Training To Improve Customer Relationships – Retail
By Nancy Friedman, the Telephone Doctor®
Some retailers blame their customer service problems on their part-time help. They’re saying that the part-timers are just that. “Part Timers.” They don’t want to take responsibility. They don’t want to take ownership. They just want to take the money and run. They can’t wait to get off work.
In reality, what I’ve found are few retailers have some sort of new employee orientation or training on customer service or telephone skills. Sure, there’s product training. (‘Ya gotta know where everything is, don’t ya.? ) But when it comes to the customer service Training, most admit they simply tell the new employees to “smile and be nice.”
If you’re operating a retail store; ask yourself what type of customer relations training you have in your store. And if there’s not one – Think again
The good news is, if you’ll read on, we’re going to GIVE you a training program. Right here, on paper. All you’ll need to do is gather the folks you’ve hired together – and explain you’re doing a customer service training program.
“Gee, Nancy, I’m so busy doing other things. There’s just no time for that type of training. . “That’s not my job,” I hear a lot of times from managers and owners. “We’re just too busy to stop and train.” Too busy to be nice? Too busy to teach your employees? Think again.
It’s up to each and every owner or manager to provide some sort of customer service training. Just putting them on the floor or at a counter and telling them to, “be nice” or “tell everyone to have a good day,” is NOT customer service training.
Whether your customers call you or come into the store, or call you… following these Telephone Doctor ground rules can help make your store the one the customer wants to come back to.
It WILL give you the competitive edge.
Ground Rule # 1 – GREET CUSTOMERS FIRST
Make it a game. If a customer says “hello” first, you lose. It’s amazing how often you can go into a store – any store – walk around – touch things – look at prices – and walk out. All without anyone saying anything to you. The minute a customer walks into the store – the sales staff needs to be the one to say hello first. It’s their job to say hello first. It’s not the customer’s job to do it. That first friendly hello sets the stage – sets the tone to make sure the customer is IN THE RIGHT PLACE.
Ground Rule 1 – A. And if your staff is simply saying, “Can I help you with anything?” As they say in the Sopranos’… FAGETABOUTIT. “Can I help you with anything?” is weak and ineffective. Better to use, “so glad you’re here – what in particular are you looking for that I can help you with.” That will go much further than, “can I help you?”
Ground Rule # 2 – SMILE
Right. It’s that simple. Make smiling on the job a condition of employment…and grounds for termination. Tell your staff that item in the interview process. “We smile here.” It’s a simple statement – and a powerful sales tool. Don’t relent on this one – ever! I recently heard about a young man, about 17, who quit his job 2 weeks after he started. When his folks asked, “Why?”… his answer was: “They drove me crazy…they wanted me to smile all the time.”
Ground Rule # 3 – ENTHUSIASM COUNTS
Dale Carnegie said it first. And my father said it second. He used to tell me, “enthusiasm is a disease – let’s start an epidemic.” And how true that is. When a customer brings something to the counter for you to ring up… Or even tells you what they want on the phone: get excited. Let them know you care. When the customer sees, feels and hears your enthusiasm you’ll ring up a lot more sales. And your enthusiasm is a great setup for up selling or cross selling.
Ground Rule # 4 – DON’T POINT – GO SHOW
How many times have you walked into a store, asked for something – and the sales person either just nods you to the item or only points to the direction without saying anything. When and if possible – WALK with the customer to the area they need. If that becomes impossible…cheerfully direct the person to what they need…and give clear, easy, and most important – friendly directions. “Aisle 3, on your right” is clear and easy…but not very friendly. This is FRIENDLY:
“The New widgets? Sure, we have them. They’re great. You’ll find them right past the flower section…in aisle 3 – it’ll be on your right hand side. Right next to the Elephant Display. (Using LANDMARKS really help.) Let me know if you’re not able to locate them and I’ll get someone to help you.”
That’s clear, easy and FRIENDLY directions. Pointing is plain rude. (Ask ANY waiter to direct you to the restroom and 100% of the time they point. It’s possible to give clear directions to that area, too.)
Ground Rule # 5 – PLEASE, THANK YOU AND YOU’RE WELCOME
Yes…still the most favorite words to all customers. I used to be embarrassed in my training programs to remind the attendees to use those words. But every time I’m out shopping, I’m reminded that it needs to be taught. It still surprises me. Because those are the very first words a parent teaches a child. There’s not a 3 year old that hasn’t been told – “Tell the lady thank you, Bobbie – go on – Bobbie, you can say it. Tell her thank you.” Many parents won’t let the other person go until the child has said “thank you.” We spend hours teaching our kids those words…and then at age 16 – what happens?
Ground Rule # 6 – PRETEND IT’S YOU
Ask your staff to make believe it’s them walking into the store trying to purchase something. How would they like to be treated? Tell them every customer will go away thinking one of two ways. Either, “Hey those guys were great”…. or “Hey, I’m never gonna go back there again.” And if they think that’s not their problem, tell them to think again. Because if the customers don’t come back…you close up…and they’re out of a job. Then it is their problem. Simple.
Ground Rule # 7 – GO BACK THROUGH GROUND RULE 1 – 6
You cannot go over these items too many times. If you – as a business owner/ manager do not currently have some sort of customer service training program for your staff in place as you read this, tear this article out – gather your staff together, and go over these items with them, before the store opens.
Consider posting this article in an area employees check. How about a bulletin board? Put this article in their paycheck. Have them read this aloud. They need to know you are serious about Customer Service. It’s NOT just a passing fancy.
Retailing is challenging in the best of times. And in these demanding times, even more so. Be extra good to your customers. Have a training program for your staff.
Nancy Friedman, President of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training is available to speak at your meetings. 314 291 1012 or www.nancyfriedman.com