How to improve retail customer service skills

If you are a small business owner, you must ensure that your clerks are providing good customer service to the public. But what is good customer service? And how can you teach your employees - many of them working retail for the first time - how to implement your vision?

Good Customer Service

The main thing that you should tell your clerks is that EVERY SINGLE PERSON that walks into the store or calls the store on the telephone demands respect, attention, and help EVEN IF THAT PERSON DID NOT BUY ANYTHING THAT DAY. This is a hard lesson to teach. Sometimes we forget this lesson ourselves. But if we impart this lesson to our employees, and they take it to heart, business will start thriving.

Excellent customer service encompasses the following steps:

Greet each customer.

When a customer walks into the store, the clerk should acknowledge the customer's entry into the store. He can say "hi", "hello", "welcome".  Or maybe "good morning", "good afternoon", etc.   If the clerk knows the customer's name, he should use it.   The important thing is to seem enthusiastic and genuine.

Be friendly

It is easy to be friendly to customers that are friendly. The hard part is to be friendly to customers who are not friendly or even hostile. Employees that are friendly to everyone will bring in more business to the store than employees that are friendly half the time.

After the customer browses for a few minutes, ask them if they need help finding something.

All customers need help finding things. (Even if some of them don't know it!). Employees of the store have much more knowledge about specific products than the customer does. So it is the duty of the employee to figure out what the customer needs and then try to help the customer fulfill that need. Additionally, some customers are embarrassed to ask for help and are thankful when you approach them.

EMPLOYEES SHOULD BE CAREFUL, HOWEVER. They shouldn't pester the customer. If the customer says that he doesn't need any help, THE EMPLOYEE SHOULD LET HIM BE. Maybe check back in with the customer after about 15 minutes to see if the customer has found what he's looking for.

Never badmouth anybody or anything.
I've seen many employees badmouth their competition, or other employees, or other customers. I've seen other employees disparage products they sell. (e.g. the iphone suck! What you should buy is the new Motorola phone.). When an employee does this he's showing himself to be small minded and he's also setting up the potential for his customers to feel uncomfortable.

Walk with the customer to find a product not just point to it.

The best way to show a product to a customer is to walk with him to where the product is. This is much better than pointing to it for two reasons. The first is that the customer will find it right away and be assured of buying the product. Many customers, when faced with not finding a product easily, turn around and go home. Additionally, walking with the customer allows the employee to be social with the customer and maybe even suggest additional products for the customer to buy.

If the store doesn't offer the product, provide an alternative

Many times, the store doesn't have the product that the customer wants. This could be because it hasn't arrived yet, it's sold out, or the store just doesn't carry that particular item.

The employee should then offer an alternative. Some examples:

  • "We can special order that product for you."
  • "We don't have that product, but we have this one which might be better for your needs."
  • "We don't carry it but have you tried this other store down the street."

Practice the art of up-selling and cross-selling

An employee should try to figure out what the customer's needs are. After asking a few questions, he should be able to understand what the customer is looking for. At this point, if appropriate, he can up-sell or cross-sell.

Up-selling means that the saleperson tries to get the customer to purchase a more expensive items in order to make more profit for the small business. This technique can be used badly or well, depending on the skill of the employee. The main thing with both cross-selling and up-selling is that they can't be used indiscriminately. These techniques must be used when appropriate.

So for example, a person comes in to buy a suit in a small clothing store. The customer says that he'd like to spend about $200 for the suit. The employee should show the customer suits from $150 to $300. It might be that the $200 limit is not a "hard limit" but more of a "soft limit" and the customer actually wants a better suit but he doesn't have enough information to make that decision. In this case, upselling is a great practice because the sales person is helping the customer make an educated decision.

Cross selling, instead, is when the sales person suggests related products or services to a customer who is considering buying something. The classic example of this is at the fast food restaurants "Would you like fries with that?". This again, is an excellent customer service tool, because many customers aren't aware of what they really need.

So, for example, if someone is starting to play golf, they might not realize that they need a golf bag, a set of clubs, various balls, a golf outfit, etc. Again, it is the job of the employee to educate the customer through cross-selling.

Be respectful. Don't use slang. Use good manners.

The employee shouldn't swear. He should use "please" and "thank you". He should try to respectful of the customer

Give a farewell greeting

A farewell greeting can be something like “thanks for coming in!” or “have a great day!” It lets customers and browsers feel that they were appreciated.

Small Business Management

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Comments 6 comments

isopurewater 6 years ago

This is a good information i got from here.

MickyD profile image

MickyD 6 years ago from Los Angeles, California Author

I'm glad you liked the information! Thanks for reading my hub.

Mitch Alan profile image

Mitch Alan 5 years ago from South Jersey

good Hub...

another helpful tip...Don't ask the customer, "Do you need help?" rather ask "Is there anything I can help you find?" It is a psychological difference. People don't like to think they need help. Asking to help find something allows the customer to hold on to the power of knowing what they want. Or, at least the appearance that they do.

hilda 4 years ago

im retail manager. thanks for your good guide. keep it up.

Wei Jen 4 years ago

I've just realized that there are so many things to be learned in customer service skills! It really helps me to improve in my career! Thanks a lot!

Holly OBrien profile image

Holly OBrien 4 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

Haven't worked in retail in a few years as I've been in school, but now that I'm out, I'm getting back into it working for a designer clothing brand. I was a little nervous about it, because I'm "out of shape" in terms of my customer service skills, but this post really helped refresh my memory, so thanks!

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