Shopping in a physical store is all about the experience. Customers choose brick and mortar over online shopping for several reasons, the most important being that they want to to see, hold, and feel a product, as well as chat with brand and sales reps. Since ecommerce lacks that personal interaction, it’s essential that you have engaged employees and excellent customer service at your physical stores.
Shoppers are more likely to remember a bad experience than a good one and 82% of people stop doing business with a company simply because of bad customer service. On the bright side, 24% of shoppers who have had a good customer service experience will stay loyal to a store for over two years.
Employees simply looking disengaged can turn potential customers away from your store. When a customer spots an employee on their phone, the whole environment feels less friendly to them and they might avoid coming in all together, so that they don’t interrupt. This is why it’s important for your employees to look busy and welcoming. Consider having an iPad available (a tool customers see as work-related) for your staff members to do social media or inventory-related tasks during slow times.
Employees are as valuable as your customers because they are the ones that deliver and impact the customers’ experiences. According to the Harvard Business Review, employee engagement has a big impact on customer satisfaction.
“Store employees are crucial to building relationships with customers,” says James Logie, the Managing Director of Retail Management Consultants. “Investing in employee engagement will not only help improve performance and reduce turnover, but will also help retailers meet their sales targets.”
Here are a few tactics that will help you engage employees and make your customers happy at the same time:
Hire the right personalities.
Hiring new staff is a big investment. It requires time, training, and resources, so it’s important to get it right, especially if you’re a small retailer.
Whenever you hire for a new position, create a job description that includes daily duties and needed experience as well as key personality traits that mesh with your brand. Training someone to work in a physical store can be taught quickly enough, but a good attitude usually comes naturally. You need to hire employees that are friendly, outgoing, and most of all, aligned with your brand. And let these employees know how important it is for them to start conversations with customers—even if it’s just giving them a warm welcome.
“When staff appear bored and disengaged, it leads to lost revenue. When a customer is being served by someone who is genuine, honest, and approachable, it can make a huge difference,” says Morven Reid-Kay, the Director at Retail Management Consultants.
Get employees excited about your products.
People don’t choose to shop in-person because of a lack of products online. If they’re visiting a physical store, it is because they’re looking for unique experiences and human interaction. When your staff is well-informed about the products they sell, it translates into a genuine and friendly experience for the customer.
Store associates “are a bridge to your brand,” Morven says. “If they don’t engage with that brand and get a customer excited, it’s a lost opportunity.”
Encourage employees to try the products. Educate them about how and where they’re made and why they’ve been priced a certain way. “Getting your staff steeped in the product will help them answer customer questions,” says Morven. “It also establishes them as ambassadors who will spread the word and promote your brand beyond the shop floor.”
Empower employees to take initiative.
You need to keep your employees motivated and busy, especially during slow periods. It doesn’t matter how great your product is, how targeted your marketing is, or how innovative the visual displays are—if your staff look bored, they will turn off shoppers.
Maintaining a list of tasks, such as keeping the store clean and well-organized, is a solid start, but real employee engagement comes when staff are empowered to be local decision makers and are trusted to resolve challenges without always getting approval from managers.
According to a survey by staffing firm Robert Half, 55% of workers say that micromanagement decreased their productivity and 68% said it dampened their morale.
Examples of initiatives to delegate to employees including re-ordering stock, maintaining social media pages, and regularly changing the store layout and visual displays.
“Moving stock around makes it look fresh and exciting to customers popping in more regularly,” Morven says. “And by giving your small team the freedom to try different things, it raises their engagement and gives them a sense of ownership.”
Encourage feedback and new ideas.
When employees know that their work is valued, they’re more willing to share feedback and opinions on how to make improvements. Getting ideas from the people who see and speak to customers every day can help you strategize how to attract more shoppers or generally improve the shopping experience.
Set up a suggestions box, and challenge staff to come up with new ideas for marketing to bring in more foot traffic, such as interesting visual displays, product launch events, or free gifts for the first customers of the day.
“No one sets out to be miserable but that can happen with disengagement and lack of support,” says James. “If you give your employees the right tools and encouragement, customers will have fun and want to come back.”
Reward hard work.
Beyond commission or rewards for hitting sales quotas, you should also publicly recognize employees who deliver exceptional customer service.
“Just because a customer doesn’t buy something today, doesn’t mean they won’t come back,” says Morven. “[Good service] is not just about the transaction, but the long term.”
Recognition can be as simple as bringing coffee and donuts to the team when they’ve done well, hosting annual bowling events that include friends and family (they may become future customers), offering employee discounts, letting them test a new product, or giving them a day off on their birthday.
“Rewards don’t have to cost a lot but they show your support,” says Morven. “At the end of the day, even just saying ‘thank you’ goes a long way in making employees feel appreciated and invested.” In turn, employees will treat customers with the care they deserve.