I remember the days when a major part of my workshops was focused entirely on customer service. Improve customer service and you can increase the average sale per customer; that was the motto for success. Retailing has changed though and successful retailers need to continue to find more ways in which you can create happy shoppers.
Customer service is no longer the primary driver for growing sales. It can, in some situations, actually be a hindrance. The main problem being that the quality of customer service has not improved in many customers' eyes.
So, before we look at the secret to growing sales in a farm shop or market, let’s look first at the different styles of consumer interaction apparent today. As far as we are concerned in this exercise the product can stay the same; it is the interaction technique used that is important.
We have all been trained to accept a self-service system, it is becoming more common. I use self-service when I use an ATM at the bank, I use self-service when I check in to get a domestic flight and the same applies when I now go to my local supermarket and use the self-service checkout aisle. In some retail environments, I now accept this as a normal mode of transaction where I have no contact with the sales team. The same is true when I used Booking.com to book a hotel or Amazon to purchase products. At times, it is the system the consumer prefers.
That said, I was recently asked if I would mystery shop a clothing store for women; the store was underperforming. I walked in and paced the store looking at clothing for at least 30 minutes while the salesperson sat at the counter playing games on their smartphone. This is another style of self-service, but one, as a customer, I was not in favour of given their 'technique' and walked out empty handed, feeling that nobody cared about me as a customer.
Self-service works for many retailers, but it is not a technique I would recommend for our industry; we should be "Experience Builders".
If you are trying to build the average sale per customer and also trying to increase your customer count then the worst technique, in my opinion, is the closed technique of selling. Unfortunately, I come across it far too often in my shopping experiences.
As a consumer, you often get in the car to go to a retail destination with the idea of purchasing. You walk in the store to be greeted with “Can I help you?” or “Are you alright?” and you play the game, you answer with a “No thank you” or a “Yes” and the retail employee believes they have done their job and makes no more contact with you. Ironically, the employee then often feels disappointed because you did not spend any money.
Closed selling results in a “yes” or “no” answer and a lower than should be expected average sale per customer.
I have come across numerous retail businesses in my career that have failed because their style of retailing communications with consumers was the major problem.
I spent many years training people in the skills of “Open Selling”.
The aim of “Open Selling” is being able to start a conversation and finding out what the consumers 'needs' and 'wants' are and then selling them the benefits of the product and hopefully building the add-on sale. The technique starts with constructing a question that starts with “How”, “What”, “Where”, Who”, or “Why”.
The basic start to a conversation in retailing is, “How can I help you?”.
It works as the customer responds with the start of a conversation that allows you to carry on with that subject matter. The challenge in today’s retail world is that many customers use Google as a source of information prior to coming to your business and the style is now not that engaging. This is why leading retailers have moved on from this selling technique.
This does not mean we should neglect the important skills associated with “Open Selling”. We still need to read our own body language and be able to read the consumer's body language. Just as importantly, we still need to use the same listening skills.
We’ve never been in the coffee business serving people, but in the people business serving coffee.
The whole Starbucks brand is built around what they call "Human Capital". When I go for a coffee, they ask for my name, put it on my cup and call my name when my coffee is ready. They were one of the first retailers to develop a Day Maker strategy across their retail network.
'Day Making' is my preferred minimum communications technique when engaging consumers and one we try to implement when visitors come to our farm retail shop or when we are selling at a farmers market.
There are many definitions of a Day Maker, my preferred one is this:
“A cool person that makes somebody’s whole entire day.“
A Day Maker realizes today is a great day to start a conversation with a new customer; they engage the customer and make them smile.
80% of customers say they will buy again from you if they have had a great experience in your store. They also statistically spend 140% more than any other customer! That could grow sales in any business!
The challenge, though, is that you cannot train a Day Maker, it has to come from within and it has to be sincere. It has less to do with the product and more about the person. It is about providing genuine compliments and engaging the customer in what interests them.
Customers are telling us they want:
Customers want to talk about their experience when they get home, often via social media and Day Maker engagement is an excellent way of making sure your message is spread to their friends.
The best way of growing sales is where you include the customer and, especially, when you encourage them to use as many of their senses as possible.
This can include interactive workshops, either planned and promoted ones or workshops with the customer carried out on the spur of the moment. The aim is to create 'WOW' moments with the customer, a moment that they will remember.
Matthew Brown of Echo Chamber Consultancy talks about the change from “Retail to Me-tail”
One system of engagement will not serve all customers; this is why the customer service of old will not help you build the future.
Customers want to shop at farm markets and shops, but they want you to be creative, inspire, surprise and delight them.
They want helpful solutions and they want to get social. As one customer said, ”I want it to be a rich experience as I am giving it time.”
This means that the days of 'processing' customers are gone. It also means that farm shops and farmers markets are in an ideal position to grow sales for the future.
80% of retailers believe they are providing superior customer service and retail experiences and 8% of their customers agree with them. This is research carried out by Bain and Co. in the UK. This research was started in 2009 and is regularly updated with little difference in the results.
It shows the opportunities we have as retailers to grow sales and make a demonstrable difference to consumers shopping experiences.
My advice... let's get on with it.
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