Ensuring an Amazing Customer Experience

Here are some tips to perfect in order to provide amazing customer service.

By Ted Lawrence, Poolcorp retail Specialist

Many of the articles I write or contribute to are typically focused on products, but I want to stress that a successful Specialty Retail Store needs the following 3 characteristics in order to give a customer an amazing experience :

  • Marketing/Advertising - Reaching the right customers and bringing them into the store
  • Display & Layout - The right products, price and selection, displayed in a way that grabs the customer's attention
  • Knowledgeable, Well-trained Sales Staff - friendly employee who are ready to turn shoppers into buyers

As I mentioned, all three need to work together in order for your tore to live up to its potential.expectations? For example - What if you have excellent marketing that bring customers into the store, but when they get there, it doesn't live up to their expectations? You may say you have "The largest Selection of Above Ground Pool's" but you only have one on display. Or what if your marketing is great at driving customers in and your product selection is amazing, but you don't have anyone to actually sell the product? It all adds up to lost and missed opportunities. Finally, what if you have an amazing product display and well-trained sales people, but no one comes into the store? I think you get the idea!

I find that many of the dealers that I have the privilege of working with routinely do at least two out of three things amazingly well. But where many retailers typically fall short is having a well-trained staff. Sure their staff may have the product knowledge, know how tot test water, and can talk about chemicals - but can they really "handle" customers?

When I say "handling", I'm referring to these five reasons why consumers may leave a store and not come back:

  1. Wait time too long
  2. Staff not compassionate to needs
  3. Employee did not take them seriously
  4. Return Policy
  5. Did not get proper attention from staff

Did you notice that price is not listed among these five things? Most of these things can be overcome by customer service training.

The common thread is that customers want your compassionate attention, they want to be taken seriously, and they do not want to wait. It may sound simple, but these can be really big challenges in today's retail world.

Just the other day, I had to wait for the giggling girl working the sales counter of a local retailer to finish her SnapChat before she rang up my order. Her phone was dinging and vibrating the whole time I was there and that was all she was concentrating on - not paying attention to me or what I was buying. She even completely missed the questions I asked. I thought to myself, "Is this the new normal?".

But it's not - when a consumer comes into a retail store it should be a social event. When they ask a question or bring product to the counter to purchase - they want your complete, undivided attention. So give it to them!

The most difficult item to deal with on the list of five is "wait time". every second a customer waits in line can seem like an eternity. It's like the whole space/time continuum gets out of whack. It's enough to turn a happy customer into a frustrated customer at their boiling point. And if that frustrated customer is there to make a return or an exchange - watch out!

Here are Ted's Tips for dealing with the 5 reasons above :

  1. Be proactive: if you see a line building, take a moment to look everyone in the eye and say, "I apologize for the wait, I'll be with you in just a moment. In the meantime feel free to grab a snack of something to drink". Waiting in line seems to make people hungry and thirsty. It's a good idea to have "peace offerings" on hand in the form of refreshments like candy, snacks, water or coffee. It works!
  2. Acknowledge and recognize the customer: Make sure to greet everyone; it doesn't have to be elaborate. My favorite opener is always "Hi, what brings you in today?"
  3. Ready responses: Prepare responses to common questions while keeping these additional tips in mind:
    • Try to never say, "NO, I don't know, we don't have that" or any other negative response. Instead say, "If you have a moment, I will get your the answer" to show the customer you are willing to help.
    • If you find you don't have a product, rather than saying "We do not have that", you can say, "It's currently out of stock, but I can have it for you in a couple of days. Would that be OK?"
  4. Return policy: This is always a tough one. I realize no one wants to take product back, but it is a necessary evil in retail. There are many different circumstances - from defective products, to buyer's remorse, to exchanges, and they all need to be handled appropriately. Make sure that your policy is clearly posted near your register on a printed sign (never handwritten). It should clearly specify what can be returned, during what time frame, and what the customer will receive in return (cash back, store credit, etc,). If a customer gets upset during the return process, make sure your staff is trained and empowered to diffuse any situation that may arise. never let a customer leave your store angry!

I always trained my younger staff with the notion to treat every customer like they're your mom or dad. How would you want them to be treated? How do you want to be treated? Always consider how you would feel if the roles were reversed. treat your customers like they are the most important person in the world at that moment and then repeat....... your business depends on it.

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