Small Business Trends has an article by Kare Anderson that explains how to see your store through your customers’ eyes to improve sales. It’s a fairly lengthy article, but it’s a good read, as it seems to be an all-inclusive list of things to think about when working with your employees to better serve your customers.
I’ve worked for two stores in my life: one national clothing retailer that makes millions in profit and one two-store, local supermarket that pulls in a fraction of what the other makes. Guess which one maintains a strict plan that closely parallels Anderson’s plan for welcoming and handling customers? This isn’t a trick question; indeed, the national chain follows Anderson’s points almost perfectly.
Realizing that this isn’t the ideal comparison, the focus of my article isn’t the comparison, but rather the customer service aspect of running a store of any kind.
While it may seem unnecessary or even silly to care about the smile or the phone greeting—or perhaps some of these tips seem too pushy—remember that the titans have already learned these simple tricks, and they’re better off for it.
Specifically, this national chain that I had worked for drilled into the brains of new employees the “HOOOT” method of engaging customers (and encouraging customers to buy more).
- H = Hello: Greet the customer with a smile, even if you’re folding t-shirts or talking with another customer.
- O = Observe: Pay attention to what the customer is wearing and carrying when s/he comes into the store, for two reasons.
- Sales: You might easily figure out what colors, styles, brands, activities or people interest the customer, allowing you to target your sales in a less pushy way. You already know they’ll be interested!
- Loss Prevention: Pay attention to any bags or baggy garments, as well as how full the bags appear to be. By the time the customer passes the registers to leave the store, make an effort to gauge any change in the fullness of bags or clothes. Be aware that you’ll run into trouble with the law for false accusations of theft, but you may be able to strike up conversation before they leave as a last effort to check on the bags or clothes.
- O = Open the conversation: As the customer is browsing, feel free to engage them in friendly conversation to learn more about them and what they’re looking to buy.
- O = Open-ended questions: Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation rolling and pay attention to the answers. “Yes-or-no” questions make it difficult for you to glean ideas on complementary items.
- T = Thank you: Whether the customer has bought anything or not, take the time to thank them, if just for stopping in. It’ll be the last thing they remember about your store and may lead them to think of you when they’re looking to shop elsewhere.
A few other customer-friendly tips I had picked up from the retail store:
Remember the 80/10/10 Rule:
80% percent of customers will steal if given the chance, 10% will never steal, and 10% will always steal. Eighty percent is a huge bracket, so don’t give them the reason or chance to steal! Get them talking, laughing or (if you sell food items) eating. They’ll like you too much. Just being greeted by an employee triggers the sense that someone is watching, so a would-be thief may think twice.
Talk to your coworkers when customers can be involved:
There’s a strange sense of satisfaction that comes from being allowed into others’ conversations. We would often start (purposefully loud) conversations about the items sold in the store or related music, movies and games. Making eye contact with or even shifting the conversation’s attention to the customers makes the them feel at home. Who knows – maybe they’ll be inclined to stick around and spend more money 😉
The supermarket wasn’t struggling to stay open – they made their share of money – but since they never invested the time into fully preparing their employees for “coddling” customers, as Anderson puts it, they may never know just how much they could grow. Likewise, it’s a topic you may want to visit.
Take some time to physically go through your store (too many managers are out-of-sight and only think they know what’s going on by what they see in security cameras) and pay attention to how employees are handling customers. Most importantly, as one of the biggest complaints is lack of attention, notice whether your employees are giving your customers the attention they deserve!
In what ways is your store or company striving in making a difference to its customers? What things have you noticed other companies doing wrong or doing right when it comes to customer focus?