Are you about to start a new job in retail and feel a little nervous about dealing with people on a daily basis? Maybe you are already in retail and just don’t feel like you are grasping the whole concept and what is expected of you as an employee? The key to any retail job is the customer and the ability we as employees have at being able to fulfill their needs. I am going to give some tips on what I’ve learned in my many dealings with customers and how I go about providing the best customer service possible. The Bass Pro Shops I work at in Ft. Myers, Florida, has been rated #1 in the company for customer service four years in a row and is a large reason for the success of our business.
These are five tips I can provide to being successful at working in retail.
- The first thing any good employee should know is how to approach a customer. First off, don’t smother them. A simple, “How’re you doing today?” goes a long way to developing a conversation with a customer. It lets them know you are approachable and are friendly, above all–it makes them feel welcome. Most of the time a customer will respond, but don’t feel bad if they don’t. Customers will usually see your greeting as an opening to ask your advice on a product or its location in the store. If they respond with something simple, let them know that you are there for them by adding, “let me know if you need help finding anything,” or be more firm with your approach if they look like they are in a hurry, “do you need help finding anything?” If they don’t, they will reply with a simple “no” more often than not. Positive interaction is important when you are trying to develop a rapport with customers.
- There are some customers who come into a store with a mentality that every employee in the store is on commission and they are out to stick them with some product they don’t want. If you work in a specialty department, let them come to you. Don’t rush into an adjacent department to bring them back to your department, it makes the customer feel rushed or even harassed, and there’s a chance they may respond negatively. Just be nice and up front, and if they want help, they will let you know.
- This goes hand-in-hand with approaching customers. Don’t use your phone on the floor. Don’t hold a conversation with other employees as customers walk by you. Pay attention when customers are nearby and use the methods I mentioned in the previous tip. If an employee is on their cellphone or looks like they don’t want to be there it creates a bad image and the customer will look elsewhere for their product. A missed customer is a missed opportunity and is bad for business. Even worse for you, a customer can tell a manager or write to the corporate offices about the behavior they witness. So, it may be bad for business, but it will be even worse for you in the long run. These instances are remembered, and written down, when it comes time for reviews and promotions.
Be Knowledgeable, Be Attentive
- There is no worse feeling than being asked a question by a customer and looking at them blankly with no answer, knowing that your response could be the difference between a sell and the customer leaving to find it elsewhere. Let’s be honest, I grew up playing video games, reading books and writing. I ended up working in one of the most outdoorsy stores known to the United States (and slowly gaining popularity in Canada). In the beginning, I was like a deer in the headlights when it came to answering a customers question. If I had any downtime, I read the brochures and looked for the high points of the product that was being sold. After I found the high points, I would then go a step further and search the internet for more information (most likely the products website). You will appreciate these moments when customers come up asking an oddball question.
- Better yet, if a customer asks something you have no clue about, don’t turn them away. Offer to look it up. I’ve had several instances where customers had more shopping in the store to finish, so they would gladly agree to check back after shopping to see if I came up with an answer to their question. More often than not, I got the answer and the customer left satisfied. If I ended up with an answer the customer didn’t want, they would appreciate knowing rather than guessing or getting the wrong product. If, during your search, you find an answer you think may not satisfy the customer, go a step further and try finding an answer (or product) that matches their needs. Being attentive builds a strong bond with customers and will get them to come back to your store.
- A good tip for new employees: Learn the warranties of your most popular products. Over time, try to learn at least the basics of all your products, such as length of time the product is covered by the manufacturer. That alone will satisfy the customer sometimes. If you don’t know it, the products website most definitely will, usually under the tab that says “support.” More often than not a manufactures warranty will only cover defects. This means they will not replace damage that was caused by the customer. Some companies offer repairs though, but normally for a price. More information on warranties, check out my article on the subject by clicking here
Find Ways to Say Yes
- The worst word that can be used in a customer service atmosphere is NO. Great alternatives would be, “I don’t think we carry that item, but let me show you something we have that fulfills the same need,” “we are out of stock on that item, but if you would like, I can see about getting that item shipped in from another one of our stores,” “If you are headed in the direction of another one of our stores, I can see if they carry that item and have them hold it for you at their customer service.”
- For the love of all that is sacred in retail, never say no. Even if it’s something your store doesn’t come close to carrying, let them know where they can find it, even if it’s a competitor. They will appreciate your honesty; If that customer lets your competitor know they were sent there by your store, this builds a relationship with that store and your store will be recommended by that store whenever they are out of a product. I speak from experience (Dicks Sporting Goods being the friendly competitor in our area).
- Some advice for new employees who have no knowledge of the product and are still learning. You can do one of two things: A) Treat it as a great learning experience and offer to learn with the customer. Tell the customer you are new and learning and offer to get back to them while they finish their shopping. B) Find a more experienced employee or an employee that you know uses the product and ask if they can answer the question. Even if it’s a manager, the manager most definitely wants to keep this customer, so you better believe they will be happy to answer the question.
- Everyone has probably heard the old adage, “Dress For Success.” This one plays into every single tip I already mentioned. By having the appropriate attire on and looking presentable, you look more professional to the person you approach. You are more approachable, because you look like you respect your job and care what people, such as the customers, think of you. You present yourself as someone who knows what they are talking about or who is willing to give good service. Dressing like you don’t care, will be noted by both the customers and management. If something as simple as dressing appropriately can’t be accomplished, what are you saying about yourself when a manager is looking for an employee to fill a position that opens up? Dress for success and be taken seriously by those around you.
I hope my advice is helpful and other employees and managers of retail stores agree with what I’ve said. My experience has taught me that customer service, above all else, is key to a successful business. You can carry everything in the world under one roof, but try keeping your customers if you can’t make them feel like they are valued. If you adhere to these 5 simple tips, you should be successful at your position and be a commodity to the company you work for.