Lessons from the retail floor: Get close to your customer

published by the Nashville Business Journal

There’s a talk I used to give about customer service. I gave it so frequently to store managers and sales people that many of my associates could practically deliver it verbatim. While my focus was on retail store transactions, the principles I taught apply to every business. Here are four keys to getting close to and, more important, keeping your customer.

1. Learn a customer name a week. In a retail store, addressing your customer by name creates a powerful bond that is hard for a competitor to duplicate. Think about your own experiences and recall how you felt the last time a salesperson addressed you by name. This principle applies to every business—greet by name and make your customer comfortable with you and the surroundings.

2. Ask, “What are you looking for?” Our goal was to engage in a meaningful conversation about the customer’s needs. Ask the right—and right amount—of questions; dig deep so you clearly grasp the challenge at hand. The more you can probe about the real needs, the more likely you will identify the best possible product for the customer. The process may be different in your workplace, but the principle pertains to every business.

3. Walk ‘em to the product. After ascertaining the real needs, take the customer right to the product. In many cases the product needs a complete explanation and requires a practical demonstration. The goal is for the customer to be able to use the product to fulfill the need, which is the simple completion of the sales process. The last thing you want is for the customer to return not being able to use the product for any reason.

4. Practice “3’s a crowd.” When there are three or more people in line it’s time to call for help and open the next checkout. When it is time to complete the financial transaction, don’t hassle the customer with a long wait. In any business, the final transaction should be quick and pleasant. 

Don’t ever give a customer a reason for a mind change.

Let’s recap four core customer service principles: Know your customers by name, ask the right questions, show and explain everything, and close the sale quickly and amiably.


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