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Store Staff Can See the Familiar in a Fresh Way, Using Customers Eyes
Specific ways your staff can alienate or attract and persuade customers in a consumer-serving outlet.
How often have you entered a store . . .
• and observed two clerks who continue to chat about their personal matters instead of immediately turning to smile at you?
• to find that the specfic order you called in several hours is not at the counter, ready for your quick pick-up and payment, because the clerk says she “got busy with other customers?”
• and asked the staff person for more information about one of the products in the store and had the staff person respond by saying she did not know, and not offer to find out?
When my client, The Gallup Poll, asked Americans, as part of a multi-client survey, what they most disliked about in-store customer service, the above situations were among the top pet peeves they described.
In a time-pressed culture, increasingly complex and option-rich culture, customers appreciate pro-active, informed and thoughtful problem-solving action in store staff, especially when those customers are considering the purchase of indulgences such as gourmet food. In fact, these qualities in motivated staff may be the most cost-effective methods for standing out from the increasing number of competitors you face, while avoid-ng costly price wars.
So many no-cost and low-cost staff behaviors can make all the difference in how a customer feels about your gourmet store. The devil is in the specifics because even the most well-intentioned staffer may unwittingly slight someone.
As Holly Stuhl, a customer service expert is fond of saying, “You never get bitten by an elephant. Its the mosquitoes that eat you alive.”
Positive Outrageous Service author T. Scott Gross, often speaks about how some staff get overwhelmed by the details, rather than considering first things first in prioritizing the next thing to do. In the restaurant business, Gross says that people would say “He’s in the weeds.”
Just as a cultural group may have commonly recognized rules of etiquette, your store staff can agree on the specific behaviors for what is to constitute “good manners” at your store, with each other and with customers.
If everyone in your store agrees to propose and abide by specific “Rules of Conduct,” (ROC) then each staffer knows what is expected and can feel it is appropriate to speak up when a co-worker, including the owner or manager, is not abiding by them or is demonstrating outstanding customer service, accordiing to their “ROC”.
For a brainstorming session with your staff to agree on your “Rules of Conduct” here’s some suggestions to start off the discussion:
1. “Welcoming Smile”
Smile at each customer immediately as he enters the door. Their instinct will be to smile back. A year ago Safeway asked their clerks to smile at customers and some staff accused the company of trying to “enforce friendliness.” Some women on staff even said that smiling encouraged some male customers to flirt with them. Hopefully your staff feels comfortable in their ability to smile as a gracious gesture of welcome.
2. “Agree on Your Greeting”
Rather than leave greeting to chance, consider various phrases you think are fitting for your kind of store and market area. Compare notes on what feels comfortable to say to demonstrate that you are willing to help if they need it. There is a fine line between greeting and overwhelming the customer. That way you can avoid opening phrases that don’t rea to the purpose of their being in the store, such commenting on the weather. to engage the customer in conversation without overwhelming them.
3. “”Sunshine Over the Phone”
The four most frequent complaints Americans have about talking clerks with whom they speak by phone are that #1) they speak too fast, #2) they do not enunciate clearly, and #3) they do not sound like they care, and #4) they don’t propose ways to solve a problem but simply answer the questions they are asked.
Agree on the exact greeting and tone of voice for answering your store phone. Some people on staff may resist spending time on a seemingly obvious and small detail, but, like the first face customers see upon entering a store, the “faceless” voice over the phone is the “stain” or “sparkle” of first impression.
For example, you may simply agree to say warmly and clearly, without speed talking, “(name of store”) (your name) speaking. How may I help you?” Ask each staff person to practice saying your agreed upon phone greetings and give candid feedback to each other about clarity, warm, loudness, tone and rate. In a chain of Italian clothing stores, clerks are asked to listen to audiotapes of melodic, rich male and female voices, saying the greetings that the store owner believes most represents the signature style of the store.
Practice with each other until you are proud of what you hear.
Learn more about the author, Kare Anderson.
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