Canada's business magazine for traditional natural health retailers

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When customer service is not enough

dave fuller customer serviceI am sure that you have suffered through an experience of poor customer service.  One doesn’t have to look far these days to realize that many businesses put low value on treating customers well. 


I am sure that you have suffered through an experience of poor customer service.  One doesn’t have to look far these days to realize that many businesses put low value on treating customers well. 

Recently however, I was working with a retailer on improving their customer service. It quickly became apparent that their customer service was great but their sales sucked! In fact, customers visiting the store would leave and say how nice the people inside were but often they left happy without buying things.  This was a challenge for the retailer who was intent on increasing sales to achieve a profitable business.  

This is a problem that is too common in many businesses.  On one hand, we have owners that think that they have hired staff to sell products.  On the other hand, we have employees who feel that their job is to help customers, or do customer service.  There is a lack of clarity in the roles and responsibilities of each person in the store concerning the contributions they must make if the business is to continue to thrive. 

Let’s be clear: this is not the employee’s mistake.  It is an error of our management!  So, where did we go wrong?

Lack of clarity

The first mistake that most retailers make is not being totally transparent with their employees about the company’s goals and what role they play within the company. Each and every person within the store needs to understand the expectations of their role as employees of the company. 

For example, if we hire someone to “serve the customer,” what does that exactly mean?  Is that person to just walk around the inside of the building and say “Can I help you?”  Is their job to simply put products on the shelves, because that serves the customer?  Perhaps serving the customer means running the till? Or when we say serving the customer, do we really mean ascertaining the customers’ needs and fulfilling them?  Each objective determines the focus of the employees’ responsibility within the business. Which one did you mean when you told the employee that their job is to serve the customer?

Lack of training  

Very few retailers these days properly train their employees in selling techniques. It’s a lost skill and it is costing our businesses tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.  We train new staff how to greet a customer, and smile when we say hello, but we fail to give them the skills that they need as employees to be successful in selling solutions to our customers.   As a result, our businesses lose customers who are leaving without buying, and end up either frustrated, or purchasing from a competitor or online.   

Lack of accountability 

So many owners and managers could reduce their stress levels by simply keeping their employees more accountable.  Sales is no different. When we fail to provide guidelines and expectations and rewards for our staff, we should not be surprised when they fail to deliver. 

My client is working on growing her business through fantastic customer service, combined with a trained sales team.  I will be spending a week onsite with her team training them in sales. I have no doubt that once her team is tuned up, that her sales will grow.  Customer service is a great start for improving our stores, but it doesn’t work if we can’t supply our customers with what they really need.  


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