When it comes to customer experience, many businesses have abandoned personal contact making their stores little more than a warehouse of products.
A while ago, I stumbled into the ATT store in Chicago, looking for a portable charger for my iPhone. On display was the iron throne from Game of Thrones (GOT). The greeting I heard from the employee? “Are you just here for Game of Thrones?”
She didn’t want to be bothered by yet another person who told her, I’m just here for the Game of Thrones set, so she proactively dismissed everyone as the same.
She wasn’t trying to sell the merchandise, my discovery of the flagship ATT store, or the GOT experience. She didn’t care to discover my customer journey or why, on a hot and humid afternoon, a guy walked into their store out of all the stores on Michigan Avenue. I couldn’t find the chargers and left without a purchase. Some customer experience!
It’s a giant self-service kiosk dispensing customers' online orders in its stores. Centrally located at the very front of about 100 of their stores, you scan a barcode, and your purchase arrives in about 45 seconds.
Leave as quickly as you can…
And where does it all come from?
Somewhere this idea has grown that "customer experience" is to give shoppers only what they think they need.
Dads have thought that for generations until their gift is unwrapped and it requires batteries.
We keep hearing retailers have to develop new experiences in their stores. I'm sure that's how the GOT event was envisioned.
But what if all the distractions and BOPIS are saying is that our customer experience isn't worth your time?
Even before the pandemic, Amazon introduced a two-minute snack pickup for students ordering on their smartphones. They even put lockers in other businesses for pickup.
It’s all part of a plan for us to be trained to forego the cash register like in their pioneering Amazon GO prototype in Seattle.
Use of store as a warehouse.
Yet at the same time, thrift stores and resale are on the rise.
Shoppers are eschewing online to spend time in brick-and-mortar stores to find something unique and authentic.
In addition to the thrill of discovery and enjoyment of putting an outfit together, thrift store clothes come with a story about how they were found.
This past week I received a question for my Friday Facebook LIVE video asking how part-time employees can connect with customers who are in a hurry and “just need this” into a bigger sale.
That’s part of the store transformation into a retail products warehouse because most retailers have zero training process, zero idea on how to sell their merchandise, and zero hiring standards other than Can you fill a shift?
Their employees are little more than Amazon pickers in a warehouse.
That has to change.
If you don’t offer something more through a customer experience, your shoppers may as well skip the trip to your warehouse - uh, store – and buy directly from the manufacturer’s online warehouse.
How to Avoid the Warehousization of Your Retail Store:
1. You must be the opposite of click and collect. We are becoming a click-and-collect society partly due to the laziness of business owners who let employees get away with it. Customer service in your store must be engaging and focused on building the sale. You need to engage and connect. Customers may come in thinking they need just one thing, but with an engaging conversation and various products and displays, you can lead them to buy something else.
This means elevating the in-store experience of your shoppers. Your store operations team must train to new standards. You can’t let younger employees default to what they’ve heard all their lives: Can I help you? My retail sales training program SalesRX is helping thousands around the world. It can help you too. Better yet, hire me to train your crew personally.
Let me put it another way...
2. You must be the opposite of ask and receive. When shoppers are presented with a human being, they retain more information they heard due to the social cues and back-and-forth exchange. If you’re selling premium items, your associates have to understand they are helping craft a lifestyle, not selling just a hoodie.
Shoppers respond to and process what they learned from a trusted human advisor more deeply than from a webpage. That's where customer satisfaction lies. These days the decision between a customer choosing to drive to your store over a competitor is your ability to know exactly what to say, when to say it, and how to make it count. You can’t wing it repeatedly on your sales floor and expect to survive.
3. Be the opposite of stack it high and let it fly. Do you think your selection is your unique selling proposition?
Having more products isn’t your competitive edge. Having a crew who are relentlessly trained on how to sell it will. Having a crew who are made to roleplay repeatedly so they can’t get it wrong with an actual shopper will. That's how you have a branded customer experience.
And those skills will help the associate not just sell the one thing someone came in with a coupon for but to upsell the premium merchandise. It’s selling the full haircare system, not just a shampoo. It’s getting the whole shopper list, not just one specific item.
Contrary to the headlines, brick-and-mortar is not imploding.
That said, if the physical store is still so valuable, why are retailers in such a hurry to distance their shoppers from having to use it as anything more than a drive-thru?
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite. I do understand. When it comes to my customer journey, I would want to use every tool I could to ensure my drive to the store was rewarded with a purchase of a sought item – not a shrug by a cashier, a wave, and we’re out.
Yes, digital tools can help, but they should help you make more sales in-store – not fewer.
So let Amazon have lockers for BOPIS snacks…
Let Walmart have their Pickup Tower…
Let the big boys find new ways to be a warehouse.
If you want to sell more in your store, you must find ways for your store to be more human with technology, not less.
Otherwise, you’re just four walls filled with stuff where fewer and fewer shoppers are willing to settle for a rotten customer service experience.
Make no mistake. That’s entirely your responsibility.
Are you doing everything you can to survive and thrive?