Most retailers will agree that employees need certain customer service skills in order to drive sales and be successful. For example, most retailers will agree that patience, attentiveness, positive body language, product knowledge and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively are all critical for overall success and financial growth. For me, it is really interesting when businesses say, we want to make more money, we want to drive our sales forward and we want to do more positive things as a business, but then it is not backed up with, ‘in order to do that we need to give our people more time’. There’s no better time than now to invest in your people.

Fundamentally, businesses need to spend more time with their employees, in terms of understanding where their strengths and weaknesses are. They need to spend more time with them talking about the brand and the products they are selling. By giving them more information and boosting their overall product knowledge, they are then better equipped to talk confidently to the end user, the customer. For me, you are ultimately investing in your business in the best possible way if you invest in your people.

A survey completed by brand engagement agency Maverick found that, ‘77% of UK retail employees are not engaged with their company brand values’ (EngageforSuccess). I think sometimes businesses spend so much time thinking about the product and the quality, which don’t get me wrong, is extremely important, but sometimes companies forget about the people that need to be able to sell the product in the best way possible.

By engaging with your employees, making them feel included and deeply valued, they in turn, engage and commit to you and your business wholeheartedly. Let’s face it, disengaged employees don’t work nearly as hard and don’t provide a good service to your customers. Poor service and lower productivity in the workplace leads to poor sales and growth.

What you want to achieve is giving your customer the confidence to go ahead and purchase your product. And what’s the best way to achieve this? Training your people to communicate in the right way. Additionally, giving them enough knowledge about your products so they are able to confidently sell them.

Excellent Service Leads to Sales

You only need to look at why John Lewis Partnership does so well even in tough retailing times. Yes they have a quality product, but it’s really about the service that they give. It’s the way they make you feel when you’re in their environment. It’s about the way they make you feel special and valued as a customer. The smile, the tentativeness, all of these things make your shopping experience better. What’s the outcome? You want to purchase in their stores. Excellent service is paramount.

Your Time Means Everything 

If businesses spent more time investing in their staff and their skills, then the service that they deliver will be much better. It might be one-to-one training, or on-the-job training for example. So much of it is businesses giving their staff the time. It sometimes might even be away from the shop floor. That one-on-one time to explain things, to go through things in more detail, to build their knowledge and their understanding is so important. So, the investment really is the investment in time. It’s not always about incentivising your people with money. That is sometimes just a short-term fix. It’s about investing your time in them, investing in your people, giving them the opportunity to really get on board with the company they work for.

Challenging Retail Environment 

With the shift is customer shopping, preferences shifting to online, UK retailers are constantly challenged with a tough environment. A Total Report last year found that product knowledge is power. It also found that, ‘59% of shoppers say sales associates with deep knowledge of product range is the most important in-store attribute’. In tough retailing times, its critical to interact with your customers in-store to encourage them to keep coming back.

More than ever before it is so important to invest in your people. By investing in talent and the development of your employees, you are laying the foundations for your business to flourish.

I’d love to hear how you invest in your people. Drop me a line if you would like to discuss in more detail.

Stephen Balmer-Walters

Author Stephen Balmer-Walters

An experienced international retail omni channel director with a wealth of knowledge. A strong leader able to communicate and negotiate at all levels.

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