This is a guest post by Beth Owens.
The key to getting repeat business comes down to offering exceptional customer service; in an increasingly saturated market, it isn’t so much your product selection that makes you unique, but now you manage your interactions with customers. From the second they walk into the store to the moment they leave, every step will shape their experience for the positive or the negative.
The checkout usually gets a lot less attention than the other parts of the sale because the customer is already converted. If they’re committed to purchasing, such efforts might seem pointless. But it’s a vital consideration if you want to retain your customer base. As the last interaction you will have with your customer, it’s the one that will likely sum up their whole experience. So if you want to make a lasting impression, the checkout is the place to do it.
Here are the top 5 ways that you can create a lasting impression at the checkout
1. Organizing your point of sale
Where exactly are your points of sale? Are they in prominent places with signage so they are easy for customers to find? Is there always a staff member close by to help? This is an especially important consideration for stores which have a lot of floor space.
We’ve all had the experience of wandering around searching for seemingly hidden checkouts. Or otherwise dealing with massive queues at one point of sale while the rest are unstaffed. How does this leave us feeling? Usually frustrated, and with rather lukewarm feelings towards the store. For one, this doesn’t set a good foundation for your staff’s interaction with your customers. It might well have them questioning whether they want to shop there again.
Prevent that by making sure that your point of sale area is clearly visible.
There are a number of ways to do this. Some retailers, turn their checkout counter into a work of art, by incorporating attractive designs to make the point of sale pop. Check out the example below:
You can also bring more attention to your checkout area through creative merchandising. The LA-based gift shop Japan LA, for example, has a number of enticing products on their checkout counter.
Lastly, encourage your staff to take the initiative in bringing customers to other areas to process sales when it gets busy. This is especially important during weekends or sales periods. It will help ease the in-store congestion that makes it hard for other customers to browse products.
2. Getting personal
A paradox of customer service is that personal interaction can be curiously impersonal. That is to say, most associates stick to tired lines like “Hi, how is your day going?” or “Thanks, come again!”
People hear these lines repeated several of times each day when they order their coffee or pick up groceries. When you or your associates delivery these statements, your brand won’t make a lasting impression because the approach is inauthentic, especially if the person in front of them gets greeted the exact same way!
So, try tailoring your conversation directly to the customer. Comments such as “I love this brand’s products, have you tried X and Y?” and engaging with their responses shows that you are genuinely interested in them versus reciting a script. Even small efforts like eye contact and smiling will go a long way toward personalizing your interactions.
A great tip that a co-worker gave me when working at a department store was not to hand customers their shopping bag over the counter. Instead, I should walk around the other side and hand over their purchases directly. Although we might not realise it, those counters can be a big psychological barrier to our interactions. Removing this allows you to connect on a person-to-person basis, instead of the employee-to-customer arrangement which quickly gets boring and repetitive.
It’s a small touch which takes little extra time, but it has a huge impact on your customer’s perceptions. Most were pleasantly surprised as it isn’t the ‘done’ thing. This feeling is exactly what you want to provoke in your customers! It gives them a level of service they aren’t expecting, and this is what will stick in their minds long-term.
3. Offering premium packaging
Often, it’s how staff handle a customer’s purchases which differentiate the perception of a premium store from a lower end one. If someone threw clothing you had just bought unfolded into a generic plastic bag, what impression would you have? Probably of a store that doesn’t value their own goods! If they don’t, why should you? The store might have gotten that sale, but it’s unlikely they’ll get a follow-up if they don’t make their customer feel that what they offer is special.
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This is where premium packaging can play a central role in showing your customers that you value both their experience and your product. Taking the time to package it in branded wrappingor a tasteful bag will boost your customer’s brand perception. According to Dotcom Distribution, 40% of shoppers would be more likely to repeatedly purchase from a brand that used premium packaging, while 50% say gift-like packaging would make them more likely to recommend the brand to others. By going the extra mile to enhance the appearance of their purchase, you can build stronger customer loyalty.
Pro tip: Branded carrier bags also serve another purpose. If your customer is wandering around the surrounding area with their purchase, it creates a cheap form of advertising that gets your store’s name in front of passers-by!
4. Asking for feedback
This is a small thing which goes a long way, because customers like to know their experience is valued. Ask customers whether they found their items ok, or if they received the help they wanted. This shows that your store has a vested interest in improving its services standards. It also gives you the opportunity to remedy a customer’s experience at the moment if it wasn’t quite up to scratch, rather than them taking a negative perception out the door with them!
A store which makes it a policy to do this is Victoria’s Secret. During checkout, supervisors ask customers whether they received help, and if so by which assistant. This embeds the customer experience at the heart of shopping at their store and also encourages staff to give the best level of service by giving them due recognition.
5. Stepping up when things go wrong
Most checkout interactions are pretty straightforward. You ring up the goods, process the transaction, bag the items and that’s that. However, not every interaction is a sale. People will also visit a checkout for other reasons; to voice a complaint, to bring back a faulty product, or because their goods weren’t charged correctly. This is part of the daily business of retail, and how well you handle this is one of the biggest ways to create a lasting impression.
In most cases, customers aren’t interested in hearing apologies or excuses. They just want to know what you are going to do to fix it. It’s a solution they’re interested in, not the problem, and this is where they will form their opinion of your customer service.
Obviously, the best thing you can do is to remedy the issue quickly and efficiently. However, we know this isn’t always possible. The most important thing here is honesty; being transparent is always the best policy. If the issue is complex, tell your customer that you will do everything you reasonably can. It’s empathy that will mollify even the angriest customer.
It’s always no matter what the situation to under promise and over deliver; it’s doing the impossible that will set you apart from the crowd!
Creating a lasting impression doesn’t mean moving mountains, but clearly communicating to your customers how much you value their patronage. Without them, you wouldn’t be here at all! More often than not, it’s the little touches that make the biggest difference to customer perceptions.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Vend’s guide to increasing sales. This handy resource offers 10 proven tactics for boosting retail sales and improving your bottom line.
Specifically, you will:
- Discover how to turn savvy shoppers into loyal customers
- Learn how to add real and perceived value to each sale
- Discover the most effective ways to set yourself apart from your competitors
Beth Owens is a digital marketing assistant and content writer at noissue. Her main topic areas include e-commerce, social media marketing and the art of excellent branding.