As physical stores increasingly compete with the juggernaut of ecommerce, exceptional customer service has become more essential than ever.
In open concept areas, like those operated by RAAS, shoppers walking between stores in the power aisle (a dominant aisle in a retail space) can easily see the employees in your micro-store. These employees are your customers’ first points of contact, and first impressions matter.
According to a Zendesk research survey, shoppers are more likely to remember a bad experience than a good one. And 24% of shoppers who’ve had a good customer service encounter will remain loyal to a store for over two years.
“Store employees are crucial to building relationships with customers,” says James Logie, Managing Director of Retail Management Consultants. “Investing in employee engagement will not only help improve performance and reduce turnover, but will also help retailers meet their sales targets.”
Here are a few go-to tactics that will both engage your employees and boost customer satisfaction.
Hire The Right Personalities
Hiring new staff requires an investment of time, training, and resources, so it’s important to get it right, especially for small retailers.
For each position that you’re hiring, not only create a job description that includes daily duties and level of experience, but also include key personality traits. While so much about working in a physical store can be taught through comprehensive training, a good attitude is not as easily learned.
“When staff appear bored and disengaged, it leads to lost revenue,” says Morven Reid-Kay, Director at Retail Management Consultants. It’s imperative that potential employees are friendly, outgoing, and most of all, are aligned with your brand. “When a customer is being served by someone who is genuine, honest, and approachable, it can make a huge difference [to them].”
Get Staff Excited About Your Products
With so many products available for purchase online, younger shoppers choosing to visit physical stores are increasingly looking for unique experiences and engaging human interactions.
Store associates “are a bridge to your brand,” says Reid-Kay. “If they don’t engage with that brand and get a customer excited, it’s a lost opportunity.” When staff is well-informed about the products, it translates into a genuine and friendly experience for the customer.
Encourage employees to try the products, educate them about how and where they’re made and why they’ve been priced a certain way. “Getting your staff steeped in the product will help them answer customer questions,” says Reid-Kay. “It also establishes them as ambassadors who will spread the word and promote your brand beyond the shop floor.”
Empower Employees To Take Initiative
Once you’ve hired your employees, it’s important to keep them motivated and busy, especially during slow periods. It doesn’t matter how great your product is, how targeted your marketing is, or how innovative the visual displays are—if your staff look bored, they will turn off prospective buyers.
Maintaining a list of tasks, such as keeping the store clean and well-organized, is a solid start, but real employee engagement comes when staff are empowered to be local decisions makers and are trusted to resolve challenges without always getting approval from managers.
According to a survey by staffing firm Robert Half, 55% of workers say that micromanagement decreased their productivity and 68% said it dampened their morale.
Examples of initiatives to delegate to employees including re-ordering stock, maintaining social media pages, and regularly changing the store layout and visual displays. “Moving stock around makes it look fresh and exciting to customers popping in more regularly,” says Reid-Kay. “And by giving your small team the freedom to try different things, it raises their engagement and gives them a sense of ownership.”
Encourage Feedback & New Ideas
Once employees know that their work is valued, they’re typically willing to share their feedback and express opinions on what improvements can be made. This feedback can be vital to attracting customers and improving their shopping experience.
Set up a virtual suggestions box, and challenge staff to come up with new ideas for marketing that will attract the attention of foot traffic, such as unique visual displays, product launch events, or free gifts for the first customers of the day.
“By encouraging staff to think about ways they can improve things, it not only mobilizes their engagement but helps promotes the brand,” says Logie.
Reward Hard Work
While sales quotas are important, it’s also important to give recognition to engaged employees who deliver an exceptional customer service experience.
“Just because a customer doesn’t buy something today, doesn’t mean they won’t come back,” says Reid-Kay. “[Good service] is not just about the transaction, but the long term.”
Recognition can be as simple as bringing coffee and donuts when the team has done well, hosting annual bowling events that include friends and family (they may become future customers!), offering employee discounts, letting them test a new product, or giving them a day off on their birthday.
“Rewards don’t have to cost a lot but they show your support,” says Reid-Kay. “At the end of the day, even just saying ‘thank you’ goes a long way in making employees feel appreciated and invested.” In turn, they will treat customers with the care they deserve.
Improving Your Employee Engagement
Good customer service is an essential part of any successful business, but in retail it is absolutely critical. Keeping your employees motivated, excited, and engaged will ensure that customers not only enjoy shopping in your physical store, but also become loyal repeat customers.
“No one sets out to be miserable but that can happen with disengagement and lack of support,” says James Logie. “If you give your employees the right tools and encouragement, customers will have fun and want to come back.”