For any retail store to operate efficiently and within the guidelines of the law, they must have well documented policies and procedures. These provide staff with written information on the standards of the organisation.
It is the role of the Manager or Supervisor to ensure that these standards are followed by all team members at all times. This involves communicating the standards and providing clarity around why they are so important. They must then be monitored with regular feedback, and a follow up should take place to ensure the standard remains high.
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Understand the organisation’s policies and customer service standards
Most retail organisations will have established policies and/or guidelines for customer service. These are important in helping to ensure that the customer is served in a consistent manner which reflects the organisations standards and values.
The service standards offered in different retail stores will vary largely. This is usually dependent on the nature of their business and the type of image they want to project to the public. You would expect to experience a different level of service in an upmarket boutique as compared to a discount outlet.
Retail stores who demonstrate consistent standards of service will usually stand out from the competition. This is an important part of making them first choice for customers.
The types of customer service standards that would typically be found in a retail store include:
- Time frame for greeting the customer
- When you should make the first approach
- How to close the sale
- The importance of multiple selling
- Methods for farewelling the customer
- Building customer loyalty
- How to handle customer complaints
- Customer returns policy
- Dealing with faulty merchandise
It is vital that staff not only perform to these standards at all times, but also that they understand why they are so important.
Often a lack of communication means that they are just another guideline for staff to follow. So, when communicating them to the team, ensure a strong message of “Why they are important” is also given.
Whilst it is essential that all team members have a good working knowledge and understanding of the company’s expectations for customer service, it is equally important that they apply these standards in their day-to-day dealings with customers. Failure to do this means that there is inconsistency which can impact on how professional the store appears to the customer. So the Manager or Supervisor must monitor each team member to determine if they are meeting the basic standards. For example, are they greeting each customer within the designated time frame, do they attempt to multiple sell with every purchase made, etc.
Monitoring can be done in a number of different ways:
- Observing the team member
- Via feedback from the customer
- Analysing customer complaints to identify deficiencies
- Using the results of mystery shopper reports
- At performance review time
- Asking the team member
Once areas for improvement have been identified, the next step is to take action to close the gap. The action taken will depend on the exact area that needs to improve. For the team member who is not greeting the customer within the designated time frame, they may need help with organising and time management. The staff member who doesn’t multiple sell might need more training to increase their knowledge and confidence in this area.
Provide feedback to the team
In order for the team and individual staff members to successfully achieve the standards that the organisation has set for customer service, it is essential that they get regular feedback. In basic terms, feedback is a process where the effect of a person’s behaviour is brought to their attention.
The main reason why feedback is given is to allow a staff member to see if they are meeting the customer service standards or if they need to improve further. When it comes to customer service, there are always areas to work on. The retail environment and the customer themselves are constantly changing. As a result of this, store expectations for customer service will also change. So, staff members will need to adapt their customer service as required and they then need to know how well they are doing.
When giving feedback, the following guidelines should be applied:
- Be specific
- Ensure it is based on facts
- Remain objective
- Offer suggestions for improvement
- Ensure consistency amongst the team
- Ensure it relates to behaviour that the team member can do something about
The main focus for anyone working in a retail store is sales budgets. All members of the team contribute to the store achieving or not achieving their daily, weekly, monthly total. As part of this, it is essential that the staff are kept informed of how the store is progressing towards target. This feedback is crucial to the success of the store. This feedback could be given in a number of different ways:
- Individually to each team member
- At a team meeting
- In the store diary
- Via the POS system
- A notice placed on the staff notice board
ARA Retail Institute is Australia’s leading retail training provider for both accredited and non-accredited learning programs. For more information, please visit: www.retailinstitute.org.au