Crisis in the High Street

The problems that the retail sector are facing are well documented. Certainly, the traditional high street is in decline, maybe terminal decline. Yet there is one substantial but massively underplayed advantage that the high street has over online retailing.

What is it? Their staff and by that, I mean the employees, the Customer Service Assistants who work “in store, on the floor”. They are an unappreciated and undervalued asset, certainly one whose potential is not being fully realised. The experience the customer receives in store from the Customer Service Assistant can make or break their relationship with that retailer. So, what actions can retail organisations take?  My five suggestions won’t solve all the problems that high street retailers have but will I believe assist in halting the decline. And they are all relatively simple to introduce and are not overly expensive to action.

1.Encourage staff to smile when engaging with a potential customer.
It’s the easiest and most effective way to start to establish a positive relationship.

2.Train all retail staff in the importance of customer service.
And having trained them hold regular refresher sessions. Better still, get the input of staff, and possibly customers, into this training. Bite size sessions would probably work best.

3. Improve or introduce product knowledge training for all staff.
And make this a continued process. Employees can be encouraged to become “Product Masters”, responsible for briefing their colleagues in particular product lines. This will increase both their confidence and experience as well as overall staff knowledge. A customer who visits a store and engages with a knowledgeable Customer Assistant is more likely to buy.

4. Think sales.
In order to think sales, staff must view their role as being a sales role and be trained in retail sales techniques; and not somebody who just replenishes stock. If a customer enters a store more often than not it is because they want to purchase a particular item or are thinking about purchasing. They are a warm lead waiting to buy. Thinking sales maximises the opportunity to sell, it’s a mindset. And I haven’t even addressed the up-selling opportunities this presents.

5. Provide the option of personal shoppers.
Available in high end retailers, why not make this service more readily available on the high street? Not only will the customer feel important and value the experience it’s a great opportunity to sell to a customer with whom you have already engaged. Plus, it can be used as a way of encouraging more healthy eating

Customers are an organisations most important source of income and staff the organisations greatest asset. Utilising the full potential of staff to sell more to customers has got to be a “win – win”. What have retailers got to lose? Actually nothing!


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