Tis the season for customer service

Food court (Right)We’re approaching home plate for the 2010 shopping season with the best opportunity to realize a profit after a challenging year of budget minded shoppers. Tis the season for shopping, that’s for sure, and chances are businesses will meet new shoppers they have never met before. Why not use the opportunity to attract new customers?

A customer’s first impression is the most important part of the initial sales experience. That visual appeal of your store, and that smile of the professionally turned out sales person making the customer feel welcome and important sets the tone of the good things yet to come. What’s more fun than walking into a store filled with delightful sights, warm aromas, and experienced personnel who are a reflection of the quality establishment you pride yourself on having developed?

As an owner or a manager, choose your staff well. Only choose the best candidates; there is plenty of talent available because of the job market and economy. Interview the best candidates and train them well; a customer doesn’t know who has only been hired for the holiday rush. Provide all new personnel with the tools for their positions. Quality sales personnel don’t shoot from the hip when a customer walks in or needs assistance. Have performance standards for all departments, and make sure to impress upon the staff how the little things make a huge difference.

For instance, how many of us have ever walked into a store and were immediately descended upon by an overzealous sales person? Holiday shoppers are frequently harried, but a professional, well-groomed, informed sales associate with a warm smile and friendly disposition can have a profound effect on a shopper. A trained associate knows to ask a customer if they need help; perhaps giving the customer the lay of the land or the store and then leaving the customer to casually browse. Many floor sales associates gather to chat with each other at that time; the professional watches the customer and observes the nonverbal signals and eye contact when a customer is looking for assistance.

Even cashiers can make an impression on a customer. I personally find it rude to be waiting in a line when a gum chewing associate at the cash register in a department store yells “NEXT.” Even when I run into my nearby Publix supermarket for a half-gallon of milk, the cashier always greets me with a smile, eye contact, and asks me how I am doing. Teach cashiers to politely ask if they can help a customer and expect any employee to make eye contact.

For employees who are hired for high paced stores during the holidays in delivery, assembly, or even loading , make sure acceptable behavior is reinforced. I think most people understand the logistics of getting those Christmas bicycles assembled, loading the playhouse parts into the minivan, and having the holiday turkey cooked to perfection, but when employees get rude, will those people who were scoffed at be back to buy more toys, and more food after the holidays are over?

photo credit: DocBadwrench