I am a great supporter of local, independent retailers, and where possible will show loyal custom to those businesses. I will go out of my way to shop at our local newsagent; buying more than just the papers. They always ask after my family: we have grieved a mutual friend together and we have shared local tradesmen’s names. I don’t however, support my local florist. In fact I have only used them on three occasions in the last 14 years – out of last minute desperation and then vowing never to set foot in there again. My father walks an additional 1 ½ mile round trip to collect his papers from ‘The lovely family that will always chat to me’. A brief (non-scientific) poll of my assistants confirms that they too avoid certain local shops and favour others…
How to stand out and be memorable in a way that really engenders customer loyalty
The challenge for independent retailers is that on the high street they are competing with known brands. There is so much choice and competition from well known companies, that they need to stand out and be memorable in other ways. Having a niche market is one; outstanding customer care is another. Outstanding customer care results in people recommending you, and to repeat business; what we all want for our businesses!
The reason why my father, my assistants and I avoid certain retailers is due, first and foremost to the quality (or lack of ) basic customer care and courtesy shown towards the customer. It costs nothing to acknowledge and smile at a customer, even if the customer does not purchase anything on this occasion – they might come back. But entering a shop where the shop assistants totally ignore you, then when you ask for assistance, have the manager say to her assistant “Tell the woman that they are out of stock” without looking up at you, is little less than abuse, and will not result in repeat business. It also results in me, the customer, telling everyone of my negative experience, so they are unlikely to buy from that retailer….
Top tips on how to improve rapport with your customers…
Outstanding customer care does not just mean smiling at the customer: although that helps, but engaging the customer so that they have a positive experience. Here are some tips to improve your rapport with your customer.
- Smile at your customer when they enter your shop. Welcome them in!
- Say ‘Hello!” even if they don’t reply, you have verbally welcomed them into your shop.
- Ask ‘Can I help you?” It might be they just want to browse, but on the otherhand, there could be a specific reason why they have entered your shop.
- Eye contact; you will develop rapport by looking at the customer and looking into their eyes.
- Open body language; even if you feel stressed, be aware of your shoulders being down and your neck and jaw being relaxed. Also, unfold your arms so that your chest is ‘open’. These are all positive and send welcoming, non-verbal messages to your customer.
- Make them feel comfortable; if you need to show them something, be aware of their needs; don’t invade their space or make them feel they are being followed, but either go back to your serving station or remain a discreet distance away.
- If you are taking a telephone call when a customer enters your shop, acknowledge the customer with ‘I won’t be a moment’ and end the call quickly, if at all possible.
- When addressing customers, focus on them if necessary breaking from what you are doing. You show you value your customer if you stop your stocktaking or invoicing!
- Use your ‘conversation voice’ when speaking to Clients: a warm, friendly welcoming voice rather than an aggressive or disinterested voice.
- Adopt a ‘can do’ or ‘solutions’ based attitude when dealing with customers. Being helpful is invaluable. Perhaps you don’t have something in stock, but could arrange for something to be ordered. Possibly it is something you don’t stock but you could recommend somewhere else to purchase something, or you could even make suggestions of a variety of products that could help the customer. However, blatant up selling of additional products gives the impression the shop assistant is on commission rather than being helpful!
- Remember to train your staff to adopt the above points and lead by example!
Any potential customer entering your shop is an opportunity to develop a long term business relationship with, and to start recommending your business to others. Grab the chance by being welcoming, friendly and helpful: it costs nothing but encourages customers to buy from you – and come back. Good luck!
© Copyright Susan Heaton Wright 2011.
Susan Heaton Wright supports successful individuals to make an impact with their vocal and physical presence in the workplace. Susan’s website is www.executivevoice.co.uk