Updated: Jan 11
It doesn't take an awful lot of effort to stand out in retail customer service offering today. Recently, I ventured out on a shopping trip to be met with disappointing customer experiences (if we can even call it that), disengaged employees, empty displays, irrelevant and out of season product along with a whole bunch of dreadful retail standards.
This extremely poor customer experience resulted in very little commitment from me, the customer.
At a time where we can buy almost anything at anytime from anywhere, retailers need to give an exceptional reason to visit the store.
My trip was intended to seek inspiration, to buy some gifts - the outcome was exactly the opposite. I bought a few basics from my go-to brands and left each store feeling like I should just go online.
As the happiest retailer in the world, this made me feel incredibly sad. Scrap that! Infuriated! If you want to see one of the store displays referring to diabolical standards, just click here.
Would you buy from this store? I'll not be going back.
Retailers are clearly struggling to engage and inspire teams and therefore, failing to engage and inspire the consumer. The two are connected.
Q4 is the largest and most important period of the retail calendar.
Brands will take around 60% of their annual turnover during this time - and those set up for success can have a terrific peak season.
Recently, I gave a talk all around 'The Retail Revolution' a part of that was referring to hiring complexities. The fact remains - the people closest to the customer have the biggest influence. The influence to lead that client into a sale or the influence to make that customer feel pretty bummed out and leave the store empty handed.
The best retail customer experiences are given by a group of highly engaged, goal driven employees who understand that retail success is found in serving. Really serving!
Relying on footfall is a sure way to wrongly assume that the sales are coming. Footfall remains one of the greatest mysteries of retailers and whilst this metric can be forecasted, it is one that cannot be counted on. The core KPI to focus on is conversion itself.
Marketing teams are heavily burdened to produce quality footfall and the retail teams then need to convert that footfall into sales - so the first quick win as we approach critical trade is to make sure retail teams and marketing are fully aligned with core trading activities.
I recently consulted with a brand here in the Netherlands. The retail store teams only had visibility of marketing activations one month in advance and zero influence over the execution or campaign focus. We discovered the upcoming country activation was great for the brand, but not fitting with the local demographic who were an affluent consumer. Talk about leaving money on the table!
The retail team didn't feel they could speak up about this, as it wasn't their job and they felt they'd be crossing a line - this is where leadership must encourage cross collaboration to truly work together on achieving business objectives.
Retail leadership and retail marketing need to work together to leverage maximum potential throughout peak trade in the retail calendar.
Instead of seeing this as stepping on each others toes, view it as lifting each other up.
The upside will be huge for those that get it right.
When I led retail teams, Q4 was always an extra special time. Temp hires in progress, gifting products landing, pre-peak kick-off meetings and a general sense of excitement in the air as we stepped towards the best time of the year!
World Class Customer Service is never completely down to a training program, but the success mentality and vision of the collective, is simply, who we are. This in itself determines the trajectory of any store.
Average people bring average results. Harsh? But true!
The primary touch points that create the customer experience is product and people.
Here are some ways you can elevate customer experience this 2021 - and we do so through firstly accelerating the retail teams.
Retail teams need to be absolutely obsessed with customer experience.
A happy customer will become a loyal customer, they will shop Omni, they will post their purchases on their socials, they will be raving brand fans and the best source of marketing for continued growth and impact.
Customer experience can either be amazing, average or awful.
Let's get your brand or your store set up for success, here we go!
1. Hold a pre-peak team meeting
Everyone in the retail store gets together to discuss the specific KPI's for the coming weeks. If no-one knows the specific targets, how on earth are they going to 'get there'
Posting this on a board is not good enough, the team need to feel the urgency, the determination and vibe high together!
Literally create a map of what the final 8 weeks of the year look like.
Invite retail marketing and retail merchandising to take part too.
This doesn't need to be an entire day; a few hours after closing with a takeaway and a couple of drinks is great
2. Assign retail teams 'buddies' across the region
Sometimes, retail team members will need to offload pressure and seek advice on matters bothering them. Often, sound boarding inside the store itself can cause unnecessary friction, and the last thing you need during peak is to be performance managing.
Get ahead and pair up team members across the region.
The aim is to lean on each other if/when tough times arise and to get an external viewpoint or simply an ear to offload.
This can only be successfully implemented if everyone sees the benefit.
The goal is to decrease internal gossiping! (Which, is one of the biggest stressors in a store and one reason why customer service is lacking).
3. Switch the pace - energy is everything!
Attitude is a reflection of leadership. If the leaders are winding down and just 'doing the basics' then the retail stores will follow.
Peak performance requires ENERGY. In a surplus!
So, how can leadership get more energy? Besides fitness and diet, leadership should be setting clear goals of how they will engage their teams more.
Is it a daily motivational message?
Is it a weekly video to highlight a team/shoutout/celebration/employee spotlight?
Is it daily calls?
Is it implementing a countdown to Christmas tracker?
Is it defining weekly incentives?
Is it spending some quality time assessing your own methods of communication?
Is it virtual fitness classes before opening?
4. Give the gift of whatever matters to the team
Some retail leaders are highly motivated by gratification
Some retail leaders are highly motivated by free lunches
Some retail leaders are highly motivated by intensive commercial floor walks - they strive to learn and continually improve
Whatever matters to your retail teams must matter to the leadership. This is the fastest way to engage and inspire teams
5. Set out clear expectations
During team 1:1's it is critical to outline very clearly what your expectations are as the peak season progresses. I call this, keeping your finger on the pulse.
The pace of the store will change daily, often several times in one day! If you can keep a steady ship by regrouping the individual mindset and grounding them through your clear expectations you can expect to see greater levels of focus and execution.
This is not micromanaging, this is keeping your arm around each employee as you all head towards a productive and profitable season.
A great activity for any team to do is to think about their store customer experience. Specifically the journey of the customer. Each team member can think about these points:
How do we want the customer to feel as they walk in?
What kind of interactions would best serve that customer?
Are we being personal 'enough' at key service areas?
Where and how should we introduce add-ons?
Is our customer comfortable in our space?
Is our customer inspired and excited by our offering?
How would the customer like to be addressed?
What can I say to make that customer feel valued?
How would the customer like to feel as they leave?
If your team are directly involved with these steps they are more likely to adopt the strategy.
Retail customer experiences are stuck in the mud - because retail teams simply do not know any better.
Elevation of tangible results are directly related to the elevation of the people running the stores. Investing time and effort into people on the frontline is the answer.
This season, we are working with several brands, on a shoulder to shoulder coaching program where we work as the catalyst of change to inspire and invigorate retail teams to achieve peak performance. Kayleigh offers monthly acceleration consulting and bespoke retail coaching at a team centric level. This coaching is grouped into 3 day periods at a store(s) of your choice.
If you need some extra support during this season and would benefit from expert retail coaching, reach out to The International Retail Academy today to see how we can serve you.