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The Bricks and Mortar Keys to Success

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Not long ago, my husband and I dined at restaurant we’d never been to. It was packed—there seemed to be a lot of regulars who were greeted warmly, but even amid the hustle and bustle of reservations and walk-ins on a busy Friday night, the hostess and manager found time to notice and welcome new customers. 

We were seated fairly quickly. The staff could not have been more attentive or helpful. Most of the dishes were quite good—but my entrée was not to my liking, and while I told the manager when he came over that everything was good, he still noticed a couple of minutes later that I had barely touched my food. With a very concerned expression on his face, he came back and said, “Clearly, you’re not happy with your meal. Let me get you something else—anything.” I told him it wasn’t necessary, and that we would definitely come back and try them again. Despite that, he brought out a sumptuous dessert, which was delicious. So even though I was disappointed in my entrée, I’ll go back there in a heartbeat.

Why? Not only was our other food good, but the customer service in making the effort to ensure our happiness won me over.

Even though this large restaurant was so busy, the manager knew everything that was going on at every table at any given moment. Translate that to the brick-and-mortar marketplace. The value of manager’s and sales staff’s personal involvement, knowing and anticipating customers’ wants and needs, and their ability to resolve complaints and problems is vital to the existence of main-street retail as we know it.

So instead of hiring “bodies” to fill staffing positions, retailers need to employ genuine service-oriented individuals who can problem-solve and deliver needed sales by being helpful and knowledgeable. Retail staffing firms not only have access to that kind of qualified labor force, but have the ability to use their screening processes to determine the best fit for a given retail environment from department store to supermarket to specialty shop.

The food and clothing sector benefit from the customer being in contact with the product and each of these areas can incorporate that personal touch to boost sales. Employees at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods know a great deal about the items they carry and can answer customer’s questions about ingredients and meal preparation. Supermarkets might engage employees as recipe/meal planners; or distribute samples.

Customers may go into a clothing store, try on an outfit, then to save a few dollars, will buy the same items online. Making the shopping experience engaging and personalized can turn the trying-on experience into a buying experience.

Customer relationship management teams need to make sure they speak to the customers and interact with them frequently to understand their needs and provide them better service. This can also be a great marketing tool if managed properly.

Tips from my own restaurant experience apply directly to the brick-and-mortar arena:

* Make you customers feel special—saying hello, showing them respect and asking what they’re looking for and helping them find it is a start.

* Encourage loyalty by going above and beyond and by surprising a customer now and then with a free item or service as part of a larger purchase.

* Be a pro-active problem solver by acknowledging a customer’s displeasure and handle it then and there.

Building personal relationships by getting to know your store’s patrons will prompt them to come back, and knowing they feel comfortable talking to you makes them steady customers.

TAGS: customer service,
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