The Right and Wrong Way to Serve Retail Customers

Retail is one of those places where sales and customer service intersect.

The primary function for most associates is helping the store sell product. They do that by providing customers with services, such as answering questions or helping them find a particular item.

How associates approach their dual role can make all the difference. There's definitely a right and a wrong way to do it.

My wife and I recently experienced both ends of the spectrum on a shopping trip. We wanted to buy two new couches for our living room. Here's what happened.

 Image courtesy of  Urbane Apartments

Image courtesy of Urbane Apartments

The Approach

Bill approached us the wrong way. 

He saw us looking at a couch and immediately descended upon the scene like a price hawk. A price hawk assumes that everything is about price.

Bill's opening line was "We're having a great sale on that couch right now." This was a huge turnoff since (a) Bill hadn't even said hello and (b) we had many questions to answer before deciding on the right couch.

Brian at Living Spaces approached us the right way.

He walked up to us with a big smile and introduced himself. He then asked if he could help us find the right couch. It's a big store and we had lots of questions, so we gladly accepted his offer.

 

Questions

Bill made things complicated.

It wasn't all his fault. The brochure for the couch we were looking at read like a code book. You could select six different options for the arm, six more for the legs, and three for the pillows. There was an intricate chart where you cross-referenced the code numbers for various options to see the final dimensions and prices.

It seemed to take a bit of higher math just to answer our most basic question. Will this couch fit our needs? Bill literally had to spend several minutes running the numbers.

Every other question we asked turned into an unnecessary symposium on furniture design. We learned plenty of things we didn't care about. It was tough sifting through all the irrelevant details to learn what we did want to know. Questions like "Will it last?" shouldn't require a college course on furniture design.

Brian made things easy.

He clearly knew his product, but he also used a simple one-page sales sheet for each couch to answer our basic questions. He immediately addressed our key concerns:

  • Will it fit in our home?
  • How long will it last?
  • How's it made?

Brian's answers were clear and direct. He also asked us a lot of great questions to get a better understanding of our needs. This allowed him to narrow down their huge selection and only show us the couches that were most likely to be right for us.

 

The Zone of Hospitality

Bill was focused on the sale. He gave us his card and left us to serve another customer as soon as it became apparent that we weren't ready to buy.

Brian was incredible. He practiced the 10 and 5 rule without breaking stride. At 10 feet away, he'd smile or give other customers a non-verbal acknowledgement. He'd greet customers verbally when they got within 5 feet.

Brian still remained attentive to us the entire time. He stayed with us and answered our questions until it became apparent we needed some time to think about our options. He then politely excused himself but told us he'd be available if we needed anything else.

 

Conclusions

We haven't bought a couch just yet. 

There are a lot of decisions to be made such as color, style, and delivery time frame. We're getting closer. When we do decide to by a couch, we'll be sure to go find Brian at Living Spaces.