Creating positive in-store customer experiences has been a hot topic in retail for years, with even more attention being paid to it recently as customer expectations of brick-and-mortar businesses continue to rise to compete with the convenience of online shopping. However, this year at the National Retail Federation's Big Show in New York City, the trend shifted to emphasize the importance of providing a meaningful employee experience to achieve customer satisfaction.
Information overload does not exist, at least not for modern consumers. Your customers have access to unlimited information, raising the bar for how much your associates need to know about your products and services. If customers are in-store, they are often looking for information and a reason to buy. Consumers are trending toward expecting more transparency and details about product sourcing, health benefits, and choices available to them. Your front-line associates need to be ready to answer those questions, elevating their role from transactional to something much more.
What can you do? Provide training so your employees can answer the questions your customers will have. The National Retail Federation has a training program for general retail skills as well as advanced sales and leadership skills called Rise Up that may be of interest to businesses not looking to create their training resources from scratch. Additional resources and ideas for training and educating your employees can be found in a previous edition of Retail Focus linked here.
Your associates can be your biggest asset. Every workplace has a culture. If you’re not actively cultivating one, it does not mean it doesn’t exist, it just means you have no control over it.
What can you do? If you connect associates deeply to your business, bring them into decision-making, and teach them about your products, you’ll be closer to creating your own in-house brand ambassadors. Employees are often customers as well. Treat them like it, and they’ll provide organic advertising and upselling through their enthusiasm for your products and by sharing experiences and stories with customers. People want to feel valued and trusted. Hearing from management, executives, and others in positions of power about how the business is doing and their role in its success can show employees they are important to the health and future of the organization.
Low unemployment means retention and recruitment will continue to be a problem. Your associates have options. If you aren’t providing the support they need and meeting their expectations, it won’t be too difficult for them to look for it somewhere else.
What can you do? Have reasonable expectations for your associates. A high school student looking for work experience and some extra side money will need different support and have different expectations than a retired individual looking for an outlet to interact with people. Having open and honest conversations with your new hires and existing employees about what they want to achieve will help you provide them the opportunities to reach their individual goals. Having realistic expectations of what you can provide employees and honest conversations about what they hope to gain from their experience, beyond just a paycheck, will help you understand what motivates them and keep them engaged in your workplace.