Your customers expect it, and it's your job to define it: what is excellent customer service in retail?
You know it when you experience it. You've seen the stories on Yelp and Facebook and other social media sites. A grocery store employee helps an elderly couple with their shopping. A plumber doesn't charge for repairs to a veteran's leaking water pipe. Even the simple experiences are noteworthy sometimes, like when a shopper is pleasantly surprised because they exchanged a pair of jeans without difficulty. Everyone loves to hear about ordinary kindness, and you want to tap into it for your business. But what is excellent customer service? In retail, it starts at the top.
Certainly, you can codify your customer service ethos in an employee manual, which we'll get to momentarily. You may even be able to hire employees on a regular basis who have naturally great customer service skills.
It isn't just about the interaction between customers and employees, though. Excellent customer service has two parts: internal and external. To get it right and to really shine in the customer service department, you and your management team have to set the example. What is excellent customer service? In retail environments, it begins with how you treat your team. When employees feel valued and appreciated, that carries into their interactions with customers.
What is excellent customer service in retail: your role
This probably isn't what you were expecting, but hold tight. In the end, you want to give your customers the best possible experience with your business, and you're willing to do what it takes because you understand the benefits, right? Great! Don't worry; we'll get to your customers soon enough. For the moment, let's talk about you.
"Real leadership is leaders recognizing that they serve the people that they lead." —Pete Hoekstra
Does this sound familiar? Maybe you know it better as "lead by example." A great leader doesn't inspire through threats or poor behavior. Human nature dictates that we are more willing to work for someone who is fair and appreciative than someone who spends the day trying to intimidate us.
Do you want your employees to come to work with a smile on their faces? Do you want passionate, excited employees to represent your business? Then it's important to understand that the customer service they provide is, to an extent, a reflection of the atmosphere you create.
If you treat your employees well, they will treat customers well. It's pretty straightforward, but it's also very powerful.
What is excellent customer service in retail: your employees' role
O.K., now we'll get to what you're probably expecting this article to be about: the way your employees interact with customers. After all, that is the most obvious example of customer service encounters.
At the heart of excellent customer service is listening. It sounds simple, but it isn't always that way for everyone. When you do it well, you can turn some of the most difficult customer service situations into a win for everyone involved.
There are some basics to providing excellent customer service in retail settings. Be friendly. Be attentive. Be respectful. Dress appropriately.
This is the business aesthetic you can outline in an employee manual. If there is a certain way you want your staff to dress or answer the phone, you can put it all in print.
That type of organization lends itself to great customer experiences because it helps your team function smoothly.
All of this is easy when everything is going well. The real proof of your amazing customer service is in how you and your employees handle customer complaints. Here are six steps you can take to provide the best service possible.
Empower your employees
Give your employees the ability to make decisions to solve problems. An unhappy customer shouldn't have to wait around for a manager just so they can explain the problem again. Most issues can be fixed quickly and easily by saying, "I'm sorry. Let me fix that for you."
Always give the customer the benefit of the doubt
Assume your customer is honest and wants to be heard. Be empathetic and attempt to make things right for everyone involved. Customers and businesses both make mistakes. Handling these mistakes graciously is what will earn your business a fantastic reputation. Always err in the customer's favor. It's rarely worth arguing with a customer over a few dollars.
Smile and wave
Anyone who works in retail knows that there are some people who will never be happy, no matter what. These are the customers that complain about anything you do. You've seen the reviews they write online—they're mad because they got stuck in traffic on the way to the store, or they can't stand the blue carpet, or any other possible reason or non-reason.
However, they're still customers. Sometimes you just have to smile and do your best. You know what's great about this customer, though? When other patrons see how well you treat an impossibly difficult shopper, they'll recognize how wonderful your team is. Call it vicarious customer service, perhaps.
In the retail world, you can't help everyone. Or can you?
If you sell dress shoes, for instance, and a customer is looking for running shoes, don't just send them away with a "good luck." Direct them to Rachel's Running Shoes on Main Street. Make sure to only send them somewhere you know treats its customers right. Doing this is almost a guarantee that they'll come back to you when they're in the market for dress shoes.
For small and medium-sized businesses (and even some large businesses), you shouldn't be trying to just make a sale. You should, however, be working to create relationships. This is the key to repeat business, to great online reviews, and to gaining new clientele. Even in our technologically advanced world, word-of-mouth is still the best advertising you can get.
Eliminate problems before they begin
An educated, well-trained team can eliminate many poor customer service experiences before they ever begin. When you hire, take the time to fully train new employees on your standards, your products, and the logistics of your business.
When it comes down to it, excellent customer service isn't such a mystery. It's simply the power and willingness to make people feel great.
What is excellent customer service in retail? It is as simple as treating your employees well, listening to your customers, and treating everyone fairly.
One way you can stand out in the retail world is by offering your staff insurance. Employees who are taken care of are more likely to take care of your business in return. Take care of all your business insurance and employee health benefits needs in one place with Pekin Insurance.
We'd love to hear your thoughts. Let us know in the comments what you would add to this.