Providing appropriate customer service is perhaps the most important aspect of your retail concept. No matter what need you fill, what you sell, what you are the best at, or how wonderful your prices are, none of it will matter if you don’t provide exceptional customer service. You can’t control what a customer thinks, feels or spends, but you should definitely concentrate on trying to influence it in a positive direction.
Defining customer service as a concept can be a little fuzzy. Literally, customer service means servicing the customer. Basically, this only means answering their questions and helping them as they navigate and search your store. Good customer service is when you do this effectively or nicely. Great customer service is when you are in tune with what your customers might need and act on it.
Customers tend to say that they received great customer service if the level of service exceeded their expectations. For example, if you went into a thrift store, you wouldn’t expect to receive a lot of personal attention, help finding sizes, or anything of the sort. So if you did, you would be a little surprised.
Exceptional customer service is when customers are always delighted at the level of service they receive. So much so, that they are prompted to talk about it with their friends, fill out recommendation cards or participate in surveys. To meet the exceptional level of service, you will have to be very consistent. You will need clearly defined policies in terms of attitude and how to handle difficult situations.
There will always be situations to handle in a retail store. Teach your employees how to turn negatives into positives.
If you are worried that they will not be able to handle it as you would, tell them to always get a manager to handle it for them. Now, there’s a difference in saying, “I’m getting my manager” with your eyebrows up and a frown on your face, and politely saying that “a manager would better know how to figure this out with you”.
Teach your employees to avoid sayings that could be interpreted as negative. “I don’t know” is never as good as “Let me find out for you”. “It’s over there” doesn’t exceed expectations as much as “I will get that for you”. Yes, the question was answered and you did technically provide customer service, but customers that expect good service would see your answer as rude. If your employees carelessly answer questions like this, then they are unknowingly sabotaging your image and your business.
It all comes down to the customer’s expectations. If I walk into a store where everything costs around a dollar, then I don’t set my customer experience level too high. If I go into a restaurant where I’m paying $100 per plate, then I expect to be treated with great respect. Even the atmosphere affects the service expectation. If I’m in a store with fluorescent lighting, giant sale signs and piles of clothes on tables, I don’t expect much help. If I’m in a store with relaxing lighting, smiling faces and wood hangers on decorative clothing racks, then I expect a certain level of service and help.
Keep your employees on their toes about exceeding customer expectations day after day. It will help to brand your image, keep and make new customers, and can translate into a lot more sales.