A 9 Point Customer Service Plan

Creating a distinction between you and your competition

As a customer in someone else’s store, have you ever been made to feel you were an interruption to the workday rather than the reason for it?  Most of us have.  The comments that employees make in situations like these mark the difference between a store trying to survive and a store that is thriving.

Imagine this scenario:  A customer walks into a store and after spending several minutes looking at merchandise, begins to search for someone to wait on them. Of course, to the customer the amount of time looking for help will seem to be longer than the time spent looking at the merchandise.

When they did find the employees of the store, the employees were in a small group having a discussion about things other than their work. Or, the employee was talking on the telephone with someone as they made plans for getting together after work.

Most definitely, both examples of employees need a reminder of the reason for their work. They need a reminder as to who is actually writing their paycheck.

Regardless of how well your business operates, your staff does need an occasional reminder of this.  Remind them that if customers choose to shop elsewhere, your store probably won’t need as many employees.  Give that same response to those who resist working nights or weekends. 

Stores simply have to be open when customers want to shop.  Constantly remind your staff that your business is consumer driven, and that the customer is the most important person in your store.

In visiting with retailers around the country, I have found that few provide written customer service directives for their employees.  It was only during a meeting of employees in my store that we realized we had never created directions for waiting on a customer. 

For the most important job in our store, we felt we needed more time training our team members to perform this crucial task. We created a nine-point directive for customer service.  We also initiated a program that paid bonuses based on total sales goals, departmental work goals and individual item sales.  Here are our nine directives:

Allow the customer to get into the store.  Do not chase her down at the front door. Next, greet the customer with an open conversation. (“Hello.  How are you?” or “Hi.  Glad to see you.”)  If the customer is in a hurry or knows exactly what she wants, usually she will ask.  If not, invite her to look around.

Check the store for the location of other customers, then continue with the usual work of stocking shelves or working in assigned departments.  We told our employees they should never go more than four minutes without stopping to check the sales floor for customers.

If an employee is not the first person to talk with the customer, use a different approach.  This can easily be done by walking by the customer in an aisle and asking something like, “Finding what you need?  Let me know if I can help you.”

In approaching the customer, another employee could ask questions such as, “What do we need to solve our problem today?” or “What kind of blouse are you looking for today?”  By using the words we and our, the employee shows his interest in the customer. 

In helping the customer, ask questions about the intended purchase.  If the customer is trying to decide what kind of computer software to buy, for example, the employee could ask, “What do you need the software to do?”  (Maybe there is a problem that we first need to solve.) 

“What type of restraints do we want to consider?” (Maybe the customer is restrained by money concerns, limited time to learn new software or limited computer skills.)

Offer directions, shortcuts, personal experiences or words of caution.  Be certain that you end this part of the conversation with words of encouragement.

After solving the problem for the customer, it is time to make the sale.  In our store, we stocked add-on items in each department.  The task was to get the add-on sale into the customer’s hands for her to consider before she left the department.  For example, the add on sale could be made by showing the customer new index tabs for the Bible she was about to purchase.

Hand the customer a copy of your current sales circular or newspaper ad.  We attached a copy to the end of the counter to make it easy for us.  An employee could also mention one of the many monthly specials we ran.

The final step in making the sale came after the customer said “thank you” to the team member for the attention our team member had given her.  We made a special point of thanking our customer.  Our employees were reminded that we had many competitors and the customer had chosen our store to shop in.  Her shopping in our store helped to pay our salaries and allowed us to earn bonuses.

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