The UK retail sector is investing more than £6 billion on advertising this Christmas, according to the Advertising Association and Warc Data, so it's critical that retailers ensure that the in-store customer experience lives up to the brand promise.
“Retail staff fail to meet the expectations created by branding campaigns when they don’t have the training or management support to cope in December, the busiest and most important month in the retail calendar."
Unhelpful staff put off customers and damage sales; yet often managers are unaware of - or aren't prioritising - what's really happening on the front line.
The softer elements of the customer experience such as friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff have a key role in sales, as well as in dealing with the high volume of refund requests in the New Year.
Here is a checklist for ensuring the best possible customer experience:
- Greet each customer with a smile. It may seem obvious, but harassed staff with pressures at home in the run-up to Christmas may be failing to show their friendliness, approachability and interest in the customer.
- Train employees to handle stressful situations. Not every customer will be in a holiday mood. It’s important to teach employees how to engage customers to make the experience as seamless and enjoyable as possible.
- Empower employees to deal with unusual situations. The holiday season is a time to expect the unusual. Make sure that your employees are empowered to act empathetically as and when these situations arise. Give them ‘freedom within a framework’ to help ensure customers are kept happy and healthy when they visit your stores.
- Staff up! Customers don’t generally mind queuing as long as it’s obvious to them that everything possible is being done to serve them efficiently. If customers feel that they’re waiting unnecessarily, they will get annoyed and will probably leave (and never come back?)
- Motivate them. Communicate sales targets openly, and let them know that it’s the team ethic that will get them all through the day unscathed. Friendly competition between employees will raise energy levels.
- Say thank you. Make sure your employees know that they are appreciated. The link between happy employees, great service and a healthy bottom line is well-proven.
- Live the customer experience. Mystery shopping is a well-validated method to find out how staff are engaging with customers, what they do well and what needs to change.
* The article is re-published with the kind permission of Jill Spencer, President MSPA Europe/Africa and Director of ReactCX, Elite member of the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Professionals Association) Europe/Africa. You can read and comment on the original piece on her LinkedIn page. Original date of the publication: 18 December 2018.
Image: Free Christmas Lights Stock Photo by Gustavo Bueso Padgett, FreeImages.com.