Service, the fabric of retailBY Katherine Mechanicos
How to create a service culture across all areas of retail
Closely intertwined, sales and service have long been the backbone of retail. Recently the impacts of technology, economic unpredictability, social awareness and environmental responsibility are changing the stakes for both retailers and consumers.
Terms like connection, relationship building, consumer loyalty and customer experience are increasingly used to express the new ways in which retailers and consumers interact. Customers now have access to information about price and competition, and as a result this is changing the way in which traditional and physical retailers operate. Their ability to comment through social media is challenging retailers with less than desirable customer service standards.
This is great news for brands with a commitment to customer service, and retailers who offer a unique, highly coveted product; but unfortunate news for others. Whilst the trading environment may be rough, there is a real opportunity for dynamic businesses to thrive in the new world of retail.
In today’s retail environment, being customer centric is all about having an underlying commitment to placing the customer’s interest at the centre of every business decision. The classic saying ‘the customer is king’ is now more relevant than ever, but rather than signalling the death of retail, this attitude creates space and opportunity for retailers to tailor their offering and provide value for their customers that goes deeper than the product itself.
Retailers need to become smarter about how they connect with, and appeal to their desired customers. There is no better time than now to be a retail customer because there is so much choice. Using technology, consumers are able to globally source, price and purchase products from the comfort of their living room, or in-store via their smartphone.
Retailers, both large and small benefit from paying close attention to how they develop and put in place their sales and service strategies, because in modern retail, the success of their business depends on it.
In fact, the spirit of retail lies with its staff, as salespeople are essential to the growth and sustainability of the retail industry. How staff approach, interact with, learn about, and introduce their product to customers is a strong part of the business and every effort made to resolve customer expectations and complaints is an investment for the business.
When customers measure the performance of a retailer, brand or store, a different set of rules apply. Each customer varies, and they may have differing expectations for certain retailers, yet there are several consistencies in how they decide whether a retail experience was to their liking or not. Ultimately the aim of great sales people is to develop long-term relationships that provide the opportunity for future sales.
With great service being the key to retail success, it’s important to take a close look at the recruitment process. Employment, training and staff development all contribute to business growth and sustainability. Investing in your retail staff not only instils a strong service culture, but it gives staff an opportunity to grow.
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) assists retailers in enhancing the staff development process, transforming retail from a stepping-stone industry to a long-term and fulfilling career. Representing over 7,500 local and international members in more than 40,000 locations, the ARA’s employment, training and development workshops sustain business growth by investing in the next generation of retail leaders.
The ARA’s training department, the Retail Institute, specialises in both accredited, non-accredited and employment training solutions. The Retail Institute’s educational workshops are designed by industry leading specialists, ensuring Australian retailers remain competitive in the fast-paced and dynamic retail environment. Therefore, these specialised courses not only support the future of retail talent but ensure the longevity of Australian retail.
For more information regarding the Australian Retailers Association and its essential training and development services, please contact the ARA on 1300 368 041 or visit retail.org.au.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katherine is the Brand and Communications Manager at the Australian Retailers Association.