The human element in retail operations – courtesy, empathy, and other friendly interactions, both verbal and non-verbal – is undoubtedly the main component of quality service.
This is coupled with the ambient environment, new digital technologies, customer-friendly layouts and shopping tools, which enhance and facilitate the buying process and give customers a joyful shopping experience.
Therefore, any retail company must understand their importance and ensure that these qualities are fully embedded as a core value in the service vision and mission statement, to strengthen the brand promise to customers.
How should this emphasis be effectively woven into the retail operational fabric, in creating the experiential encounter with each customer?
Believe in it
Companies should do much more to cascade the “customers are important” philosophy to their front-line and back-end staff. In other words, employees should firmly believe that service is key to the organisation’s branding.
Everyone, from sales associates to trolley collectors and even security personnel should learn to smile more, and greet customers cheerfully – be it when bumping into them or while actually serving them in their respective capacities.
Make a difference
For instance, SBS and SMRT bus captains are not in the retail industry, but many of them now greet commuters when they board. The captains now understand and practise “courtesy begins with me” and “courtesy begets courtesy”.
Another example is Hai Di Lao, a steam-boat restaurant, where the wait staff is courteous and never fails to impress.
You can also experience pleasant interactions with the staff at retailers like Uniqlo and Muji, where management and staff are making an extra effort to improve the level of service.
Keep up the good work
How do companies keep up their good work if they are already doing well? Companies must continue to treat their employees well, looking after their welfare, so that they will in turn treat their customers even better. The sense of optimism and positivity is contagious and flows over to customers.
Bosses can also:
- Listen to staff for valuable feedback, aside from that already received from customers;
- Continue to encourage, motivate the staff and appreciate their hard work; and
- Communicate the shared value system of the organization.
Induction training and continued training is another area employees are taught to provide uniform and consistent service. These should be woven into the corporate service culture. It has to be second nature, not just as a job, but to serve from and with their heart. Whether the customer meets the chief executive officer or the most junior associate in the company, the service provided should be identical. Companies should ensure these doctrines are firmly in place to allow the atmosphere to glow and the business to grow.
Melvin Nicholas Tang,
associate trainer at Singapore Institute of Retail Studies, a Continuing Education & Training institute of Nanyang Polytechnic.