Industry experts will tell you that in 2018, the challenge ahead of retailers is figuring out how to distinguish the in-store customerenvironment fromthe online experience and other competitors.

Providing a physical experience that is just as well streamlined, seamless, easy to use and as fast as checking out online is vital to success today. Retailers should also focus on making going to the store the preference to shopping online, whether it be a credit to better engagement, the theatrics of the physical environment or getting real-time assistance from a helpful associate in person.

Here are several ways you can improve the quality of your store experience to keep customers coming back.

 

Screen the Sales Staff

With sales per square foot nearing $4800 in 2015, Apple has achieved the fastest growth of any retailer in history. They’ve created a highly coveted retail experience based on quality customer service that has grown incredibly popular and is now available at more than 420 stores worldwide. Before Apple retail staff ever interact with customers, they undergo stringent training and screening, testing how much of a brand evangelist they are and how well they fit within the current team. Because Apple is so picky in selecting how their brand is represented, they have a very low employee turnover rate.

 

Train on Sales and Service

This leading retailer also relies on an employee guidebook that plainly lays out the selling process, including which words to avoid and how to capitalize on specific emotions. This guidance helps ensure that all customers are receiving the same quality service they expect when visiting any one of the many Apple retail locations. The retail employees are trained to provide a warm, personalized approach, probe politely, present a solution, listen to resolve lingering issues and end with a warm invitation to return. Their employees are also taught to the use the Feel, Felt, Found method for expressing empathy to customers.

 

Connect with Your Customers

Researchers at the Temkin Group say that the three aspects framing customers interactions with a company are emotional impact, accessibility and functionality. From 2011 to 2015, companies achieving high rankings multiple times on the Temkin Group customer experience survey included Publix, Amazon, Aldi, and Chick-fil-A, while organizations like Ford, Dell, Radioshack and AT&T finished with the lowest ratings. Focusing on creating value with the customer, rather than just closing another sale, seems to be what separates these leading retailers from the others. Solving problems for customers and making the products more accessible has set these retailers apart from the competition.

 

Improve the Customer Experience

Having personnel easily accessible, navigation apps for finding products, alternatives to cash register lines and different options for obtaining products, such as delivery or pickup, are some basic steps most retailers should be considering if improving the customer experience is a high priority. In addition, finding a balance for merging the online website with the in-store experience will give customers a greater sense of continuity when dealing with your brand.

Despite all Apple’s success with its retail locations, the Temkin Group respondents felt the customer experience at Apple stores was more comparable to Dell, Ford, Sears and Kmart. However, designing a customer experience specifically tailored for their target audience will remain to be the primary goal for this successful retailer.

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