From the Founder (Sujata Tarakesan*)’s Diary – on retailers.
Here are some true points to consider as we broach the subject of customer service. This could also apply to you if you’re any other type of seller. This is also a reminder to customers to know what a good retail experience entails.
How to be a good retailer?
Open with a smile
Found this gem of a line on the internet that says “A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” Apparently, it’s a Chinese proverb. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? A smile is the shortest distance between two people, they say. It makes all the difference in first impressions. A smile is an acknowledgement, a wordless exchange of pleasantry and a sign of warm welcome. So, don’t forget to smile at anyone who walks in to your store.
Meet and Greet
Whether you’re the owner, the manager or the salesperson employed in the store, do say hello, Vanakkam, how are you and render other appropriate greetings to your prospective customers. Don’t assume they’re fine or that they are rushed. The first step in any relationship-building is to treat another fellow human with cordiality. A few seconds to break the ice is not going to rob anyone of their time. But do it unconditionally. Don’t expect sales to happen just because you made a basic courteous enquiry!
Take the lead
The person entering your store may not know what you have to offer. Perhaps they just saw a store with an interesting show window, or were attracted by the catchy name of the shop and came in to check it out, or perhaps they know what you offer but are unaware of the range of products available with you. You as a retailer, have to take the lead and guide them. Introduce your store and explain what needs you fulfil. Show them the discounted collection as well as new arrivals. (We are not talking about exceptions here. Most people do appreciate information while they shop.)
Be mindful of the Customer’s preference
Customers are not all alike. Some do better when left alone to shop at their own pace while others want more information and constant attention. If the customer indicates that they need space, do give it to them, as these are the people who prefer self-service. Others want you to help them right through. In our experience, most customers do appreciate some amount of information, but you should also be mindful of those who want less interaction.
Be crisp but cordial
You can either kill a sale or make a killing, by talking. Speak too much and you might land yourself in trouble by putting off the customer. Customers might leave hurriedly and buy far less than they might otherwise have. But if you talk less than is required then you might lose the customer forever. You have to be short and sweet with your words. Give the required information while staying respectful of the customer’s time. They are in your store for a reason. Give them the details needed for them to fulfil that reason and engage further only if they seem to want it.
State the Price
A lot of heartache can be avoided if you are clear about your product, its quality, and the pricing. The reality of any product is the cost of the raw materials and labour to make them, the cost of bringing it into your orbit and related costs. You fix the selling price accordingly and also based on the market. You should know your brand / store best. When you arrive at optimum pricing for both yourself and the customer, the price is fixed and you can state so. This eliminates room for negotiation and embarrassing discussion on money. While stating the price, focus on the value.
As a seller, you’d know that you cannot expect every sale to be smooth as no two people are alike. We have to keep in mind that we wouldn’t know what sort of a day the customer has been having and what frame of mind they’re in. This is where empathy plays a big factor.
There might be instances when the customer is dissatisfied with the product in some way either before, during or after the purchase. The first thing you should know as a shop owner is that while you’re running a business of your own free will, you DO need people to whole heartedly buy what you’re selling. For this, the focus has to be on the customer and the seller has to show empathy while addressing the customer’s complaints. Empathy translates to respect and that solves most issues. When your intention to solve their problem is clear, most people are willing to accept explanations and solutions with ease.
Close with a fond farewell!
Your prospective customer entered, was convinced with the products you sold and is about to leave the premises after shopping with you. Do collect their contact details so that they can continue to be your customer in future as well. Most of the time since they have already made the effort to enter your store and buy from you, they would like to hear from you now and then — when you announce new arrivals and festive offers, etc. Once they complete their purchase and turn around to leave, see them off just as warmly as you would see your close relative or friend to the door. Open the door, wish them a great day ahead and …close with a smile. This results in a great experience for your customer and they would look forward to visiting you again soon.
- *Sujata Tarakesan has over 8 years’ experience in running a physical retail store and over 30 years’ experience as a retail customer(!)