Retailing Tip: Service With a Smile
Hiring customer-service naturals will help drive sales and build shopper loyalty.
By Jay Townley
In 2012, Walmart decided to do away with its door greeters — a feature that founder Sam Walton had instituted decades earlier. Evidently, the bean counters thought that greeting people with a smile as they entered the store was an unnecessary expense.
But this past May, after a pilot program, Walmart announced the return of its friendly greeters, because — surprise, surprise — the company found they make shoppers feel welcome! What Sam Walton knew a long time ago was that a sincere smile goes a long way to helping drive business and sales, and building customer loyalty.
For a local tennis shop, this should be a no-brainer. Consumers want and expect great retail-store experiences, and those start with a friendly greeting by employees. Retailers should hire sales associates who want to sincerely serve — a personal touch that online retailers and many big-box stores simply can’t match.
Your staff should include customer-service naturals, sales associates who are hardwired to help, are naturally cheerful and comfortable around others, and genuinely want to help shoppers. This may mean rethinking some of your usual hiring practices.
For instance, as a tennis retailer, it’s tempting to hire someone who is a great player because they know the game and the equipment. But that may not translate to exemplary customer service, and may not be well-suited for a retail environment. The player may even feel uncomfortable dealing with shoppers.
To help you screen job applicants, online customer-service assessments are available at very reasonable costs, which are invaluable in today’s job market. Of course, once you hire sales associates, your in-store training and education takes over. Make sure to focus on these five fundamentals:
- Greeting customers: Your sales associates need to be sincerely interested in helping, including guiding customers to products without being overbearing or intrusive.
- Maintaining a smile — and meaning it: It’s always been about being friendly, approachable and understanding the customer. A natural smile goes a long way to closing a sale.
- Listening: Your store employees need to listen to customers to find out what they are looking for, or need for their games or lifestyle.
- Ask questions: Sales associates should always be respectful, but they must also ask intelligent questions to find out what customers want and need, and to match players with products that can help them improve.
- Suggesting tennis-lifestyle solutions: Salespeople need to develop ideas and solutions that are appropriate for the customer’s wallet and consistent with what they’ve expressed as their expectations. Your employees’ knowledge is their greatest asset.
Your tennis retail business can’t afford sales associates who aren’t naturals at delivering customer service.
Jay Townley is a partner in the retail consulting firm Gluskin Townley Group (gluskintownleygroup.com).
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