortable with, which may or may not be at an appropriate level.
In other cases, there may be little or no accountability to these standards and are therefore disregarded by staff. Accountability includes being corrected or coached when the standards of service are not met or, when customers are not served to the level expected by the business. Accountability also includes positive feedback, recognition and/or reward when staff do a great job of serving customers well.
This leads to a major factor influencing the level of service provided to customers and that is, how the staff are treated by their managers and the business in general. If morale is low, as a result of management continuously disrespecting staff, they will have minimal enthusiasm to want to do the right thing by the business or its customers. Ultimately if staff are treated well, they are more likely to treat customers well.
As a customer, we often look at the person serving us poorly and place the blame wholly and solely on them however, consider what is behind the poor service. Do they even know what good service looks like? Have they been trained to provide quality service? Do they have clear service standards to follow and are they held accountable to standards such as being applauded when they do a great job? Lastly, are they treated respectfully by management, in a manner in which the business would like to see customers treated? If the answer is no to any of these questions, staff are not completely empowered to provide customers with a good service experience. When staff have the right tools and right the support, they are better equipped to make good customer service choices.
I can’t recall where I first heard the saying “Smile, it’s part of the uniform”, but it certainly stuck. It sounds obvious for any person in a role that involves interacting with customers to have a smile on their face however, this simple yet powerful social skill is often overlooked.
You don’t realise the impact a smile has on a customer until you’ve been on the other end of an unsmiling employee. In fact, over the last few week’s I have experienced grim-faced service staff on several occasions; in a retail variety store, a food outlet and a printing service. On each occasion, it was apparent the person assisting me disliked their job and didn’t particularly enjoy serving customers. I found myself feeling unwelcome and generally uncomfortable. I couldn’t wait for the experience to be over and I certainly don’t have any desire to return to these businesses.
Facial expression has a big influence on the overall message communicated to a customer. When a person is smiling, a customer is more likely to perceive them as friendly and helpful. It can also create a warm and welcoming environment.
A smile communicates the person’s enthusiasm and positive outlook on their role and on the business in general. On the other hand, when an employee looks miserable, it can be interpreted by the customer as disenchantment, disapproval and even disgust. A customer should never feel this way.
The phone should also be answered with a smile on the persons face as it changes the tone and inflection of their voice, making them sound more friendly and personable.
Of course there is a real smile and a fake smile. While a genuine smile that radiates in one’s eyes is preferred, research shows with both a real and fake smile, the brain still releases ‘happy chemicals’ or Endorphins therefore, even a smile that is intentional can have a positive and uplifting effect on the person forcing the smile.
Customers easily pick up on the atmosphere of a store or business. They can sense when there is a gloomy vibe. Alternatively, they can sense when the vibe is upbeat and positive. Facial expressions are a major contributor to establishing this positive atmosphere.
A smile should always be part of the uniform. If an employee doesn’t have a smile on their face, quite simply they are not dressed for work.
If ever I receive poor service in a retail business, I walk away, making a conscious choice not to purchase and swear never return again. I am adamant, I will not tolerate being treated poorly when I am paying good money for a product or service. However, there is one type of business which I am ashamed to say I have more than once accepted less than mediocre service and that’s in a nail salon.
I am positive I’m not the only one who feels this way, who struggles to comprehend how we continually accept the poor service we regularly receive when visiting these establishments. Time and time again, we let our dissatisfaction go unmentioned and have even been known to reluctantly return to the same place only to be disappointed again.
It seems we have become to expect a certain level of service within the nail salon industry. It starts when we first walk through door, when an annoyed acknowledgement is yelled at us from across the other side of the shop. Our experience proceeds with sometimes minimal communication or explanation of the service we are interested in and we are rushed to make a decision based on little information or understanding. We have been known to leave the premises not one hundred percent happy with our final result due to the quick, lacklustre and anything but thorough job. On the occasion we do work up the courage to query or complain, we are too often made to feel as if it’s our own fault, with no offer to rectify our displeasure and ensure we leave a satisfied customer.
