7 Cringe-Inducing Behaviors That Push Retail Customers Away

By Bob Phibbs

toxic retail employee behaviors customersThere’s a boom of shiny objects out there for retailers to play with, from iBeacons that will deliver coupons to shoppers' smartphones when they stand in front of a display to virtual mirrors that dispense generic compliments when you try something on.

All over, retailers are struggling with lower footfall, with consumers waiting for the deal, and with the elephant in the room, the relentless push of Amazon. For you, it can feel like a no-win scenario.

But with all of the technology being brought to bear on retail, many retailers still keep missing the target.

Specifically, what is happening in your brick and mortar store that is pushing customers to never return?

Here are 7 toxic behaviors that push shoppers away and keep your key performance indicators (KPIs) declining:

1. Asking, “How are you today?” from behind the counter. The intent to greet is good. But an execution from behind the counter, usually as someone is coming in, unnerves people. Why? Because they haven’t had a chance to decompress from traffic and get their bearings. They can’t see where the yelled greeting is coming from or to whom it is directed, so they ignore it. You make it much tougher to engage someone like that. And using those hackneyed words should be retired. Find more on how to greet here.

The Fix: Greet a shopper with the right words and only when you can make eye contact...when there are no barriers between you.

2. Reaching for a customer’s hand while saying, “Hi I’m (name) and you’re?” There are few things creepier to witness than this 50’s car-selling technique. A handshake is something you earn, not force. While the intent is correct to greet the person as a friend, a forced handshake comes off as very impersonal.

The Fix: Keep your hand to yourself. Do a good job and they’ll reach for your hand at the end of the sale.

3. “Do you want to see it?” Your whole presentation should be aimed at encouraging consumer-buying behaviors -  you want them to pick up an item, try it on, or play with it. Many times, when you hear an employee say this, the answer is, “No” which robs the store of a potential sale.

The Fix: Take it off the rack, open the display case, or hand it to the person and say, “Try it.”

4. “No, it shows we don’t have it.” Using an iPad to tell a shopper no, while quicker than when you had to go to the stockroom, is still wrong. It’s cringe-inducing to a manager because it doesn’t give you a chance to offer an alternative.  A great shoe salesperson who knows their stock will come out with something - the same shoe in a different color, the same shoe in a bigger size to see if they’ll even like it... you name it.

The Fix: Train your employees that if they use their iPad or tablet,  they must also search for an alternative solution and avoid saying, “No, we don’t have it.”

5. “Here’s my card; when you come back, ask for me or I won’t get credit.” Handing a customer your business card at the end of the presentation is a loser’s limp. You didn’t close the sale but want the credit as if you did. Handing the shopper your card appears you are desperate and leaves the customer feeling guilty. When a customer feels yucky, they won’t return.

The Fix: Once someone leaves, the sale goes to whoever closes it.

6. “These were on sale.” Sometimes a shopper arrives at the register not knowing that an item they are prepared to pay full price for is actually on sale.  Finding out from the cashier as they ring it up may seem consumer friendly, but it actually robs the store of the chance to sell more. The shopper should have seen it on the tag or seen it on a display sign so they could have purchased more than one. Because the merchandise is reduced, you need to move more units to make a profit. Having the consumer walk out with just one, robs you of that opportunity.

The Fix: Make sure all of your merchandise is signed to match your promotions, and use the fact they are on sale to sell more items before buyers get to the cashier.

7. “That was my sale.”  Commission is a great thing in retail. It rewards those who close the sale. Inexperienced managers, who aren’t ready for the inevitability of conflict between commissioned salespeople, will allow toxic conversations to occur on the store floor. Like hungry dogs fighting over a scrap of meat, if complaining about who gets the credit is allowed within a shopper's earshot, like it was to me at Nordstromthose shoppers will want nothing to do with either salesperson or your store again.

The Fix: Train your employees that any such conversations must happen in private and never on the sales floor.

Why are these cringe-worthy behaviors?

Because they all thwart your attempts to drive your up KPIs (find out more about what they are here.)

Like Captain Kirk in The Wrath of Khan, "I don’t believe in no-win scenarios."

With retail sales training, there will always be a way to do better, to convert lookers to buyers, and to thrive in the face of a host of online and offline competitors.

Finding those ways starts on your sales floor each morning. And to learn how to sell value over price, watch this 60 second video.

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