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Retail Service

Updated on February 18, 2013

Retail Service Types


Service is Critical

What level of retail service are you providing for your customers? Is the level of your retail service consistent with the customer’s expectations? Is the level of service helping you create more business? The right retail service level will create more business for you. Learn how with this article.

Service is critical to building and keeping business. Our economy is becoming very service oriented. We use to be an economy heavy on manufacturing but that has waned with the pressures of globalization. Yes, we are building our manufacturing again but today’s manufacturing requires good customer service too.


What type of Service Design Do You Use?

Understanding where your business is right now is the key. This understanding will foster value added improvements. The value added improvement may be adding employee efficiency. It may also improve the customer’s appreciation of your business and foster more return business.

There are three basic types of retail service styles. They are often intermingled within a business.

Production Line

This is well illustrated in the fast food industry back of the house food preparation methods. Think McDonald’s® and their food assembly lines. At least one restaurant flaunts their production line with the adage “In sight it must be right.’ Steak’n’Shake® used this line to illustrate the quality of their food and their food preparation.

This method revolutionized the dining experience. It created less of a need for formally trained employees, added to the mechanization process of restaurants, and created a larger customer capability.

The production line was practiced by the McDonald brothers in California. In fact, Ray Kroc was so amazed when the McDonald brothers ordered an 18 head milkshake machine that Ray just had to see the restaurant that needed an EIGHTEEN hear milkshake machine. Ray Kroc loaded up his station wagon in Chicago and drove himself all the way to Southern California to see the McDonald’s restaurant that needed to make THAT many milkshakes at once! This was the beginning of the McDonald's chain.

Self Service


Self-Service Approach

This is easily illustrated by most Big Box retailers where the customer is expected to seek out, select, and move their merchandise through the whole purchasing channel. Think Costco where you even load the bulk and larger merchandise into your car.

In the 1960’s the now ubiquitous Salad Bar was added to many middle and even some up-scale restaurants. Up to that point the salad was either prepared table side or brought to the customer from the kitchen.

There is a funny scene in the TV Show That 70’s Show where the Dad takes the Mom out for a nice meal and then cantankerously complains that he expected to be served and not told to go make his own salad!

Personal Service Experience

Yes, medical is a form of retail service experience too.
Yes, medical is a form of retail service experience too. | Source

Personal Attention Approach

This approach can be strictly codified with a set of rules and a great deal of training such as in Medical Facilities and Hilton Hotels. Or this approach can be very loose such as boutique clothing stores that are modeled after the Nordstrom’s personal customer service that is based on a face-to-face interaction.

Personal attention requires a well trained and personable employee. This employee must be empowered to fulfill the needs of the customer with a very loose set of business rules.

Nordstrom’s is famous for accepting a return for any kind and type of merchandise. One urban legend even tells of Nordstrom’s accepting a car tire return when Nordstrom’s has never sold car tires.

Internet Service

The Internet allows for all of the above on different levels.

A personal sales representative may take an inquiry via the Internet and make a phone call or an Email contact.

The purchasing may require following an assembly line of instructions in order to achieve the full purchasing process.

The self service approach is self evident in Internet purchasing.

Customization is easily allowable on the Internet too. Take the case of ordering specialized M & M Candies. The customer follows the production line service approach, to provide their own self service to achieve a personal product. All that is left out is the person to person contact.

Your Business

By now you have identified where your business falls into the service paradigm. Now what?

First, make a list of your problem areas. Ask your most valued employees or customers to help you create this list.

You can also ask yourself the following questions:

Is my service understandable and easily understood by the customer?

When the customer enters your place of business (or your web site) is it easily navigable? Are they guided to order and shop easily?

This may sound obvious but the deli style of sandwich ordering had to be learned by those who were not familiar with it. When Subway opened in many areas of the country (where deli counter purchasing was not practiced) many of the customers were a bit confused and overwhelmed as to the array of ingredients that could be added to a very specifically ingredient named sandwich. The Chicken breast, smoked, bacon, chipotle sandwich could have many other ingredients added or some of the regular ingredients subtracted. (This appeared to be making it some other kind of sandwich completely!)

Don’t confuse your customer. Make the shopping experience in your business customer friendly.

Is my method of customer service approach indicative to my type of business?

If you have a high-end boutique it is a requirement to have personable, well-trained, and empowered employees.

Recently, we had the experience of a high-end restaurant where the waitress mumbled the specialties of the night and became peeved when she was asked to repeat them. And to make it even worse, she actually smelled the desserts to try and tell us which one was the chocolate cheesecake versus the coffee cheesecake. Oh Dear.

Do you take the time to train your employees? Do you pay them based on their needed level of service or personality? Do you offer benefits for them? Do you treat them well?



Am I using technology well in my business?

While dining in Paris we were well served by a very professional waiter. When the dinner was over he took our credit card and swiped it on a hand held device that then printed out a receipt for us to sign.

We like this method. It provided even more personal contact and made the business end of the meal faster and less intrusive.

The same can be said for ordering from a menu right on the table in the form of a computer tablet. The experience was fun.

Starbucks has made a highly successful brand and experience from what use to be the humble and served everywhere cup of coffee. The Baristas and the machines are part of the show and experience.

Generally, your business should have a major update and remodel every three years. This keeps you fresh, and keeps bringing back the existing customer as well as drawing the new customer.

This is to NOT suggest throwing away the fine traditions that are your market staples. It does suggest that you keep your business fresh and fun.

The best way to do this is to belong to a trade organization for your business. Whether it is a restaurant organization, shopping center organization, or chain store organization, do sign up for and receive their magazines and E mails.

This is continuing the tried and true methods of entertainment in retail service. It is the technology that is different. This is the updating of the old peg board puzzles and chess sets provided at restaurants such as the Cracker Barrel.

Exterior Retail Experience


Casual Themed Dining


Emulate the Leaders!

So, not sure where to begin? Well, take a day or two. Heck, take a whole fact finding vacation. During this time visit every similar business to yours that you can find and learn what they are doing right (or wrong!)

Visit businesses NOT like yours and see if they are doing something well that you can incorporate into your business.

Visit the best and the worst.

Don’t think that just because IKEA is so big and different that you cannot piece-meal learn new ideas from them. The IKEA rest room model was quite revolutionary. Their selection of merchandise tells a tale of what is selling too!

Good selling and do share both your success and horror stories with us!


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    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Thanks Linda......

    • profile image

      Linda Myshrall 

      5 years ago

      This is really good, in fact, a terrific tool for point-by-point analysis of any service business. Up and useful, Linda

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Good point sdzulu. We tried the new Field Kitchen and were appalled atthe loss of our favorite foods to the cost of everything being pieced out to where you could spend way more than they use to charge!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      A good example of retail service is the disastrous attempt to altering retail service is Sweet Tomatoes attempt at altering the way they operated. They tried to go from a self-serve family resturant to a higher end resturant with alcohol. They are now going back; as a customer I think they lost their old clientele completely and couldn't attract a new one.

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Thanks James

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Thanks James

    • James-wolve profile image

      Tijani Achamlal 

      5 years ago from Morocco

      Very interesting,useful and interesting.Thanks for this hub.I vote up.

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Thanks Eiddwen, This is what I did for a living. I find my food articles to be more for fun. This feels more like work! LOL!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      Very interesting and left much food for thought.

      Here's to so many more for us both to share on here.

      Enjoy your day and I vote up,across and share.



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