Some retailers use mystery shopping or brand audits to gauge their front-line teams’ performance.
Other retailers use these programs to drive performance. They do it by defining and measuring their customer experience in precise terms.
Think about how you manage the customer experience, and ask yourself:
- What does our brand’s ideal customer interaction look like?
- Are employees clear on what we expect?
- Are we measuring what we expect?
We’ve written a lot about performance standards for contact centers (check out previous articles here and here). Today, we’re going to explain what you should be aiming for on the sales floor—what we call Service Delivery + 1—and how to ensure it happens across the board.
What Is Service Delivery + 1?
Many retailers think of “service” as answering questions, facilitating transactions, and putting out fires. But there’s more to it than that. It’s about engaging customers in a meaningful way and making sure their shopping experience is successful.
Service Delivery +1 means going beyond the typical sales-floor interaction to make a personal, emotional connection that drives loyalty and sales. In this scenario, associates shine in their role as enthusiastic brand and product experts who know exactly what to do in the course of every customer interaction.
Key #1: Robust Training
Most retail training programs include helpful suggestions for engaging customers (“Here’s an example of something you can do if/when . . . .”). Employees aren’t expected to do these things, but from the retailer’s perspective, it would be nice if they did.
Here’s the problem with this approach. Employees have so many tasks to complete in a typical shift, they’re inclined to ignore the “can do’s.”
If you want a consistent brand experience that increases conversion rates and sales, you need to make Service Delivery +1 a priority in your training. Associates should ask probing, open-ended questions (“What brings you in today?”) to determine shoppers’ needs. Based on the response, associates should take the appropriate next step.
Present a range of options
If you’re showing the customer a striped shirt, ask him if it’s exactly what he’s looking for. Let him know the shirt is available in different cuts, sleeve lengths, patterns, and materials—and that you want to help him find the perfect fit for him.
Get the product into the customer’s hands
Don’t just show the customer a dress. Hand it to her. Persuade her to try it on in the fitting room, and stay close so you can offer to bring back alternative colors, sizes, etc. Studies show that customers who try on merchandise are 71% more likely to buy, and those who receive assistance while in the fitting room purchase nearly twice as much as those who don’t.
Offer valuable product information
Do you have experience with this product yourself? Is there something about the care of the item that will extend its life? Look to increase the value of the customer’s purchase by providing helpful advice—including suggesting additional items that will make the product look better, perform better, or last longer.
If the customer intends to buy a shirt, consider where and how the customer plans to wear it. Suggest other items (sweater, pants) that would pair well with it and are appropriate for the occasion or season. You could also suggest an upsell item—a wrinkle-free shirt, for example. Explain why it’s a better solution for the customer, and why it’s worth the purchase price.
Key #2: Ongoing Measurement, Executed Well
The most effective mystery shopping programs are closely aligned with training priorities and—I can’t stress this enough—completely transparent.
- Once your customer engagement priorities are established in training, shoppers should run through specific scenarios to test whether these priorities are being met on the sales floor. Shopper scenarios could be seasonally based, or they could involve a particular product category if an opportunity or weakness exists.
- The scenarios may change, but the questions should not. If you focus on different metrics each time you mystery shop, you won’t know whether priority behaviors are happening consistently.
- Share the questionnaire (ideally, no more than 20-25 questions) with in-store teams before the shop is conducted. In fact, keep a copy of the questionnaire in the store to clarify for associates exactly what’s expected of them. Afterward, have team leaders share the results, reward excellence, and target areas in need of improvement.
Your Goal for 2017: Deliver Consistently, Across Channels
Leading brands understand the importance of engaging customers on the sales floor. They get their in-store teams on board, invested, and excited about serving customers and the brand’s interests. And they maximize the value of their mystery shopping programs, making operational, policy, and training improvements based on each new round of insights.
Service leaders also understand the importance of brand consistency. They use true, solid benchmarks across all channels—phone, chat, email, and in store. If you’re serious about jumpstarting revenue and market share growth in 2017, now’s the time to develop precise performance standards for your entire front line.