Retail Sales Clerks Get Undeserved Black Eyes

Dear Store Manager:
Ill never shop at your store again!
Sincerely, Mrs. Ima C.U. Stomer

What Happened Here?

Ah, retail therapy! That indescribable feeling of buying something (anything!) that all department stores thrive on. Every now and then, its good to go shopping. Especially in brick-and-mortar stores.

However, recently, retail therapy isnt as fun anymore.

And it isnt price related at all.

Why Isnt It Fun?

In three words, poor customer service.

I see it all the time: sales staff ignoring the customers. They talk among themselves, rather than interact with a customer. Even when ringing up a customer, they talk to each other instead of the person paying. The customer walks away, sighing about the rudeness of sales clerks.

And it is rude. Customers keep the company afloat by purchasing the products. Ignoring them is not only rude, but stupid as well. If customers dont buy, the store flounders in a river of red ink. If the bottom line stays red too long, the company sinks like the Titanic into the sea. Usually upper staff survives the wreck. They get severance packages, and the like. The rest will be lost in the ocean of unemployment lines.

Im tempted to say that its only the younger folk. Those under age 30. Or even under 45. But, Id be generalizing. And wrong. I also see the lack of service in baby boomers. They who should know better from living so long.

Granted, not every person falls into the sales clerk status. There are true sales professionals who understand the principles of service in sales. No, the lack of interest in customers is mostly shown by those who are there simply marking time; theyre there for the paycheck. Nothing else matters to these folks.

That Has to Change

Agreed. Moreover, I blame the company for most of this prevailing attitude. (The sales staff isnt getting off scott-free. They could be a little more independent outside of work, and learn what they need on their own. But, thats another post for another day.)

Um, what?

Too often, the store manager, or a specific department manager, doesnt do right by its new hires. Theyre especially lax with seasonal help. They dont give the old-timers any help either. Its too easy for managers to point the finger at their sales staff. They arent doing their work!

Have the managers taught their sales staff how to do their work? No?

Customer service isnt a natural thing. Sales is natural; we all do it in one form or another every day in order to get what we want. Service is not. Like anything else, it must be taught. Its the education of a companys sales clerks and professionals that make the difference.

Sales staff is not taught now that good customer service matters. Or even what it means to give customers service. Theyre shown how-to-do a list of chores when hired: how to run a cash register, how to fold clothing, and how to straighten up the stock room, etc. But, theyre never taught how to approach, observe, and sell to a customer or why it matters. 

 Why Not?

Good question, that. I have a pretty good idea of some of the issues. It comes down to the work ethics of the managers. They often are:

  • Shortsighted, especially with seasonal help
  • Lack personal knowledge of the sales process
  • Lack personal understanding of the sales process (knowledge and understanding are kindred, but not the same thing)
  • Disconnected between customers, sales staff, and senior staff
  • Arent focused on the mission of the company
  • Lazy; they simply dont want to take the time to teach

So, the Answer Is?

Its time that managers teach their sales personnel. Any retail company that hopes to survive especially in the wake of online sales needs their sales personnel to know what it means to serve their customers. The focus needs to be on observing, approaching, listening, and a host of things that creates sales.

Sales that keeps the company afloat.

The Takeway

Managers: Take the time to address the above issues. Fully embrace the companys mission, and teach your sales staff to do it, too. Learn about the products, understand how they help the customer, and teach your sales staff what you know. Ask questions of the customers who come in, especially those who return again and again. Ask questions of your sales staff about the customers; allow them to ask questions of you.

Then, keeping the customer in mind, go out and interact with them!

Whats the worst or best customer service lesson youve given? Whats going on with your sales staff? Be bold; leave a comment below.

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