Today’s shoppers are walking into your stores with more data than ever before. Most customers do some combination of browsing your website, checking inventory, comparing prices, and reading reviews for both your store and competitors before they even arrive. With such a focus on all the digital information that’s available and the new technology that’s developing, many retailers are making efforts to digitize the entire shopping experience with self-checkouts and a seamless experience. However, the sales associate still plays a vital role in the consumer’s shopping experience and in the retailer’s bottom line.
The 2016 Retail Industry Report by InMoment, a customer experience optimization platform, found that consumers spend on average twice as much when they have been assisted by a staff member and four times as much when they were engaged by both retail staff and the brand’s website. “When informed, in-store retail associates treat shoppers to an exceptional experience, customer purchase behavior mimics this positivity,” says Dr. Paul Warner, VP of business insights at InMoment. Having engaged employees has a direct relationship with increased sales, regardless of other factors.
“We’ve found there’s more of a reciprocal relationship between happy customers and engaged employees,” continues Warner. “Customers who have a negative experience are then going to treat employees differently. If the staff has enough customers with negative experiences, that creates employee burnout. Customer experience and employee engagement are cyclical.” So having engaged employees is critical to having satisfied customers and increased sales. But having happy customers is key to having employees who feel valued. So as the business manager, where do you start?
1. Gather Feedback
“The further the head of any company is removed from customers, the less they know about what’s happening with the customer experience,” explains Warner. Independent retailers have a huge advantage because as the storeowner, you are probably already physically present in your business and know some of your customers. However, “Employees interact with the bulk of your customers,” says Warner. Put out surveys to employees and customers with the same questions to see how they view what’s happening in your store.
From the surveys, determine what aspects of your business have the most opportunity to improve. Maybe many indicated the store feels understaffed, or maybe there isn’t enough communication on new products and sales. It’s very likely that your employees and your customers will have similar opinions on growth opportunities.
3. Open Dialogue
“Once you’ve determined the major themes, take those back to your employees for feedback and ideas,” says Warner. Hold a staff meeting to discuss survey results and get the sales associates’ input. Part of creating a team of engaged employees means actually involving them in discussions about the business and demonstrating that their insight is valued. “Opening up this dialogue gets employees thinking about things from a customer’s perspective, which is key. Employees also feel valued and respected more if you ask for their feedback about the customer experience,” continues Warner.
Keeping open communication with employees will keep you in the loop with day-to-day happenings with customers and their experience, which will also keep employees motivated and conscious of the service they’re providing. “As a retailer, it’s very important to use the voice of your employees for the benefit of the business,” says Warner. “One of the deepest insights we’ve found from our study is that the key for customers spending more is receiving assistance and interacting with a sales associate.” When it comes to providing a human touch and personal interactions, no one does it better than independents and small businesses.