Highly successful retail managers (HSRM) are passionate about delivering exemplary customer service; they treat customers with the respect they deserve – role modeling on the sales floor so associates can see and hear exactly what exemplary customer service looks and sounds like.
The HSRM knows that every customer, in every situation, must be treated with the utmost courtesy and respect and, if he does not role model that behavior at all times, there is very little hope of associates delivering consistently.
Role modeling correct and proper behavior ensures that you are seen as the authority on how the customer is to be treated.
It also earns you respect as employees see how easily you deal with customers in every situation.
They see how you change your greeting and overall approach to different customers.
For example, you would likely treat teenagers looking at headphones differently than you would treat a mature married couple who are upgrading their entertainment system – not in any way better or worse, just differently.
Approaches are not generic and need to be tailored, just like the rest of the sales process.
Role modeling is an excellent way to teach and HSRM’s take every opportunity to do so.
HSRM’s know their customer and they insist that their team members learn as much as they can about them also.
By talking to customers, and through various types of analysis, the HSRM becomes an expert on his customers likes and dislikes; their shopping habits; what they will, and will not, accept in terms of merchandise and various other things.
For example, an HSRM would be able to speak intelligently about how the customer will react to a proposed visual display or a promotion.
They know their customer and their subordinates understand that maximum performance depends on knowing the customer also.
The HSRM teaches by showing – by role modeling as mentioned above.
This aspect of the job cannot be underestimated because it speaks volumes about you and your expectations.
Associates must sincerely believe in the importance of the customer.
There is no better way to instill this belief, than by having the manager demonstrate how important the customers are to him/her.
The HSRM knows what the organizations’ service strategy is, knows how to deliver it, never fails to deliver it and expects the same from everyone in the company.
Before any associate steps on to the sales floor, s/he must have been made aware of the customer service offering of the company and how the company expects it to be delivered.
For example, if the business model of a particular company is one of self service then associates may not be expected to actively engage customers in sales conversations.
However, to ensure that the business is still focused on revenue generation through excellence in customer service, they would still want to see customers treated in a particular way; perhaps they would expect an approach and an offer of assistance.
Whatever the company decides to deliver as far as customer service is concerned, that is what the associate must be trained for once the customer service basics are in place.
Many companies incorrectly assume that their new associates possess the basics of customer service.
This is a mistake because when it comes time to layer on training specific to the company’s customer service offering the new associate may become confused and will not perform well.
It would be like learning to run before learning to walk, resulting in a lot of falls or, at least, missteps.
The key, here, is making sure that basics are understood first. Basics consist of things like:
Presentation – dress and grooming
Knowing what is, and is not, appropriate behavior on the sales floor
Showing respect for the customers’ time
Showing respect for the merchandise
Understanding the company expectations and general workplace rules
The highly successful retail manager knows how to assess associates to ascertain their level of competence when it comes to delivering customer service.
This is usually done at the time of the interview and with well worded questions to past employers during the reference check.
Of course, observation is an excellent assessment method also.
Once the basics are clearly understood and the associate understands what the company customer service offering is, and how to deliver it, they are ready for the sales floor.
The HSRM knows that this training is critical and that it positively must be done before the associate interacts with customers.
After that, the manager must keep a very close eye on the associate to ensure that all interaction with customers is exactly as it should be.
Watch for eye contact, body language, facial expressions, what is actually said and tone of voice.
We said earlier that HSRM’s role model exemplary customer service at all times and that doing so was the best way to ensure associates realized the importance of customer service.
There is, of course, more to be done to ensure the on-going improvement of our associates and one of the major things is to have coaching conversations as often as possible.
After observing an associate the HSRM spends a few minutes talking to them to either praise or correct, or both.
Praise comes fairly easily. The HSRM praises the associate for specific behaviors that were correct.
Having a coaching conversation where you must correct behaviors can also be easy if you direct your attention to the specific behavior and make sure not to criticize the individual.
The HSRM knows that these conversations are an absolute must and that they owe it to the associate, the company and the customer to make the conversation as productive as possible.
The HSRM knows, intuitively, how customers should be treated and, in addition to modeling the behavior, HSRM’s teach all associates these golden rules:
Treat every customer like a valued guest – using only the best manners.
Never say the word “no” to a customer – even when you cannot say ‘yes’, find a way to handle any situation without actually using the word “no”.
Respect the customer’s time – always – if the customer has to wait, be sure to let the customer know why he is waiting and approximately how long he will have to wait.
Put yourself in the customers’ shoes and try to see things from their perspective – ask yourself “How would I feel if I were the customer in this case?”
Never assume anything – ask questions to gain information.
Recognize the customer’s lifetime value to the organization.
Smile and show your enthusiasm for your work.
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