With this substandard experience still in mind, the next time we look for that manicure, pedicure or polish, we decide on another location only to endure a similar experience. We soon realise this is the norm within the industry and we’ve become conditioned to accept it.
Although I am a campaigner for quality customer service, I too have become to accept this substandard level of service within the industry. I am however an optimist and hope one day I will find a nail salon that will go against the trend.
It certainly wouldn’t be difficult to differentiate oneself in this industry, by offering customers something a bit little different and improved on what customers have come to expect. This is the case in any retail business today, with customer service regularly below average. It isn’t hard these days to stand out from the crowd and begin creating a positive service reputation for the business and the industry.
Mystery Shopping, also known as Secret Shopping, is a widely used practice in the sales and service industries. Staff dread it, Managers often misuse it but when it’s conducted competently and the information obtained used effectively, it can be an invaluable tool.
What is Mystery Shopping exactly? It involves a person acting as a customer, either visiting, calling or emailing a business, with the purpose of evaluating aspects of the businesses’ operations, sales and service. Often the person conducting the Mystery Shop, has a number of specific things they are on the lookout for, such as the presentation of the shop or showroom, the level of customer service provided, execution of the steps of selling and the knowledge of the person who served them. At the completion of the experience, they write a detailed report to provide feedback from a customer’s perspective, which should always be done in an objective manner.
The benefits of Mystery Shopping are many. It can be used as a baseline, to determine where a businesses’ strengths and areas for improvement are, identifying any gaps where training or development may be required. It may also be used as a way of following up on the implementation of any training provided, in regards to how and if it is being utilised by the staff. Adherence to company standards can also be observed and can be a way for Management to obtain feedback on staff’s behaviours during times they are not being supervised.
Management do need to be mindful when interpreting and providing feedback on the information they acquire from Mystery Shopping. While providing feedback to an individual on their performance can be beneficial, it should always be done in a constructive, objective and in a timely manner, praising a job well done or, with the intention of providing training or coaching in areas for development.
Where Mystery Shopping results really become useful, is looking at the strengths and deficiencies of the business, a site or a team overall, by identifying commonalities or patterns across these groups. This allows for plans and actions to be put in place to build the skill level in required areas and ultimately improve the customers’ experience.
Many people in a sales or service position fear being mystery shopped, believing it is an inaccurate time waster however, the real insecurity often lies in their exposure of not following sales and customer service standards or, showing a lack of skill. If staff treated every customer like a mystery shopper or a VIP, always utilising training, following standards, with the goal of always providing customers with a quality experience, they would have no need to worry.
Being in a frontline role such as a receptionist, service counter, sale assistant or concierge, comes with enormous responsibility. These positions are the face of a business, often being the first and last point of contact for customers or clients, in which their perception of the service provided by the business overall is largely based on.
There are many skills a person can learn to be efficient and effective in these roles such as communication techniques, phone etiquette and complaint handling however, there are basic fundamental behaviours a person can apply with little to no formal training. They are simple and might seem like common sense however, they are at the core of providing a quality service experience each and every time. They are the six P’s; being present, patient, polite, professional, prompt and positive.
Being present means being fully engaged with customers or clients. Giving them full attention and showing interest with appropriate eye contact and actively listening without distraction.
Being patient is having an understanding that people operate at different paces when communicating and processing information. Being mindful of this and never showing frustration or annoyance.
Being polite with good manners never goes astray. “Please”, “thank you” and “you’re welcome” will always be magic words. It is also polite to avoid using technical or industry jargon, as the person may not always have this type of knowledge and could feel inadequate or become overwhelmed.
Being professional isn’t simply immaculate dress and grooming. It’s having a professional demeanor, leaving one’s personal problems at the door and not letting one’s mood negatively impact a customer. Complaining to or in front of customers or clients is unprofessional, as is criticising the business, management and the competition.
Being prompt is showing customers a sense of urgency but never making them feel rushed. Following up within suitable and promised time frames, shows a respect for people’s time.
