If you want your retail business to be a success (and make you money), you should aim to do this one thing: please your customers. It’s that simple. Keeping your customers happy and satisfied can be a full-time job. The task becomes that much harder if you don’t implement any customer orientation-specific tactics.
We’ll get to the tactics and all things customer-orientated shortly. For now, it’s worth pointing out that we’re not advocating you drop everything in a bid to please your customers. As much as you might want to, you can’t wait on them hand and foot. There are some instances where you won’t be able to satisfy a customer entirely.
That said, you should always attempt to put your customer first in everything you do. And by the way, it’s not as hard as you might think.
What is customer orientation?
The Online Business Dictionary defines customer orientation as “a group of actions taken by a business to support its sales and service staff in considering client needs and satisfaction [as] their major priorities.”
In other words, it’s a proactive approach taken by you and your staff to meet the long-term needs and wants of your customers. If you think this is closely related to customer service, you’d be correct.
As for strategies, a few suggestions include developing a product that is appreciated by customers and responding to customer complaints properly. But you shouldn’t stop there. There are so many more ways to please your customers. You merely have to find them.
Just to note, in the context of this piece, we’re referencing those opportunities where you can introduce a human element to the shopping experience. And it’s needed. After all, as we’ve written before, people buy from businesses and companies that they like. More importantly, they shop at stores where they feel as if they are more than just a number.
Why wouldn’t they? When you focus your attention on pleasing your customer and putting them first, you know that they’ll return. And besides, they’ll tell everyone they know about the positive experience they had at your stores.
Customer orientation tactics to implement at your stores today
1. Have staff members stand at the entrance of your store
If you want your customers to feel important and believe that they are more than just a number, you should consider placing someone at the entrance of your store to greet them personally.
Here’s the reasoning. Besides showing that you are a store that values everyone who walks through your doors, it’s a subtle way of indicating that you’re ready and waiting to serve them. And, since first impressions are those that last the longest, it only makes business sense.
In fact, many tech retail stores use this tactic as a way to generate guaranteed sales.
That said, you shouldn’t just have staff members standing at the entrance to your store to greet customers. Or only hand out shopping baskets. This is also the perfect opportunity for your staff to begin asking questions. More than that, it’s the perfect time to ask the right questions.
For example, it’s no good asking a closed-ended question because that won’t get you anywhere. Remember, this is about helping your customers as much as possible. By asking them a question that they can answer with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, you’re effectively wasting their time as well as yours.
Instead, you should focus on asking open-ended questions. For example, don’t ask ‘Can I help you with anything?’ Instead, ask ‘How can I help you today?’ or ‘What are you looking for today?’ It’s a subtle change but the difference in answers is distinct.
Of course, it does take a conscious effort not to ask close-ended questions, and some staff training won’t go amiss. But once you get it right, and do it consistently, you’ll notice the difference it makes to your bottom line.
2. Always have enough staff on your floor to help
There are few things more frustrating for your customer than not finding the product they need. What would make such a scenario even more frustrating would be if there is no staff around to help.
Unfortunately, this happens more often than you might think. You only need to read up on our findings in a mystery shopping exercise we did. Of the 10 pharmacy retailers we visited, there were a few that didn’t have enough staff on the floor. We stood around wanting to ask all these questions about a product but had no one to ask. We even went in search of staff and still couldn’t find them.
Imagine that happens at your stores. And it’s not just one customer but a handful. Of course, you can’t guarantee that putting enough staff members on the floor will equate to more sales. But it’s not only about making sales. It’s also about building relationships with your customers.
On the other hand, if your staff are visible, it makes the shopping experience that much more pleasant. If your customer has a question, they can simply walk up and know they’ll be helped.
That said, when it comes to implementing such a tactic, you do need to consider who your customer is and what they expect. As we’ve noted in a previous piece, the type of retailer you are will play a big part in the type of in-store service you should offer them.
3. Ensure your staff are knowledgeable and approachable
Your stores can have the perfect product assortment and know just how to display your products so that they sell, but if your staff aren’t knowledgeable or friendly, you’re in trouble.
Let’s set up a scenario to illustrate our point. A customer is in the process of building a PC. They’ve done all the necessary research on which parts they need before walking into your store. As they enter, one of your staff members greets them and asks how they can help. That’s all good. Since your customer is clearly on the cusp of buying, all your staff needs to do is be there to help and answer any necessary questions.
However, what’s not good is if that staff member knows less about the parts your customer needs than your customer.
What does that say about your staff? More importantly, what does that say about your store's credibility as a retailer that sells computer parts? Regardless of the type of products you offer, having knowledgeable staff is pivotal to the success of your retail business.
That said, friendly staff can also have a big impact on your bottom line. It comes back to the idea around first impressions. If you can impress and please your customers with friendly staff who can help, you’re well on your way to creating repeat customers. That’s because you’re creating a shopping environment that customers want to come back to.
More than that is the free word of mouth marketing you’ll receive. Considering how competitive the retailer industry is, any opportunity to bolster your store's reputation should be taken with both hands.
Interested in reading up on how your store can live up and exceed the expectations of your customers. It’s worth reading this piece.
If you implement any (or all) of the above customer orientation-specific tactics, you’re showing that you’re serious about putting your customer first. And in doing that, your customers will reward you by returning to your store time and again.