If you want to remain relevant as a retail business, you need to scrutinise the retail sales skills level of your floor staff. Of course, that much should be obvious. By assessing their competency, you’re ensuring you’re not left behind. And it shouldn’t be a once-off. Instead, you need to continuously re-evaluate their skills to spot any knowledge gaps.
While there are many different skills that you can develop and strengthen, for the sake of this piece, we're only going to focus on those key retail sales skills that your floor staff should have. If your floor staff aren’t competent in the below skills, you’ll at least know where you need to start.
1. Your floor staff need strong communication skills
Regardless of who you are or where you work, this much is true: it pays to be a strong communicator. While strong communication skills apply to you wherever you work, it's particularly pertinent when placed in the context of retail and, more so, your floor staff.
Let us explain.
Your floor staff are the face of your retail brand. They are the people who interact with your customers the most. They’re placed on the store floor amongst your products to give them the type of information they need to purchase in-store. Now take away their skill to communicate clearly or even convey an idea effectively, and you’ll soon notice the problem.
For one, you’ll see a drop in repeat purchases. You might even notice an increase in abandoned shopping baskets and unhappy shoppers. But that much should be expected.
Without the ability to communicate properly, your floor staff become ineffective. They won’t be able to make a successful sale. More importantly, they’ll create an unpleasant shopping environment for your customers.
As for the severity of this, you only need to consider this statistic from Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report. According to the US cloud computing company, 74% of shoppers are likely to switch brands if they find that the purchasing process is too complicated.
If your floor staff can’t assist shoppers to make the purchasing process more comfortable for them, you can expect the above. More than that, you can expect your retail business to fall behind.
2. Your floor staff must strive to deliver outstanding customer service
Outstanding in-store customer service plays a significant role in the success of any retail business. In fact, we’d argue that this type of customer service is a key differentiator. It can make or break your business. And it’s not just us saying that.
According to the 2017 Customer Service Barometer, which is conducted by American Express, more than half of the 1000 American customers surveyed said they had scrapped plans to purchase a product at a store because of bad service. Meanwhile, they’d tell an average of 15 people about poor service versus the 11 people they’d speak to if they’ve received excellent customer service.
Those are damning figures and should do enough to encourage you to study the level of customer service offered in your store. If you are looking for ways to improve your customer service, here are a few tips for you.
Of course, you do first need to know if the skill levels of your floor staff are at the appropriate level or not. It’s once you know where you stand that you can set about fixing it.
Fortunately, there are a few actions you can take to find out.
For example, you could request feedback from your shoppers in the form of surveys or customer interviews. These can be anonymous if customers are unhappy about attaching their name to these surveys. You could also set up a process to monitor the number of complaints per month.
In the case of complaints, it’s worth giving your customers the option to name the staff member who gave them poor customer service. Thus, if that person’s name comes up often enough, you can address the issue directly.
3. Your floor staff must have excellent product knowledge
Imagine this: a customer walks into your store looking for additional assistance. They may already know what they want to buy, but they need information which they can’t find elsewhere. For the sake of this example, let’s say that if your staff answers their questions accurately, they’ll buy the product. If not, they’ll go to your competitor.
That’s a lot of pressure placed on your floor staff.
Now imagine that the person they approach is unable to answer any product question put to them. As you know, it’s the difference between closing that sale or not. Unfortunately, it also happens more often than you may think.
Retail can be very unforgiving that way. Your customers expect your staff to know everything there is to know about a product and answer any questions directed at them.
Of course, that’s not unreasonable. How are you expected to help a customer if you don’t know the product details? On top of that, how are you supposed to offer superior in-store customer service?
That said, it’s also worth reading what Mike Clark, director and strategic facilitator at Think Right has to say. According to Clark, product knowledge is one of the three essentials for any successful salesperson.
That makes sense if you look at what would happen if you replace a salesperson who doesn’t have the proper product knowledge with another who does.
Let’s say, for example, that a salesperson recently quit and you’ve replaced them with someone else. Along with that new employee, you notice that the sales for a particular category have increased by 30% year-on-year.
While it might not be the only reason, you could argue that the previous salesperson either didn’t have the correct product knowledge, or didn’t care.
4. Your floor staff must be able to adapt to change quickly
As we’ve already noted above, the retail industry can be unforgiving. At the same time, it can also be unpredictable. That’s thanks, in part, to the ebb and flow of consumer demand. One day you might have enough stock; the next you’ve run out.
Of course, proper inventory planning is key to ensuring you don’t run out of stock. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
What makes it even more challenging, though, is that your customer is only likely to approach your floor staff when they have a problem, such as when they’re looking for that one product that’s not in stock. So what do you do?
It’s here where you can test their ability to adapt to change.
Of course, it’s not only about their ability to adapt to an issue such as running out of stock. Your floor staff must also have the ability to adjust to store layout changes. For example, if a customer comes in looking for a product and can’t find it, your staff should know exactly where it is.
That said, it’s also here where your floor staff, if trained correctly, can outshine your competitors. After all, you only need to think back on an experience where you entered a store, and a staff member went out of their way to help.
Let’s say, for example, that a customer walks into your store looking for a particular coffee flavour, but they find out that the brand has discontinued that specific flavour. It’s now up to your floor staff to adapt to the situation and explain not only why the brand was discontinued but also do it in such a way that your customer accepts it.
5. Your floor staff must have a great attitude
Underpinning the retail sales skills we mentioned above should be a great attitude. In that way, this isn’t so much a fifth skill that your floor staff should have as it is a personality trait, which affects everything else.
Let’s look at an example to illustrate our point.
When was the last time you walked into a store and asked for help? Now consider the attitude of that salesperson. They might have been able to communicate the right message and have all the necessary knowledge about the product, but they did it with a bad attitude. How did that make you feel? Would you return to the store the next time you need a similar product?
The chances are good that you’d rather avoid that store and go elsewhere. And it’s all down to the attitude.
Meanwhile, you might visit another store. While this store doesn’t have the product in-stock, they can answer your questions. More than that, they can offer outstanding customer service that makes you want to shop there even if they don’t have the product.
It’s worth pointing out another statistic from American Express’ 2017 Consumer Service Barometer. It found that seven out of 10 consumers said they had spent more money with a company that delivers excellent service.
While your floor staff might not have the most complicated job - they do fulfil an important role. It’s their attitude that customers will remember long after they’ve forgotten what they bought and it’s often the reason why they’ll return.