There’s an old saying, “The truth hurts”, and sometimes I’ll agree. If you’re running a retail business however, there’s a much more important mantra – TELLING LIES IS BAD FOR SALES! Now, your reaction to this statement may range across:
- Absolutely agree, I never lie to a customer;
- Argue over the definition of “What exactly is a lie? Sure we all do it sometimes, and as long as there’s no harm done, it’s not a problem”;
- Listen, get off your high horse, I’ll tell the customer whatever it takes to get the sale.
Interestingly enough, digital retail experience and technology company, Red Ant, conducted some research with frontline retail staff in the UK, and whatever you think about the actual percentages, you’ll find it hard to disagree with the findings.
- 63% have lied to cover lack of product knowledge.
- 47% believe they don’t know enough about the products they sell.
- 58% said they received less than 2 hours training before being released onto the shop floor.
- 50% were embarrassed by their lack of product knowledge.
- 46% were shy or nervous when dealing with customers.
- 74% felt employers should give more product training.
- 31% claimed that having a tablet with them on the shop floor would help provide product information.
So, what are the consequences? You won’t be surprised to discover that 67% of customers have recognised when being lied to, and 40% claim they search on-line to avoid misinformation from retail staff. This simply can’t be good for business.
The top 10 list of avoidance tactics will be instantly recognisable to everyone.
- Pass the customer on to another member of staff.
- Lie about the product so it sounds like I know what I’m talking about.
- Make up an excuse to leave the shop floor.
- Hide in the store room.
- Go to the toilet.
- Pretend to feel ill.
- Deliberately ignore them and serve someone else.
- Tell them the product isn’t in stock.
- Pretend to be busy doing something else.
- Suggest they go to another store.
If you are trying to compete with on-line suppliers, or use on-line activity to drive customers into your store, this is commercial suicide. Do you recognise any of these symptoms in your business? If the answer is no, congratulations! (But how do you know?) If it’s ‘yes’, how bad is it?
Put yourself in the customer’s position
The best strategy for dealing with this as a business owner is to put yourself in the customer’s position. What is THEIR experience in your STORE? Henry Ford had a straightforward perspective,
“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”
There are two simple steps to dealing with the situation. Firstly, recognise the problem. Most customers don’t bother to complain, they just take their business elsewhere, so when someone does give you feedback, listen to it. Check out your customer experience through mystery shoppers. Seek out feedback through satisfaction surveys. None of these costs a lot, so why not do the research? You can find out how your competitors perform by shopping in their outlets. What do they do differently? What do they do better? What do you do better?
Lack of training featured high in Red Ant’s report. If you’re under pressure to keep costs down, and have cut staff numbers and training budgets, you are not alone. Ask yourself this question, “How does not investing in my staff help me grow my business?” When I talk to clients about staff training, quite often it’s not cost of an external trainer that’s at issue, it’s co-ordinating the roster and dedicating the time that seems to defeat them.
Do a bit of soul-searching. When was the last time you spent time on the shop floor dealing directly with a customer? When was the last time you gave product or customer service training to staff? How often do you provide refresher training? If this seems a bit harsh to you, I have two final questions.
What would a 10% increase in turnover do for my business? Wouldn’t it be worth the investment?