When you run a small retail shop, customer services is at the heart of every decision you make.
There might be a lot of debate surrounding ‘the customer is always right philosophy,’ but there is no debate about this: You need to provide truly excellent customer service to keep shoppers coming back.
Take a look at these 25 retail customer service tips to keep your patrons satisfied.
1. Focus on the Customer in Front of You
We have all been there. The phone is ringing, you may have online orders to fill, and there’s a line of folks that need to be checked out at the register. Juggling responsibilities comes with the territory when you own a small business. That said, no one is more important than the customer waiting to be attended in your shop. All it takes is a few angry customers and passive-aggressive Yelp reviews to dent business sales. So when in doubt, put the phone caller on hold and focus on delivering a stellar in-store experience.
2. Go the Extra Mile
If your customer wants something that they can’t find in your store, offer them options. Head to that back room to look for those cute boots in size 8, even if you’re pretty sure they’re not there. Offer them a rain check or the opportunity to order now and enjoy free delivery when the item restocks. Even if they turn you down, most customers will remember the extra effort. They might even share their experience with friends and family, or on social media, helping to spread the word about your business.
3. Improve the Checkout Experience
Long wait times and an unpleasant checkout experience are not the hallmarks of good customer service. Retail stores with unfair queuing systems, confusing in-store experiences, and long lines are bound to leave a sour taste in your customers’ mouths. Use clear in-store signage and other content so that customers know where to stand in line, form lines around checkout aisles to encourage last-minute purchases, and adopt processes and tools that can help you bust through long lines during peak business hours.
4. Introduce Employees and Customers by Name
In today’s retail world, you literally have seconds to connect with customers and make a good impression. If you need to turn over a customer to another employee, introduce your co-worker by name and make sure you use your customer’s name as well. Referring to others by name during a sales interaction makes the experience feel personal, building a connection that’s hard to break.
5. The Magic Word: “Thank You”
Of course, you want to thank customers when they complete a purchase. But that’s not the only time you should be saying “thank you.” Show your appreciation to everyone who visits your establishment, whether they make a purchase or not. Did one of your customers recently make a huge purchase? Send them a personal thank you email, or drop a thank you note (with a discount for future purchases) in their bag or mailbox.
6. Stay Present Without Hovering
As a retailer, you have to strike a careful balance between being helpful and being overzealous. It’s one of the more nuanced customer service skills. Customers want you to be available to answer questions, open a dressing room, or ring up a purchase the second they’re ready — but they don’t want you hovering over them as they browse. The secret? Keep yourself busy straightening shelves, and use your peripheral vision to wait for that moment when your customers start looking around.
7. Never Turn Away from an Approaching Customer
There’s no excuse for turning away from a customer. It doesn’t matter if the phone’s ringing, you’re about to start your lunch break, or you really need to run to the restroom. If a customer is approaching you, smile, greet them and offer your services. If you absolutely have to step away, make sure they’re clear on who else is around to support them or how they can get your attention when ready.
8. Create a Comfortable Break Room for Employees
You might be wondering how this has anything to do with excelling in customer service — the happier employees are, the more productive they are likely to be. Your employees work hard, and they’re on their feet for hours at a time. They deserve to take their breaks in a space that’s comfortable and truly relaxing. Small changes like providing a comfortable chair or two and stocking snacks to keep your staff’s blood sugar from dropping, can reenergize an employee who’s having a tough day.
9. Be Discreet if a Customer’s Credit Card is Declined
Very little is as embarrassing or stressful as having a credit card or debit card declined in public— Everyone’s eyes turn on you, and you’re left worrying whether your bank account has been hacked. If this happens to one of your customers, it’s a “do unto others” moment. Think how you would feel, and respond in a way that doesn’t draw too much attention to the situation. Inform them that there is an issue with their credit card and ask them if they would like to opt for another payment method. This combination of good customer service and basic human empathy are a sure way to turn a bad experience into a good or neutral one.
No one wants to be waited on by a grumpy or condescending salesperson. A tough as the job might be, the same goes for your customer service representatives. According to a study on the hidden benefits of smiling, waitresses who smiled made more tips that non-smiling waitresses. If you make smiling a priority in your retail shop, you’ll create a welcoming atmosphere for your customers.
11.Create a Wonderful Customer Experience
Your customers could be shopping online — but they’re not. They’ve gone to the trouble of coming to your shop, so the least you could do is make that effort worthwhile for them. Organize your shop layout in a way that draws customers in and makes them gasp with delight at the combination of colors, decoration, music, and design.
