Training retail front-end staff

Paco Underhill writes in ‘Why we buy’ – “When service is poor, shoppers will find another store; bad service undoes good merchandise, prices and location almost every time”.

Customer service means serving and satisfying the customers. And selling means the same.

Now broadly three areas impact on a retail salesperson’s ability to provide stellar customer service


Product knowledge

Selling skills

If a sales person is unaware or incompetent on operational procedures he can’t provide quality service, similarly if he doesn’t have the requisite product knowledge he can’t answer simple queries and in the same coin if he doesn’t have selling skills he can’t persuade a customer to buy.

This is the truth that we are confronted with daily when we go to make purchases.

My experience as a customer has been not all that pleasant. With the rare exception of a salesperson that was professional most of the times a sale has occurred not because of the salesperson but in spite of the salesperson.

Some of my worst experiences in the best stores

This is an experience at an up market British departmental store. I witnessed a customer trying to return merchandise in the face of a smirking salesperson and an equally in adept sales supervisor. Finally in anguish, the customer told a salesperson that, “It is because of people like you that the store is deserted at this time of the day.”

As if witnessing this scene was not enough, I had to wait 20 minutes before the salesperson could gift wrap a photo frame and a child’s mackintosh. I was also denied a child’s swimming costume which though was on display was not entered in the system. On top of this the salesperson asks if I have change. I couldn’t help wryly remarking – “Is their anything else I can do to help you, sir? “ He thought it was funny.

This is an experience at a LFR selling electronics. I was there to buy a washing machine. I had checked a few stores, had models and pricing written down. The sale person could not explain why model A was priced Rs 3000 more than Model B. If you were a rational being would you choose to buy a model Rs 3000 more expensive if you didn’t even know what you were getting additionally for the money? Now while we were there we thought of purchasing a 1.5 ton split AC. All this took 3 hours and finally in desperation, I paid for the washing machine and left.

The bottom line is:

A Front end sales person should be able to do the following:

Dress neatly, cleanly and appropriately, preferably with a name tag.

Smile and welcome the customer.

Converse with the customer in either English or local language clearly and precisely.

Be helpful and willing to assist customer.

Know all the merchandise sold, availability status, it’s key features and benefits, pricing and any ongoing promotion and be able to communicate it appropriately

Follow the sales process – ability to approach a client, probe for needs, match merchandise to needs, demonstrate options, execute a trial close, handle objections and close the transaction.

Follow key operating procedures – such as billing, taking returns, policy on returns and customer complaints.

The more we equip our sales force the better they can perform during moments of truth. Which means more sales and better bottom lines.