ConversationIs a focus on omnichannel retailing taking away focus from Customer Service and the Lost Art of Conversation?

    While I will be at NRF next week to be dazzled with technology and retail innovation, I see a troubling trend in shopper experiences in our stores. In general, the simple act of welcoming and assisting shoppers is a very low priority. No doubt, the combination of retail turnover for hourly employees and store leadership as well as a vague reliance on self-serve technology breeds the problem. Perhaps there has never been a time to differentiate on friendliness and conversation as now.

    A recent Independent Bookseller article discussed the advocacy role book sellers can make in selecting and hand selling books to customers. The article noted the change from the past when publishers purchased store display locations for their titles to the growing power of booksellers to influence the sales of books. When a retailer leans into the power of their team to have conversations with customers, the game changes.

    So how can you begin?

    First, be in a position to notice. Observe your employees and listen to their interactions with customers. Are they friendly and tailored to each customer? Asking “can I help you?” is very different than saying “Welcome to our store. I see you have a Vikings jersey on – You ready for the game this weekend?” The difference is tremendous.

    Second, model the behavior you want to see – with customers and employees. Then coach them to do the same. After a pleasant conversation, challenge your team to recreate a warm conversation with a shopper. If they are shy or claim they “aren’t good with people” try approaching a customer together. Natural ease with the public is key to a good hire. Make sure you are looking for that as you interview candidates. Consider helping them with the 4 words that make sales.

    Finally, ensure you have policies in place to reinforce the communication you want to see. Cell phones off the sales floor. Greetings whenever a customer is within 10 feet. Product demos and knowledge so that team members can talk intelligently about the products you sell.