The retail industry has changed in recent years and so too has the consumer, but while technology has improved, several media reports lament at the general lack of customer service in retail Australia-wide.
So how has this happened and why?
While technology has allowed the freedom to shop anywhere online, Barry Nicolaou, Director of ShoeCircle says it’s `useless at forming real human bonds’.
“We sometimes forget we’re human beings requiring human interaction,” he said. “As retail service staff, the one attribute we must possess is having the ability to form trusting human bonds/relationships in a very short space of time. This comes down to personality but ultimately it’s a sense of a person’s genuine caring behavior in wanting the best for the person in front of them that secures that trust and consequent sale.”
Barry will present Believe!! – A Passion for Footwear Service as part of the Fashion Exposed Business Seminar series on Sunday August 17 from 4.30pm.
Before he takes to the stage, we asked Barry about the biggest changes in customer service; if traditional in-store customer service rules still apply; why product knowledge is key to converting sales on the floor; and some practical examples of how retailers can improve sales and build better customer relationships.
What are some of the biggest changes in customer service?
Some of us are losing the ability to care for one another. Customer service is the ability to meld a core belief of caring for people with the product you’re selling. Technology has been at the forefront of the change as we have all become a little in tune with the `I’ generation. There has been a definite lack of genuine care in service scenarios across the retail industry.
As many large organisations chase figures, store managers feel the pressure and come across as sales oriented rather than service oriented. How do we change this? Inspiring people to believe in caring for one another by forming personal relationships with staff and customers. To believe in something greater than ourselves.
This may sound strange but we all need an injection of humanity – to enhance the relationship-building qualities that make us a pleasure to be around. I’ve called it the C Factor (C = CARE). Retail staffs which successfully engage customers from a CARE or welfare point of view have a much higher probability of converting many potential customers to, in the moment, real-time customers.
Staff that follow a script or don’t have a genuine `in-the-belly’ desire and belief that the retail exchange is much more than a black and white transaction, often come across transparently as only sales focused.
Do traditional in-store customer service rules still apply? If yes, which ones? If no, why not?
Absolutely. As human beings we crave human interaction. The good stores recognize this and build an experience around their customer.
The areas still paramount are:
1. Serve your customer with sincerity and care
2. Instill unparalleled Product Knowledge in staff
3. Be flexible in return/exchange situations.
Why is product knowledge key to converting sales on the floor? And to what extent should retail employees know their product?
Product knowledge combined with personality and sincere desire to please is king to converting sales. We can be the most friendliest service person, have a quirky likeable personality, but if someone asks how a shoe is water proof, we must know the answer. Also keep in mind the internet is making almost everyone an authority on product. As service people we must do one better and know every aspect of our product – this comes from training but it also stems from a desire to know more about the product than anyone else.
The culture of your business is everything. If you are a place staff want to work at, you will automatically be a place customers will want to visit. Displaying practical signs of gratitude to staff that go over and above the status quo, is also an overlooked area of customer service. Praise your people and let them know they’re a valued part of the team.
What is a UVP? And how does this help businesses in their approach to customer service?
As service people we should all know what makes our brand special, what makes us different and then be able to communicate that to the customer in an exciting way. Most of us don’t know what makes us special as people and this is as important as knowing what makes your brand different.
What makes us different to the person next to us? What makes your strength a positive for where you work? How can knowing this affect a possible sale outcome? Then, it’s all about translating this into a Unique Value Proposition, knowing it and applying it.
What is aftersales service? And why is it so important?
Aftersales service is making certain the customer knows the service doesn’t stop at the register. Most retailers cringe at the thought of one of their shopping bags entering their store than exiting it and it is precisely at that moment where you have the opportunity to secure that customer for life. Returns or after sales service is an opportunity to please the customer twice, to be a pleasure to deal with.
You will present `Believe!! – A passion for footwear service” at Fashion Exposed, what can visitors expect from your presentation?
At the beginning of the seminar I will be drawing on inspirational examples from the coffee industry and how different thinking can do more for servicing their customer. Then, an industry footwear example of ECCO Shoes (est.1963) and how they have gone from one store to over 1,500 in only 50 years from building a legion of believers.
What people `believe’ is a structural element to all customer service practices and goes to the very core of who we are as people. The greatest training program with the best intentions can flop if people don’t believe in their company. We need believers to build other believers.
Our goal should not be to sell to everyone, only the believers, as they’ll build your message for you. Inspirational opportunities are all around us and this seminar will be make us re-think how our approach to business is a very `human’ exchange.
BOOK NOW to see Barry present Believe!! – A Passion for Footwear Service as part of the Fashion Exposed Business Seminar series on Sunday August 17 from 4.30pm.
For more information or to register for free, visit fashionexposed.com/sydney
To discover more about Shoe Circle visit their website, shoecircle.com.au