In retail, shoppers can usually choose from several stores for the same items. But once you have shoppers in your store, they must leave satisfied if you want them to visit you again. Making it difficult and unpleasant to buy from you won’t get you very far in generating repeat business and referrals. Here are some ideas to promote customer satisfaction:
- Have sufficient checkout/payment stations. The one thing I hate most about retail stores is waiting to pay for a purchase. How do you feel when you’re standing in line, there are only two checkout stations open, and several other employees are standing around talking? Probably annoyed. Don’t let this happen in your store. Help customers finalize their purchases promptly and pleasantly.
- Call them back. For bigger-ticket items, it’s a nice gesture to call your customers in one to two days to see how they like using your product or whether they’re having trouble figuring out how to use it. A little help and assistance from a goodwill phone call will go a long way. It only takes a minute or two, and it creates future loyalty.
- Offer free/low-cost assembly. Don’t you hate to buy a bicycle or a bookcase and then have to assemble 82 parts? And, of course, there are only 79 parts when you count them. Usually one screw that holds it all together is missing. Who knows what Flange A on Template M is, anyway? Can you offer quick free or low-cost assembly to your customers?
- Provide a free carwash. If you’re performing vehicle service, why not return customers’ cars cleaner than they gave them to you? Vacuum the inside and have two part-timers do a quick wash with a hose. If you can’t do a car wash, why not put a hanging air freshener on their rearview mirror? Customers remember these little extras and may tell others about them.
- Make sure prices are easy to find. Price items where customers can easily see the amounts. If the price is not actually on the product, often the small sign gets moved or falls off the shelf, and customers can’t figure out how much the item costs. Did you ever consider putting inexpensive barcode scanners around the store so customers can check their own prices? This would be a great convenience that isn’t common in smaller stores.
- Offer free gift-wrap. Every day is someone’s birthday, and busy people have little or no time to wrap presents. Free giftwrapping is also a great service for forgotten anniversaries, when a customer picks up a last-minute gift on the way home. If you offer free wrapping, you can put out a tip jar, which will help offset the costs. Just don’t use cheap materials; make the package look nice.
- Play soft background music. Soft music or smooth jazz will help customers relax and will make spending money in
your store a pleasant experience. Loud rock music will usually make customers tense and make them want to leave as quickly as possible (unless they’re 16 years old).
- Offer carryout service. When the bags are heavy or the customer has purchased a large item, such as a television or a bathroom vanity, make a sincere offer to put the item in their car or van for them. Don’t wait for the customer to ask; offer first. But use common sense, too. Don’t ask a big, burly guy if he wants help with his one bag of groceries—he’ll probably take it as an insult. Offer special services only when they are needed most, and remember that every situation is different.
- Have the manager help. Have your manager(s) ready and willing to help in all necessary situations. After all, isn’t their job to make the store run smoothly and be more profitable? If a shelf is empty and no one’s available to restock, have the manager get a few items so there are some for the customers. If there’s a logjam at the checkout counter, the manager can open a temporary register to help out until the rush eases. I hate to see a manager standing and watching a problem rather than solving it.
- Have an in-store directory. Many of the bigger stores have this, but why can’t a small store, too? People who come in and need only one or two things may spend five minutes looking for them. Have several directories placed in high-traffic areas and/or big overhead signs that are visible from all areas. A computer monitor where customers can look up items will also appeal to many people. Naturally, if you put on your directory that an item is located in Aisle 4, make sure Aisle 4 is easy to find from both the front and the back of the store.
- Entertain customers while they wait. If customers have to wait for their product or service, such as at a pharmacy or an auto-service store, give them something to do so the time will pass more quickly. A television, magazines, newspapers, games for the kids—all these things help make the wait easier to endure. Coffee, iced tea, and water will help people relax while you provide the excellent service they expect.
- Have a convenient store layout. Make it relaxing and pleasant to shop at your store. Put complementary products
near each other or build an attractive display for them. Don’t block aisles with boxes of unshelved products. Many times, I’ve gone to a grocery store, only to find that the item I want is behind a stack of boxes and is difficult to reach. Your customers are there to buy, not to work!
- Place commodity items in front. Big sellers, everyday items, impulse products, and other things that most people
want should be visible and easy to find. Put them in the front of the store or by the checkout area. Some marketers suggest that stores should hide these products so that customers have to walk through the entire store to find them. I’m speaking as a shopper when I suggest that you should use convenient spots for the most purchased items.
- Demonstrate new products. When you’re trying to sell a new product or concept, show how it’s done right in your store. Have an ongoing demonstration or post signs stating when the next one will be. Get customers involved and have them use the product during your presentation. If you can’t do a demonstration, consider a mini-infomercial on a television that keeps repeating; place it in the main aisle. People will be reluctant to purchase a new product if they don’t know how to use it, so show them how.
- Offer delivery. If you’re selling larger products, special-order items, or something that’s out of stock, offer free or low-cost delivery. In some businesses, such as furniture and appliance stores, delivery is expected—but is it friendly and prompt? The senior-citizen market will usually appreciate delivery on smaller items as well, so find a way to provide this service cheerfully.
- Refer to other stores when necessary. If you can’t sell or don’t stock certain products or you are out of stock on products that a customer needs now and can’t seem to find anywhere, create goodwill and send the customer to another store that has the product. This will create a smile and a thank you. And hopefully the next time the customer needs something in your product line, he’ll come to you first.
Providing exceptional customer service will make your customers enjoy coming to your store and buying your products. When people really like your store and the way you do business, they tell their friends and relatives, which is how you grow your business.