Retailing in Australia never really bounced back from the global financial crisis, yet meanwhile, online sales continue to go from strength-to-strength.
To do well, retailers have to be giving their customers more than they were five years ago. They have to differentiate themselves in terms of product or the service that they’re offering as it’s no longer adequate to stock some product, put it on the shelves, and wait for customers to come along and buy it.
The recipe for good service is deceptively simple: find out what customers want and give it to them.
Peter Wilkinson, of retailing consultancy Redig Partnership, says that more than ever, the whole essence of how you run your retail business needs to be driven by how customers shop and how they think, and that’s more important because consumers have control.
Basic mistakes in sales training
- Lack of training on establishing what a person needs and wants, and moving to satisfy that.
- Many staff aren’t trained in how to close sales.
- Failing to teach staff how to put something right when it’s gone wrong.
Keys to good customer service
- Introduce a culture of customer service throughout the organisation and work closely with employees to train them on customer service in 10 or 15 minute vignettes once or twice a week.
- Hire the right sort of people. No amount of training is going to turn a surly sourpuss into a friendly shop assistant. Retail staff need to genuinely like people, they have to have good human relationship skills, be good listeners and be able to empathise.
Case study: Luxottica
For a bricks-and-mortar retailer in an environment of soft consumer confidence and a rapid take-up of internet shopping, Eyewear Luxottica put its sales success down to good customer service.
Sharyn Schultz, vice president of human resources and communication at Luxottica in Australia, says that they’ve had a massive focus on service over the past two years.
The customer service initiative started with redefining what the customer service needed to be, based on what each of the brands stood for.
“If the brand is all about positioning itself at the mid-to-top of the market, then we need to have this outstanding customer experience when you come into the store,” she says.
Luxottica’s key initiatives to improve service
- Employing a culture of being able to say “yes” to the customer. If the customer wants to do something differently or is having an experience that isn’t quite what they’d expected, then staff are empowered to be able to deal with that on the spot, rather than having to go up chains in the hierarchy. An example was when a customer wanted to get her prescription filled before she went on holidays, but owing to the complexity of the prescription this wasn’t going to be possible. So the sales assistant took it upon herself to have the glasses couriered to the woman’s hotel in Crete.
- OPSM has introduced a unique technology called Accufit, which takes a picture of shoppers without their glasses on, then shows them what different styles of frames would look like on their own face.
- Staff are trained to understand the needs of the customer and how to match it with the right product; not just sell a pair of glasses for the sake of selling a pair of glasses.
- Service is closely measured via email surveys with customers after they’ve made a purchase. Surprisingly, two-thirds of customers respond, and the data can be broken down to store level.