Perhaps I have become too cynical. But really, when did providing customer service become an inconvenience for some retail staff? Too often I have witnessed reluctance on the part of shoppers to seek help — and if they do, it almost always begins with, “Sorry for interrupting, but …” Think about that. “Sorry for interrupting” what? A paying customer, the reason for the store’s existence, apologizing for asking staff members for help. As if sales associate job descriptions don’t require them to provide assistance to shoppers.
If I managed a retail staff, I would ensure that everything they do is focused on customer service. This means tending to the little things that improve the ability to shop the store. From fronting products on shelves to rotating stock and building useful end caps and displays, my staff would not be sitting idly, or wasting time texting their friends and family. Not while they are on the sales floor. If staff is taking advantage of so-called “down time” to tend to personal business, they are robbing store management of useful and productive time.
Personalized, one-to-one service is one differentiator that can never be replaced by a computer. But maybe the futurists are right who predict that storefronts are no longer necessary, and all shopping transactions can be accomplished over the Internet. Maybe shoppers don’t want help.
I personally may be in denial, but I don’t for a moment believe that thoughtful customer service has been lost forever. The truth is that shoppers can’t be replaced by computers either, so their natural human tendency to expect good service will not disappear.
When I get into conversations with fellow passengers on my cross-country flights, and they learn that my company is involved in enhancing retail healthcare consumer experiences, they are always willing to share a shopping horror story. And just think, if they feel comfortable complaining to me — a perfect stranger — of their tribulations, imagine what they’re sharing with their friends. People are generally far quicker to point out deficiencies in customer service and overall customer experiences at retail than to share incredible examples of outstanding care.
Let’s remind shoppers what “service” means, and offer access to an attentive, professional sales force on the floor. I’d love to hear some success stories. And perhaps I’ll be lucky enough on a future flight to be seated next to a delighted retail shopper.
Hamacher Resource Group, Inc. (HRG) Vice President Dave Wendland, a 20+-year retail industry veteran, is a popular presenter and discussion facilitator available to speak at corporate and association events on a variety of retail-related topics. HRG is a research, marketing, and category management firm specializing in consumer healthcare at retail. Product manufacturers, healthcare distributors, retailers, technology partners, and others rely on HRG for strategic and creative solutions to help build their business. Learn more at www.hamacher.com.