The Importance of Good Customer Service in Retail

Dr. Ryan Giffen

Retail is a huge industry. There are hundreds of different stores that sell several types of goods, many of them the same or similar items.  Because of this, good customer service is vital to any retailer’s success.  Here are nine ways your retail shop can create a reputation for amazing client care.

1. Focus on the person in front of you.

If the store is busy, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.  Multitasking may seem like the solution, but it can make your customers feel like you don’t care about them.  When interacting with a shopper, you shouldn’t be paying attention to anything else that is happening.

2. Use names whenever possible.

Customer interactions in retail can be quick.  Make a lasting impression by using people’s names whenever possible.  This is especially relevant when you are handing a customer off to another employee.  Telling them each other’s names can create a connection and make the experience feel more personal.

3. Say thank you (a lot).

Obviously you should thank customers for shopping with you, but your gratitude shouldn’t stop there.  Thank people for coming into your store, for trying clothes on, for anything they do that has a positive impact on you as a retailer. People want to return to places they feel appreciated. The key here, however, is to make you ‘thank you’ genuine. It must be truly sincere and from the heart.

4. Stay present, but don’t hover.

This can be a difficult balance to learn when you first start working in retail.  You need to stay close enough to your customers that you can help if they need assistance but not so close that they feel smothered. Try straightening shelves or doing other small tasks in a place where you can see them in your peripheral vision at all times.

5. Never turn away from a customer.

Let’s be honest; sometimes it’s easier to pretend you didn’t see a customer walking in your direction. Maybe you are on your lunch break or headed to the bathroom.  Great customer service means meeting needs as soon as possible.  Taking a minute to answer the question is much better than making the customer feel like the employees at this store don't care about their clients. This is especially important in retail. Try deploying the 5/15 rule.  When the customer is 5-feet away, verbally acknowledge them.  When the customer is 15-feet away, make eye contact and provide a genuine smile.  

6. Smile and be friendly.

A simple instruction, but it’s easier said than done.  We all have bad days, but spreading your negative attitude to a customer is never acceptable.  Put a smile on your face and practice being genuinely friendly.  Most people can tell when others are faking. Similar to Disneyland theme parks, when cast members are ‘on stage’ in front of guests, the negative attitude must go away.

7. Treat your employees well.

What does this have to do with good customer service?  Happy employees are productive employees.  People who work in retail are often on their feet for long stretches of time.  Making sure that your staff has enough breaks and a place to sit down and eat a snack while they take them can make a big impact.

8. Go above and beyond.

Do everything you can to make your customer’s experience in your store as positive as possible.  Check the back for that item you’re pretty sure isn’t there.  If you’re able to do what a customer requests, do it.

9. Have a plan for unhappy customers.

There are going to be customers that get upset in your store.  The key is to have a plan for dealing with them in advance.  Make sure all of your staff are trained in good customer service policies.  Have procedures written out so employees can feel confident talking with unhappy customers.

About Dr. Ryan Giffen

With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Ryan Giffen is an expert in human relations and business culture. His career began in hospitality, leading operations and human resource departments for Fortune 500 companies and the like. Not long after, Ryan found his passion for teaching and consulting. He earned a Ph.D. in Hospitality Management with a Human Resources focus from Iowa State University and now works as an assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach. For over a decade, he continues to research and speak on organizational culture, relationship intelligence, and leadership effectiveness. Ryan is also the founder of Inospire, a company helping bosses and employees build stronger relationships with one another.  Lastly, Dr. Giffen is producer and host of the Corporate Shadow Podcast. a show helping everyday employees overcome workplace nonsense.