In an online retail environment, employees must do their best to please customers, but in a brick-and-mortar store, face-to-face interactions between employees and customers can present additional challenges. Employees must not only sound pleasant — they also have to look pleasant, dress appropriately, and be responsive to visual cues from their customers.

An employee’s clothing and attitude in particular send signals that may adversely affect his or her employer. As part of a new-hire orientation, employees should receive a handbook spelling out the values and standards of the company. Most companies consider policy violations seriously, and repeated violations could subject the employee to termination.

Statistics indicate that profits can skyrocket 25-95 percent by retaining just 5 percent more customers.1 With that in mind, it’s no wonder that loyalty programs and customer care are becoming big business. These strategies can generate repeat business and more referrals, and render marketing efforts more efficient and effective.

Here are some classic methods to meet customer expectations:

o   Hire the right people and train them well

o   Cultivate a fun and friendly workplace

o   Treat the customer as a valued friend

o   Establish a relationship based on respect and fulfilling each customer’s individual needs

o   Seek out dissatisfied customers and commit to improving their experience

o   Reward employees with financial incentives for helping the store’s bottom line

o   Provide follow-up for customer satisfaction

Happy Customers Start with the System

Successful store owners will point out that exceptional customer service starts at the very heart of the system — and begins long before the first shopper walks through the door. While the process may involve training time, good marketing strategies and a keen eye for what works — and what doesn’t — the payoff can be a healthier bottom line.

o   Establish cost-effective ways to add value to the customer experience

o   Train employees to up-sell other products/services

o   Suggest compatible items (e.g. headphones for a sound system).

o   Offer discounts for multiple product purchases

o   Draw customers through special discounts (e.g. Senior Citizen Day, store credit cards, etc.)

o   Offer extended warranties

o   Train staff to be proactive. Teach them to:

o   Thoroughly know the products and services so they can most effectively help the customer

o   Be obviously friendly, confident and quick to build rapport

o   Give the customer choices

o   Suggest additional offerings – “By the way, are you aware of?”

o   Exceed the customer’s expectations

o   Ask intelligent follow-up questions

o   Embrace customer complaints with a thank you;

o   Quickly addressing customer complaints can help a business grow and prosper, while ignoring issues can result in revenue loss or even litigation. A strong, successful plan to address customer issues should incorporate technology, employee training, and constant vigilance to follow up on problem resolution.

o   Listen to the complaint and correct the problem even if it means a loss of profit — if the complaint leads to corrective action in the way customers are served, profits are likely to increase in the future.

o   Since it is sometimes difficult to determine if a complaint is valid or not, a business may defer to the customer the first time — tracking software can identify if a customer is a repeat complainer.

o   Train front-line staff to handle complaints, and give them flexibility in making decisions. Develop escalation procedures through company channels.

o   Customer feedback is important. It not only indicates that you care about customers’ opinions, but it may also give you the opportunity to make improvements. Feedback/comment forms should be readily available — some companies offer customers rewards to encourage feedback.

Making customer service a priority in your store may not only make your customers happier and more likely to return, but it also may help you compete with discount stores and online merchandisers. Customer service may make the difference for your company in today’s competitive environment.

1. https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.