One of the most overlooked weapons in a retailer’s arsenal is not digital marketing or its merchandise assortment but is, in fact, the sales associate. Always considered our industry’s frontline workers, they are often the shortest route to customer loyalty or customer dissatisfaction. It’s not a secret that the customer knows that they hold all the cards, so it’s up to the retailer to meet them wherever and however they want… regardless of location, format, or platform. The very best retailers understand that one size does not fit all and that a highly flexible and personalized approach often wins the customer’s loyalty.
One of my top ten retail predictions for 2021 was that Consumer/Employee behavior will never return to the way it used to be. Now that we have seen the return to shopping in many parts of the country, it’s safe to say this was a very accurate prediction. As Nicola Mendelsohn, VP EMEA for Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) remarked in “The Future of Shopping Has Come Early”,“…This mass digital education of the public has been a cross-generational phenomenon that’s very quickly had a cross-category impact: digitalizing entire customer journeys, from interest to purchase to customer experience.”
Just because you have a customer in your store doesn’t mean that this is the beginning or end of their purchasing journey. They have likely seen a targeted ad on Instagram, researched the product and prices online across multiple retailers, then walked into your store to check it out in person. Are you going to close the sale by offering the best price or—even better—the best service? Or will they leave your store empty handed and head over to your competitor?
The smartest retailers today view their customer service and sales associates as brand ambassadors, employed not just to drive sales but increase loyalty. As Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) called out in a recent whitepaper, 10 Steps to Empowered Customer Service Agents, a “5 percent increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25 percent to as much as 85 percent.”