Running a successful retail business in 2021 is understandably hard, when just getting people to cross your threshold can be challenging. In addition to competition from other brick and mortar stores, online companies, and convenience delivery services, now employers are struggling with finding enough staff to adequately fill their schedules.
On top of these challenges, business owners also compete with themselves through the prevalence of online customer reviews via Yelp, Google, Trip Advisor, etc. These days, instead of speaking with a manager or completing a feedback card, many dissatisfied customers will post their thoughts online, rarely returning to adjust a rating or feedback. These negative posts, even if inaccurate or exaggerated, can hurt a business considerably if not properly addressed. In the following post, we share a few easy steps for owners and managers to improve customer service ratings and increase those conversion rates.
Your Customer Is the Job, Not an Interruption to It
It’s vital that all team members understand the customer is the reason for their job, and to act accordingly. The work an employee is doing—whether taking inventory, straightening stock, or cleaning windows—is what is done in between helping customers. Never should a customer feel as though they are an interruption.
If a customer has caught an employee in the middle of a task, your employee should:
- Acknowledge the customer’s request or need: “Hi—you’re looking for a macramé plant hanger?”
- Let the customer know they’ll be getting assistance: “I’m happy to help with that, let me put this away and I’ll show you where they are” or “Since my hands are all soapy, I’ll ask a team member to show you where they are.”
Establish a Relationship with the Customer
It’s not hard to establish a relationship with your customers. And it’s that connection that so often makes or breaks a sale. “If the sales person had come over and talked to me, I would have probably bought something” is a phrase we often hear from our mystery shoppers. And, many negative online reviews focus on the fact that the reviewer didn’t feel seen or heard. “I saw many employees, but no one even greeted or acknowledged me. We made eye contact and I smiled, but nothing. I felt as if I was a burden.”
The steps are simple:
- Make eye contact: look the customer in the eye and…
- Smile: it can be quick and closed mouth, but it should be genuine
- Ask open-ended questions: these are questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no.” “What are you shopping for today?” is a much more engaging question than “Can I help you?”
- Listen: yes, actually listen to their response. If they say, “Oh, just browsing” a response of “Let me know if I can answer questions” is appropriate. However, if they say, “I’m looking for a sweater for my husband” you can respond by saying, “We have lots of men’s sweaters for you to choose from. Is there a style or fabric you were thinking about?”
Train All Employees in Order to Improve Customer Service Ratings
From furniture shops to shoe stores, employers and managers juggling multiple issues often “make do” with hiring people who might not have the experience or skills to engage visitors and convert them to customers. And rarely do they train the “back office” staff to think and act like a salesperson. But they should.
“We were shopping for outdoor furniture, out really shopping for the first time since the Pandemic hit,” shares Boise resident Mike, “and as we approached one store a woman who was obviously an employee was also approaching us. She looked at us and quickly looked away, no smiles or hellos. She walked through the door which then shut in my wife’s face. We could tell the woman was from a back office, but her lack of friendliness set the stage. When were weren’t welcomed once inside the store it felt like we just weren’t welcome and we left.”
Imagine the same situation, but with the employee smiling, saying hello and holding the door open for the customers. Even if a salesperson hadn’t immediately greeted them, the simple greeting offered by the back office employee would have improved the customer experience.
Teach Your Team and Improve Your Customer Service Ratings
Many managers and business owners are surprised to learn that a third of their complaints could be resolved by training their employees in the art of making eye contact and smiling. Give your team members tools, like the 10 and 5 rule, a hospitality tool that helps employees consistently greet people they encounter. When customers are 10 feet away, employees should receive illicit non-verbal greetings, such as a smile or a wave. Then, when they are 5 feet away, they should be greeted verbally.
It’s the role of the manager to ensure all employees are engaging with customers, even non-verbally, so watch how your employees react to customers. If the customer doesn’t feel welcome, it could show up as a negative customer rating online—something no manager ever wants.