Retail champions never stop asking themselves questions about how to improve the customer experience. The answers to these questions generate a unique playbook for your store that sets it apart from competitors.
Champion Questions for Ownership
• Have you done a visual inspection of your store from the outside looking in, from the perspective of your prospective customer?
• Have you asked yourself how your window/exterior display will cause a prospective customer to stop in their tracks and decide to come in?
• Is the visual appeal of the store’s interior high? Be brutally honest with yourself. What visual first impression does your store’s interior deliver when someone walks in? How could that be improved?
• Is there a display near the front of the store that will pull people in?
• Does the interior layout and merchandising plan create a natural traffic flow that makes prospective
customers want to walk through your store?
• Does your store’s layout and flow avoid bottlenecks?
• Is your store clean?
• Is your store well-organized?
• Appeal to the visual buyer: Is the store’s color scheme well planned and attractive?
• Appeal to the auditory buyer: Is there appropriate music?
• Appeal to the kinesthetic buyer: Can prospective customers touch and physically sample merchandise?
• Have your front-line employees been trained to engage with people and initiate good conversations?
• Do your front-line employees have permission to solve problems that arise, up to a certain dollar amount, by giving the customer a gift certificate or other offering?
• Do your front-line employees have permission to reward loyal repeat customers, up to a certain dollar amount, by giving the customer a coupon or gift certificate?
• Do you have a clear set of standards for employees to follow when customers have a complaint or want to make a return? For instance, do you make it clear to both employees and customers that your store will discuss and authorize exchanges, rather than cash refunds, for returns that meet certain criteria? Helpful hint: Avoid using the word “policy” when describing these processes. The word “policy” sends one and only one message to customers: “We are inflexible.”
• Do you have a customer council—a network of loyal customers who can give you regular insights and feedback on what’s working in your store (and what isn’t) on a mutually convenient schedule?
Champion Questions for Front-Line Staff
• Do you avoid at all costs saying the words, “Can I help you?” These words instantly bring up the customer’s defenses—and keep them up.
• Do you welcome the customer to the store and make the customer feel like an honored guest? One great way to do this is to say, “Hi! Welcome! I’m [name]. And you are…?” Another great way to do this is to say, “Welcome! I’m [name]. Have you been here before?”
• Do you follow the customer’s lead in creating and supporting a zero-pressure conversation?
• Are you striving to make a friend with each customer you greet? When you welcome people to the store, are you making an authentic effort to get to know them as people, not just as customers? This effort is a huge part of what distinguishes your store from online competitors.
• Do you notice and acknowledge friends and family who accompany a customer and introduce yourself to them as well?
• Are you open to conversations about the customer’s friends and family? Such exchanges are hallmarks of a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship with the customer.
• Do you take the time to learn more about the customer as the conversation proceeds?
• Without interrogating the customer or engaging in any kind of questioning likely to alienate them, do you do your best to connect the purchase being considered to this person’s interests, occupation, personal priorities, and so on? For instance: If someone is shopping for a set of golf clubs, is the set for them? What’s their handicap? If a person is shopping for a piece of jewelry for a “special someone”—is it for a special occasion such as an anniversary or a birthday?
• When a customer has a complaint or challenge, do you avoid at all costs citing “policy”?
• When a customer has a complaint or challenge, do you immediately demonstrate empathy? For example: “I’m so sorry to hear that,” or “I’m really sorry you had a problem with the product.” Note that empathizing with the customer’s emotional response is not the same thing as sympathizing with the specifics of the customer’s complaint. When you empathize, you are acknowledging that a negative personal experience exists and expressing emotional solidarity with the customer. You are not accepting the details of the customer’s version of what happened. Empathy is essential, and it must happen right away.
• When a customer has a complaint or challenge, do you let the person vent without interrupting?
Excerpted from Retail Success in an Online World: How to Compete and Win in the Amazon Era. Copyright © 2019 Sandler Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.