Sometimes companies miss the point of retail.

They get so bound up in Ballpark figures, Core competencies, Low Hanging Fruit, or whatever other buzzword of the moment, they forget who holds the reins of the business.

Guess what? It’s the customer.

Possibly painful, demanding and not always right, they are the reason your shop is still in existence. Without customers you will fail. That’s why they’re so important.

Today is Get to Know Your Customer Day. 

Do you speak in your language or theirs? Don’t let your customer service get lost in translation:

In response to a question about why you can’t do something (discount, change features etc)

You say “Its Store Policy”              
                                                               They hear “Gobbledegook”. Your store policy means nothing to a customer. If there’s a practical reason you aren’t bending the rules, tell them. Otherwise they’ll go elsewhere, where there aren’t any ‘store policies’, at least not that they’re told about.

You say “I’m not authorized” 
 They hear “I don’t think you’re important enough to help”
 Cease the double-speak. The customer DOESN’T CARE who is authorized to do what.  All they care about is their needs. Just say “I’ll have to get to deal with that, he’s the best person to help”.

You say “I don’t know”
 They hear “I can’t be bothered with you.”
 You should know, you’re serving the customer. Find out. Say you’ll have to check and get back to them. Follow it up.

You say “Sorry about that, it’s because of …”
 They hear “Me and everyone else here are incompetent”
 Who cares if it’s the boss, the new employee, the economy or the weather? Never lay blame if something goes wrong. Tell the customer the problem, tell them you’ll fix it, and then fix it.

In response to a “How’s business?” question

You say “It’s a bit dead at the moment”             
                   
They hear “Don’t bother coming back, we’ll probably be closed down”
 There’s no such thing as ‘a bit dead’ – there’s ‘dying’ (which eventuates in death – i.e. shop closure) or there’s ‘alive’. If your store isn’t going too well put a positive spin on it…. and if you are actually closing down, tell them as optimistically as you can.

In response to a “How are you?”

You say “I have a toothache, a daughter in a penitentiary, an apoplectic pet cat….” 

They hear: “All I care about is me, and serving you is just adding to my problems”

It’s a problem. It’s negative. It has no place in a conversation with a customer. (Although it may be entertaining, watching them furtively looking around for an escape route)

While serving customers 

You say “Aachoo” or have a coughing fit

They hear “I have swine flu or some other equally fatal and contagious disease”

If you aren’t well don’t serve a customer. Get one of the other staff to do it, hire a temp, employ your mum…. Customers don’t want to risk getting your nasties and they’ll definitely avoid the shop in future if they do pick something up.

You say “Sorry about the music/lights/carpet” 
 They hear “I hate this place and you probably do too.”If something about your environment is so bad that you have to apologise, it shouldn’t be there in the first place. Remove it, or if you can’t – take steps to getting it removed.

On the shop floor

You say “Did you see that customer?! I couldn’t believe how he….”
 They hear “I hate everyone. Watch out, you’re next”
 Don’t ever discuss customers with other customers. It’s rude, degrading and creates a poor impression. Even better; refrain from gossiping with anyone about anything during work.

You say “Do you still need time?”

They hear “Do I still have to keep this smile pasted to my face for a bit longer or are you ready to give me your money?”

They don’t need time – they have all day to shop. If they’re taking their time it’s because they’re weighing up options. Leave them be, unless they ask for specific information.

Make today a day to think about your customers, and how to make them stay with you.

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