Why it’s Time to Consider Leaving Your Customers Alone
We’ve all been there. You’ve just entered a store to make a quick purchase. Your head is down in an attempt to avoid speaking with any overzealous retail associates. But it’s too late, they’ve found you. What do you do to avoid this conversation? Lie, of course.
Voice of customer platform Usabilla surveyed 2,000 U.S. consumers about their biggest “retail nightmares," and found that 49 percent of customers have lied to get out of a conversation in-store. Millennials seem even more averse to sales staff, with 64 percent reporting the same.
This is a wake-up call for retailers that might be going too far in their efforts to engage customers in-store. No customer should have to lie to sales staff just to be left alone while they’re browsing. Here’s what else the report reveals about where the in-store customer service strategies of retailers are falling short:
- one in 10 customers report that they most frequently leave stores because of pushy and aggressive sales staff;
- 42 percent of customers say a negative experience with sales staff is most likely to cause them never to return;
- 45 percent of customers prefer sales staff to be available, but not to approach them; and
- 47 percent report the same sentiments for online customer service associates and chatbots.
The findings are clear: sales staff shouldn’t neglect customers, but they shouldn’t harass them either. While friendly and helpful associates are often what draws shoppers into stores, things can quickly go south if customers can’t relax while browsing for products. Aggressive tactics are what drive shoppers online, where competitors are just a quick swipe away. So what to do? Consider the following three tips:
- Invest in better customer service training. Anecdotally, customers frequently reported that interactions with “rude” staff characterized the worst retail nightmares they’ve ever had. And since more than four out of 10 customers say a negative sales staff experience will scare them away forever, the stakes are high for excellent customer service. That means you need to develop more effective training so that sales staff can learn to best serve shoppers. Your staff must be thoroughly prepared to represent your brand and enhance the in-store experience.
- Rethink how to evaluate staff performance. Many retailers traditionally use sales quotas to motivate staff. However, a culture that overemphasizes meeting quotas can often lead to irritating and even unethical behavior from employees. Rather than evaluate staff based on numbers alone, think about their performance from a customer lens. Were they helpful? Friendly? Efficient? Rewarding employees based on customer satisfaction can lead to better results in the long run.
- Listen to your customers’ wants and needs. The disconnect between what customers are reporting and how retailers are behaving reveals a larger problem: no one is listening. Customers want different things from different retailers, and a more attentive, friendly salesperson might be more effective for your brand than another. But you can’t know what works unless you ask. Make it easy for customers to provide feedback the second they leave your store, and let it inform your customer service strategy.
Whether in-store or online, you must ensure sales staff, online customer service associates and chatbots are helpful and available, but not intrusive. Your staff can make or break the customer experience. If you’re ready to change your in-store experience in the most effective way possible, it’s critical to start by asking the right questions and using the answers to guide your strategy.
Katie Hickey is a marketing manager at Usabilla, a voice-of-customer solutions provider.
Related story: 3 Ways to Put Your Customers Front and Center