With all the news, articles, statistics, and predictions regarding just how much physical retail stores will continue to be impacted by people choosing to shop online instead of in-stores during the holiday season (and beyond), I am constantly amazed by the failure of so many stores to hire for positive attitude and to continually train employees in effective customer service techniques (and in common sense). We’re not talking rocket science here. Is there anything more annoying as a customer than to be waiting patiently for to be served while watching a small group of 2-3 employees chatting it up nearby? Hey, I get if you’re on a break — but there’s got to be a better place for you to hang around, because if I were a manager I’d be asking you to help out until all the customers have been taken care of.
And attitude… What ever happened to friendly service?
I’d sooner approach a growling stray dog who is foaming at the mouth and baring its fangs at me than some of the folks I’ve seen working the front line at a retail store. At least I’ve heard about a dog’s bark being worse than its bite — but there’s no telling what might happen with that growling clerk working register #6!
The quickest and cheapest customer service training ever.
This is the first in a series of quick, effective, and inexpensive customer service practices that you can share with your store’s team in just five minutes. There’s no day-long workshop or complicated new process to follow — these are just simple, common sense practices to get your team on the same page when serving your customers.
Feel free to use these lessons in your next employee meeting with or without sending me a paycheck (or even acknowledging me as the source!) In the long run I know I will benefit if your store starts putting these lessons into action, because I will be receiving better service (along with all of your other customers) but feel free to send me an email with a word of thanks if these ideas work for you.
It takes 30-days or more to build a habit, so my recommendation is to pick a topic and focus on it until it becomes part of their day. No matter how simple the step, spend the full 30-days on instilling the new practice, following up and tracking implementation, and ingraining it in your team’s minds as part of their being. Not just making it second-nature — but first reaction. Focus on each lesson with the same level of importance — even this first one — because after you hear it, I know you’re going to want to wave it off as a “no-brainer” (and it’s not!)
Lesson 1 : SMILE
I know you’re thinking you don’t have to spend much time on this one, but I challenge you to walk through your store and surreptitiously study the expression on the faces of each employee. I’m willing to wager that less than 10% of them are actively smiling. Further, I’ll bet that many of them have looks of openly aggressive disgust on their faces: scowls, frowns, creased brows, rolling eyes, heavy sighs of frustration and more — while they are dealing directly with store customers.
You’ve noticed these looks of disgust and impatience yourself on the faces of customer service people that you’ve personally encountered at other stores and on servers in restaurants, etc. How did it make you feel? Certainly not like they were happy you were doing business with them and spending your hard-earned money in their store, right?
If you can spot these looks, don’t you think the shoppers in your store can recognize them, too?
Start your training initiative (and every employee shift) with a smile.
Put a mirror on door leading from your employee areas, break rooms, warehouse, etc. so they can self-check for a smile. Put smiley-face stickers on employee lockers. Put a mirror on every single cash register to remind the customer service team what the customers are seeing.
Make it fun.
Have the team do co-worker checks on one another other to ensure they keep each other smiling. If they catch a co-worker with nasty look on their face, have them make a funny face at that person to get them to crack a smile and realize they were looking less-than-happy. Have a funny face contest. If mobile phones are allowed on the store floor, have them snap a photo of the frowny-face and post the best ones on the team bulletin board.
Hand out little smiley-face stickers or wallet cards or buttons or lapel pins or pocket mirrors to help keep the idea of keeping a smile on their face… IN their face.
You might even consider having the team download a habit-maker phone app as a group exercise. These apps help turn daily reminders of a repeated action into a full-blown adopted habit by stringing daily victories together in a row. Some of these apps cost anywhere between 99-cents and five bucks, but many of them are free (and isn’t 99-cents per team member a small price to pay to get them to put on a happy face for customers?)
Your store will more easily compete with online shopping if it is a place where people feel good about being there. People do business with people they like — and your customers like happy, friendly, helpful people.
I’ll return with Lesson 2 soon, but until then — work on that smile!