Being positive starts with a smile. A popular saying is “a smile is part of the uniform”. This couldn’t be more accurate, with a smile portraying warmth and friendliness. Having a positive mindset communicated through facial expressions and tone of voice, is crucial in creating a positive upbeat vibe.
Anyone in a frontline or customer service position should keep the six P’s in the forefront of their mind in preparation for, as well as during each and every interaction with clients or customers. They are essentially choices a person makes in regards to their attitude and behaviour and are the foundation of a quality positive experience with a business.
Today when walking into a pharmacy, you would be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into a retail variety store, surrounded by shelving, displays and bulk stacks filled with a wide range of retail products. Everything from cosmetics to food items, gift ideas to cleaning products, they take up much of the front of the store. The dispensary generally occupies a small area at the rear, with traditional pharmacy items taking a back seat.
This focus on retail has a lot to do with the pharmacy industry experiencing a reduction in profits in recent years, largely due to the prices of common prescription medications being lowered as part of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). In response, pharmacies have had to find new ways to regain profits, with those failing to adapt or innovate, struggling to stay afloat.
Filling the shop floor with retail products has become a popular solution, in the hope of attracting a larger number of customers into the store, as well as encouraging additional purchases while customers wait for their scripts to be filled or, enter the pharmacy to purchase a single item.
This change has seen a shift in the role of Pharmacy Assistants whose sole responsibility once upon a time, was to provide customers with advice about their medications and pharmacy items in relation to their health conditions. Whereas today, they are expected to sell a wide range of products that aren’t necessarily ‘must have’ items, requiring a completely different set of skills.
In fact they require sales skills, such as being able to uncover customers’ wants and not just their medical or health needs, as well as build value in products, encouraging customers to not only purchase one item but the complete solution. Showing companion items on the retail shop floor and from the dispensary to ensure customers obtain the best health outcome possible, is a big part of ensuring complete customer satisfaction as well as increasing profits.
This can be a major hurdle for pharmacy owners, with their staff not seeing themselves as having a sales element to their role and struggling to accept the shift in mindset. These new behaviours and the intent to apply them, can take time and ongoing support to develop.
When a pharmacy has invested a large percentage of their floor space to retail, they also need to invest in training to provide their teams with the skills needed to confidently sell these products, while still maintaining a duty of care and customer focus.
Upon a recent visit to the bank to deposit a cheque, I was advised by the teller all cheques under $5000 were no longer accepted over the counter and I would have to deposit it via the ATM located just outside the door. The helpful teller offered to accompany me outside and show me how it was done.
We waited in line together for over five minutes for a customer who was struggling with his ATM transaction, even though technically she could have processed my cheque within moments at the counter, allowing me to be on my way sooner however, she apologetically explained this was now against company guidelines.
A few days later at my local Big W store, I approached the registers with my purchase and was faced with the option of no queue at the self-serve registers, while multiple customers lined up waiting to be served at the one and only staffed checkout open. I opted to wait in line for a person to serve me, just like numerous other customers, while the self-service registers stood idle.
I then encountered exactly the same thing at the supermarket, where people were opting to wait in line for a checkout operated by an employee, rather than processing their own purchase at one of the multiple self-serve registers available.
It dawned on me, it wasn’t customers driving the increase of self-serve technology in bricks and mortar stores, rather businesses pushing people towards this option by giving them little choice or in some cases like the bank, no choice at all.
Certainly people in recent times have enjoyed the convenience of online shopping, taking themselves through the entire purchasing process however, when they actually take the time to visit a store or branch, they seemingly still prefer to be served by a person rather than a machine.
We even see customers becoming annoyed when less staff are employed at the expense of technology, some even boycotting self-serve registers or the business altogether.
It’s no argument, it’s tough for business facing increasing cost of wages among other challenges but if they choose to push customers in a direction they don’t really want to go and customers see little point of difference or benefit in visiting a bricks and mortar location, they will do nothing but push people towards shopping online. Or, towards a competitor who is bravely standing out from the crowd and giving people what they want and that is old fashioned customer service by a human being.