12. Give Paying Patrons a Gift
People love free stuff. Humans naturally feel indebted to those who have done something for them, so by offering them something free of charge you implicitly trigger the part of them that feels indebted to you. Whether it’s a cold drink on a hot day, a candy jar full of treats by the checkout counter, or a plate of free samples, do something to tap into your customers’ mental desire to reciprocate.
13. Establish Procedures for Dealing with Unhappy Customers
Empower your sales staff to treat angry customers well. Establish written procedures to help employees know what to do if a transaction goes really bad, and train them in the customer service skills needed to always make unhappy customers feel valued. Give them the authority to issue returns, make exchanges, or provide extra merchandise without having to ask for approval from higher-ups — all while the disgruntled customer steams, sending bad vibes all over the shop.
14. Celebrate Your Customers’ Birthdays
Have customers sign up for a birthday club with the month and day of their birth, and make a note of this in your POS system so that you’re alerted when the time comes. You can send them an email or postcard thanking them for their patronage, offer a gift waiting at your store (say, a free scoop of ice cream), or treat them to a discount during the month of their birth.
15. Take a Survey
Your job as a retailer is to meet your customers’ needs — and how will you know what they need if you don’t ask? It’s easy to link online surveys to codes on checkout receipts so you can provide a small gift when your customers opt-in, or ask if they can fill out a quick hard copy survey right there in the store.
16. Make Customer Service Everyone’s Job
Have you ever been in a store and asked for help, only to be told, “That’s not my job?” Why would anyone want to shop in a place like that? Instead, make customer care everyone’s responsibility. If your managers are lording it over your salespeople and consider customer service beneath them — well, maybe they’re not the right people for your business. And if your team needs to bone up on their customer service skills, get them training.
17. Never Say, “I Don’t Know”
When you say, “I don’t know,” your customer hears “I don’t care.” Instead, when you truly don’t know the answer to your customer’s question, say, “Let me look into that” — and then do whatever it takes to find the right answer or to turn your customer over to someone with the answer.
18. Double Check the Order Before Your Customer Leaves
Whether the shop you were visiting left the avocado on your sandwich after you warned them of allergies or forget to include that pair of earrings you tossed into your order on impulse, you don’t have the time to go back and fix things. And neither do your customers. Make sure their orders are right — and arrange for delivery whenever possible if you made a mistake.
19. Keep Your Whole Sales Crew Up to Date
When you bring in new products, make sure everyone behind the counter gets to check them out before you offer them to your customers. For more complex products, you might need to employ different types of training content like streaming video, in-person demos from experts, and more. That way, your sales staff can all explain just how the bagel cutter works or what kind of accessories will pair well with your new line of sweaters.
20. Tell Every Customer Your Policies
SEE ALSO: Lean and Mean: How to Improve Retail Operations
21. Encourage Patience
Yes, certain customers can be challenging to deal with — but what if those very shoppers are your most profitable? Establish a storewide attitude of patience. Consider rewarding salespeople not just for hitting sales numbers but also for dealing with demanding customers successfully.
22. Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes
Understanding what your customer is feeling is key to forging the kind of bond that invites them to come back to your shop. Is your customer stressed because they need an outfit for a special occasion or a job interview? Are they exhausted from a long day? Excellent people skills are essential when running a retail business. The more you relate to your customers and their emotional needs, the better experience they’ll have.
23. Be Authentically Friendly
Customers can tell when you’re putting on a fake smile or looking down your nose at them. Once you’ve mastered the empathy involved in understanding your customers, you’re better able to greet them in a genuinely welcoming manner and strike the right balance between professionalism and friendliness. Sales staff who have to force themselves to be friendly are likely to drive away customers.
24. Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
Promotions are great for attracting new and repeat customers, but nothing is more frustrating than offers with lots of fine print and multiple strings attached. Be honest and upfront about what your business can offer and deliver. Also, if you send out a flyer with an offer that forgot to mention the expiration date, honor it. Clickbait offers might attract a lot of foot traffic, but they can also run your reputation to the ground if you’re not careful.
25. Stay Positive
When customers try on a zillion outfits and leave them all over the dressing room floor without buying a thing… When you spend an hour demonstrating software or appliances and your customer decides they’re going to make their purchase on Amazon… When your feet are killing you at the end of the day, and a group of shoppers comes in 10 minutes before closing… Staying positive can be difficult.
That said, developing and maintaining a positive mental attitude is essential for any business that relies on consistent sales. Train staff to be solution-focused and efficiently manage negative emotions when they come up.
For small retailers, improving customer satisfaction can be the difference between thriving and surviving. Leverage these 25 retail tips to improve customer service in your store.