Real World Advice For Retailers – What Do Your Customers Think About Your Staff?

What do your customers think about your store when they are greeted by your staff? Are they impressed or horrified? Are your employees comfortable engaging your customers or do they avoid them? Are they dressed professionally and are they easy to spot? One of the things I have always thought that the big box stores do right is to outfit their staff with uniforms so that they are easy to spot anywhere in the store. Is it easy for your customers to identify your employees or do they look like another customer? Worse still, do your employees stand out too much? Do they have all kinds of tattoos or face piercings that will make you customers stare and shake their heads?

Is your staff friendly and accommodating? Do they greet your customers in a sincere way or do they just ignore them until they leave? I have a client who owns a number of successful clothing stores. A few years ago, I remember being in a meeting with him when he complained bitterly about how bad business was compared to the previous year; and there were no economic forces that warranted his drop in sales. So I decided to do my part to support my client and patronize one of his stores in my neighborhood. It didn’t take me long to figure out why his sales were slumping. I walked into the store to be greeted by someone called “nobody.” Nobody was at the front of the store. Nobody was available in and amongst the merchandise. Nobody was at the front counter, ready to answer my questions. There was, however, a group of employees huddled together in the back of the store near the change rooms – all of them chatting with each other and all of them ignoring every customer in the store. At one point, one of the customers approached the group and asked for some assistance. They all looked at each other, as if to say “OK, who is the unlucky sucker that is going to have to take this one?” Curious to find out how long I could go without being approached by one of the sale reps, I decided to cruise up and down each aisle and check every piece of merchandise in the store – both women’s and men’s. I spent more BANK STAFF than 30 minutes and not once did someone come over and ask if they could help me. Needless to say I left empty-handed. The next day I called my client and told him about my horrendous experience.

The good news is that my client took action right away. He installed remote surveillance cameras in all his stores so now he can see what his staff are all doing at any time – right from his office. More importantly, he focused on re-training his staff to show improve how they provide customer service and he got rid of the employees that were slackers and were encouraging other staff members to goof off. Now, when you walk into one of his stores, you are greeted by friendly staff that can’t do enough to help you find what you are looking for. Sales have increased dramatically and he is continuing to open new stores.

Of course your staff should engage your customers in a friendly way, and have great product knowledge. But that isn’t always enough; they also need to know what to do in special situations. How would your staff handle a power outage? Would they just stand around looking at each other or would do they know what the correct procedure is to handle customers in this situation; what about a fire alarm? How about something simpler, and more common, like an irate customer? How would your staff deal with a disgruntled customer who will not leave until he/she receives satisfaction? When you aren’t around, have you empowered your staff to handle these situations with tact and solve your customers’ problems; or do they just tell them they can’t do anything and give them your name?

What about at the Point Of Sale? Your check-out counter is where your customers form their last, and often most vivid, impression of your business. Do your staff know how to operate the POS system properly and efficiently so that the payment process is quick and painless for the customer? Do you have long line-ups? If so, are your staff members trained to minimize the frustration or anger your customers experience because of waiting in line, or do they just ignore it and act like scared little rabbits that won’t make eye contact? Nothing ticks me off more than having to wait in line, except having to deal with an unfriendly cashier after I have been stuck waiting in line.


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