We’ve all walked into a shop or restaurant and been confronted by an over enthusiastic member of staff who makes you want to turn around and head straight back towards the door.
It’s a typically English response when trying to enjoy one of the nation’s favourite past-times, no small talk and no time for overzealous shop assistants – we just want to be left alone and shop.
The flip side is when you want or need some help or assistance then a member of staff is often nowhere to be seen or actively trying to avoid any communication.
This is in my opinion, one of the biggest issues facing the retail and leisure industry at the present time, customer experience – it can easily lead to increased sales or quickly result in the customer going elsewhere – a fine balancing act is required, which is why I feel it’s such an important topic, and one which often is overlooked.
Businesses often focus on product or brand or any other element within their control, but for me it’s how the staff can engage with the customer that often sets them apart from the competition.
This is always a key factor that I try to explain to some of my retailer clients, and one example I always use is from a store in Notting Hill.
This particular store is/was one of Notting Hill’s early fashion occupiers, and quickly became a mainstay along Westbourne Grove, particularly with the locals. Something which is hugely important in all ‘high street locations but particularly in a ‘village’ style community like Notting Hill.
The manageress of this particular business, I would say, was probably solely responsible for at least 40% of all business through that particular store, and probably acted as a brand ambassador, long before that was even a thing. She became an influential member of the community, even though she wasn’t necessarily a resident.
It was phenomenal, she knew all her regular customers, names, ages, sizes, styles, favourite colours, probably even children’s names and where they were at school.
Time and time again you would be in the store, and hear her calling a customer saying, we’ve just had a new collection arrive, which I think you’d love – I’ve put a few pieces behind the till with your name on for you to try next time you’re in.
She would greet them with a personal hello and make a point of saying goodbye if she’s been with another customer – you always knew she was in control of everyone in the store – which in turn always improved the other team members around her.
It sounds simple, yet the difference this made to the experience for the customer was incredible and tangible, they felt valued above all others, which time and time again inevitably lead to an increase in sales and positive marketing and PR via the goodwill word of mouth from the customer base.
The resulting factor was the business benefited greatly from her, and eventually as a result of store performance, she was re-positioned, in time, to all of their most prominent stores, to implement her style and techniques on the other retail teams within the business.
Why is this important – because in the current climate all high street businesses are battling against increased amounts of competition, whether it be from another retailer or business, online, economic conditions and now a worldwide pandemic.
It’s become trench warfare along the high street, and businesses need to provide the customer with a point of different to all their competition, for me this starts with the customer service of the staff. What service can they provide above and beyond what can be offered elsewhere – why choose to make the effort of going to a high street store vs a few clicks on you laptop.
If we reflect on our own personal favourite restaurants, coffee shops or retail stores, somewhere we visit frequently, stop and consider what sets them apart from the competition – almost every time for me it’s having a personal connection and experience, which the staff provide through their actions.