Repeatedly making the headlines throughout the recession is the significant decline in sales being suffered by the retail industry. A number of high profile brands are no longer present on the high street and are instead, being replaced by empty windows, “Closing Down” sales and disused space. Substantial negative press in addition to repeated drops in quarterly profits and sales figures reported from major players in the industry also paint a rather bleak and foreboding picture. The forecast doesn’t look sunny…
An increase in internet competition has been widely blamed as the younger generation and arguably the primary shopping demographic turn to cyber-space to fulfill their online needs and wants. Trending away from this widely accepted idea though, could customer service or a decline in this be a more subtle contributor to the downturn? Indeed, perhaps a lack of training, employee satisfaction, benefits or enthusiasm could be responsible? Poor customer service and untrained staff who seem utterly indifferent to consumer needs provide a customer experience worlds away from leaders in this area.
Raising the bar
Leaders in this field such as Apple, Disney and a handful of others delight their customers on a daily basis, creating an experience which people willingly pay more to be a part of. Each member of staff in Apple stores now has a portable device with which to order, send receipts, accept payment, check stock…and I’m sure much more. These sleek, futuristic machines are surely indicative of Apple’s pioneering, innovative attitude and their clear investment into creating a positive customer experience.
Podcast: How to help Sales Reps and Sales Processes become more resilient with Guest Dr Russell Thackeray
Apple staff, who create and generate the customer experience appear genuine, happy and willing to help. All of their technology is interactive and consumers are encouraged to experiment and play around with the products. No one seems stressed or over-worked and queuing, unless on a launch day, doesn’t seem to be an issue.
The ability of people to bounce back from difficult conditions and work under continued pressure is becoming an issue and the creation of more personally resilient people needs to become a focus for organisations as well as improving skills and potential.
Ease of payment
For more traditional stores, payment islands with long queues and flustered shoppers can often put people off making a sale, causing discomfort and stress, two factors we’d surely like removed from our shopping experience! Ease of sale by creating slick resilient processes therefore, can play a massive part in retail and consequently profits.
With so much competition for brands, we believe that retail should be about having a pleasurable experience; delivering on brand promise, creating a sense of drama, pizzazz, and glamour. A desire to succumb to the ‘impulse buy’ is surely indicative of the above and something a positive customer experience will encourage. Maybe falling sales could be rectified if the focus moved from minimizing costs and instead became about making things more pleasant for the staff and in turn, consumers who should be made welcome and not treated as an inconvenience.
I’m sure I’m not alone in noticing a slightly depressing decrease in the quality of these items left in the sales in recent years. Trends and pieces from years ago appear valiantly to attempt an annual come back, retiring back to the dark of the stock room after their brief foray onto the clothes rails. The word “Sale” previously created a feeling of excitement, now perhaps, this is turning to indifference. Or maybe the discount retailers have cornered the market in exciting, trendy and great value product and the traditional retailers just get left behind.
When it works, it’s no surprise that profits follow. Just look at Apple, few can contest their strategy as they continue to get bigger and better.
Upgrading customer experience and encouraging positive referrals from shoppers should be a priority step investors and managers are taking. Of paramount importance are brand reputation and customer loyalty as well as effectively measuring and building consumer and staff experiences through bespoke programmes to help to boost in-store sales.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you build extraordinary customer experiences through the skills and potential of your resilient people.