Providing great customer experience is a key operational goal for retail chain outfits. Indeed, among many other factors, whether or not shoppers will enjoy visiting a store depends largely on the quality of ‘customer experience’ they get.
Also known as CX, customer experience is the sum-total of interactions that customers have with a business and their perception (positive or negative) about those interactions. In a typical retail store, asides the general store design, the ambience, ease of navigation in the store and the checkout process, at the centre of customer experience creation are the retail sales associates who interface or interact with shoppers right from their moment of entry into the store through shopping and then to eventual checkout from the store. Hence, the ‘quality’ of retail sales associates can have a significant impact on the level of customer experience that shoppers have when they visit a store.
Indeed, retail sales associates are the face of the store: they act as the store’s brand representatives. Shoppers spend more time with them than they do other staff in the store. Shoppers rely on them to navigate the store and to help them make informed product choices. Therefore, it will be a big turn off if such associates cannot warm themselves into the shoppers’ heart: which is by understanding their needs, giving them insights about products and recommending products that suitably fit their intended purpose or solve their existing challenges. In essence, the sales associates operate at the front-end of the retail store’s operation and how they deliver strongly affects the quality of the ‘customer experience’ that the store provides.
Surprisingly, however, as glaringly vital as the retail sales role is in the delivery of quality customer experience, it is what retail managers pay attention to the least in terms of the quality of whom should be appointed to handle it. Many retail/store/mall managers do not even know that sales associates are key to the creation of quality customer experience in the first place! Unlike other units of the store operation (i.e. warehouse, inventory, finance, IT, etc.,) where education, skills and competence are considered to appoint talents to fill, in-store sales positions are often filled with the least of the store’s talent. Yet, this is a unit that can significantly increase the store’s customer experience if the right people with the right qualities are engaged.
Having affectionate, smart, eloquent sales associates at the storefront is particularly important if the store operates in an environment filled with people of high socioeconomic and educational status.
Moving forward, let’s x-ray the effects of these three qualities and how they affect the ability of retail sales associates to deliver excellent customer experience at the storefront.
Retail Sales Associates’ Affection
As a business to consumers (B2C) industry tending to customers in their hundreds, thousands and millions on a daily basis, affectionate sales associates can make a big difference on the quality of experience that shoppers have in the store. An affectionate sales associate has the ability to warmly receive, tend to and care for shoppers, thereby building attraction and evoking shoppers’ interest in the ongoing shopping. The affectionate, warm sales associate is upbeat, spirited and receptive, so this helps him/her to create an atmosphere of friendship and cordiality on the shop-floor.
Affectionate associates are naturally ready and willing to listen to customers’ needs and help in whatever required way. The atmosphere so created by the associates’ warmness and affections helps shoppers feel relaxed and motivated to explore the store the more, knowing full well that care and assistance are just a call away!
Naturally, everyone (yes, all of us) gravitates towards what and who cares for them. The same is true in retail! If the sales associates show genuine attention and care, shoppers will always gravitate towards them and the store.
Retail Sales Associates’ Smartness
This is the ability of the retail sales associate to, on one hand, thoroughly understand all his/her merchandise: their features, functions, application, limitations, assemblage, and installation as the case may be. On the other hand, it is the ability to study and perfectly understand shoppers needs, challenges, including their taste, class and preferences and then offering or recommending suitably-fit products.
A smart retail sales associate will not leave shoppers to wander in the store without solutions to the challenges that brought them. He/she has the ability to understand the needs of shoppers and help in every step. Smart sales associates demonstrate sound product knowledge and provide adequate products information to shoppers. This consequently boosts the assurance of shoppers and makes them trust whatever judgements or recommendations the associate makes.
Consequently, when next shoppers have needs to fill or challenges to solve, the store will be their first port of call because they know there are smart, capable sales associates to help them make better and informed decisions on how to fill the needs.
Retail Sales Associates’ Eloquence
Retail sales associates operate at the front-end of the store operation and communication constitutes the majority of their daily activities. They primarily have to engage customers: seeking to know their challenges, needs, and pitching the right products to them. Indeed, retail sales associates’ ‘affections’ and ‘smartness’ remain obscured until they can be exhibited through clear and effective communication.
Eloquence is the ability of the retail sales associate to engage the shoppers and smoothly communicate with them in the language or manner that they understand and enjoy. In other words, it is the ability to lace soft skills and mental competence in a clear language and tone that customers comprehend and appreciate. Literally, shoppers are desirous of associates whom they don’t have to struggle to make themselves clear to. Having eloquent sales associates at the storefront, therefore, helps to increase the status of the store and also the level of respect and reverence that shoppers accord its brand.
In conclusion, making effort to fix affectionate, smart, eloquent talents at the storefront can go a long way in increasing the quality of experience that a retail store offers its customers and, in turn, high purchase and return patronage from shoppers. It will also increase the store’s goodwill and the reverence it gets from shoppers.