How are your customers being treated every day?  Do you know for sure?  Maybe you’re simply accepting the input and opinions of your management team.  Or maybe you’re just assuming?

Whatever process you use to ensure that store staff are properly servicing your customers, it’s probably time for you to consider taking things to the next level by formalizing your service standards.  Why?  Despite beliefs to the contrary, most retailers fall down in this area … big time!

If your format is structured around the ‘self-serve’ concept, you can skip this article and move on to the next one.  But if you're supposed to be in the full-serve retail world, read on … we’re talking to you!

It’s quite possible that you’re getting a little tired of all the talk about ‘service excellence’.  But aren’t you even more tired of the lousy service you receive whenever you’re out doing some shopping of your own?  After all these years of ‘enlightenment’ and focus on ‘the customer experience’, why is this still happening??!!

The problem is that most retailers continue to use a ‘warm and fuzzy’ approach to service.  Now it’s true that you need to smile and be nice to customers, but there’s way more to it than that!  And if you can't even get the friendly part right, you've got bigger problems than this article can address (so call us right away for more intensive help!).

Service only works when you define it as a set of observable behaviours, which are then mandated as company standards.  That's right ... we’re talking about the non-negotiable things your staff must do during each customer encounter.  See, if you can observe something, then you can measure it.  And if you can measure it, you can coach it or attach consequences to it. 

Interested in correcting your service challenges?  Think about your store and how it operates.  Consider all the ‘points of contact’ with your customers ... during phone conversations, when they walk through your front door, while they’re in the change room, as they pay for their purchases or stop by to pick up special orders.  Define what must happen at each of these contact points.  It’s important that you’re very clear about the staff behaviours you’re looking for and what you should be able to observe.  Now commit these requirements to writing!

There you go … you’ve just created a series of service standards for your stores.  It’s time to communicate these standards (both verbally and in writing) to your employees.  Make them an integral part of their job description.  Put systems in place to ensure that store staff ‘live and breathe’ them every day.  Hold your people accountable for these behaviours.  Praise those who perform well in this area and make appropriate corrections as soon as deficiencies are identified. 

This is what it takes to provide consistent, world class service to your customers.  Do it and you’ll be richly rewarded.  Bad news travels fast, but good service quickly gets noticed, too.  So make the commitment to service standards … and get noticed by your grateful customers!

Kevin Graff is the main guy behind all things Graff Retail. A renowned retail expert, Kevin is recognized in the retail industry as a speaker, author and expert trainer. Kevin's main passion is to help retailers drive staff performance.

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