Building Warmth by Eliminating Indifference
Many times in life, the absence of a factor proves the opposite more effectively than a conscious effort to ensure that the factor is present. For example, the absence of light is darkness. How do you bring darkness into the room? By switching the light off, not by bringing darkness in, which in any case you can’t.
We respond with empathy and warmth to people who matter to us. We are indifferent to those who don’t matter. As such, Indifference stands as the opposite of Warmth and this is particularly true in the Retail scenario.
Absence of indifference is enough to qualify for warmth. By eliminating behaviors that are deemed indifferent, you are effectively telling the customer, that she matters to you.
So how can you make sure that your executive isn’t indifferent? You cannot just tell the executive to pay attention, because that is inadequate for him to act upon. Here are some pointers to what counts for indifference and how to overcome them.
Lack of Attention –
Although he may have to remain at a distance, the executive cannot lose track of the customer. When the customer calls for him, he needs to be there to attend to her question and give his advice. From chatting to colleagues and talking on cell phones to not being at the station and customers not being able to catch their eye, the reasons for inattention are many. Each of them counts as indifference. Retail executives when not trained specifically to prevent these situations end up making the customers feel a definite lack of warmth.
Minimize chatting with colleagues. When your Retail Executive exchanges more than a short word with her colleagues, even the non-attention-seeking customers view it as indifference to them. Standing all hours with seemingly nothing to do even when there is just a customer or two in the shop is a tough job. But that’s what the executive is expected to do. Short, discreet conversations are all that they can indulge in.
The biggest sin a Retail Executive can commit is not being at his station, forcing the customer to come hunting for them. If they have to take either a personal break or go over to another section to help the customer out, they must ask a colleague to take their place.
Warmth is also apparent from respect for the customer’s sense of privacy and personal and shopping space. When a store executive tags behind a customer who doesn’t want it, or the executive’s advice, the executive is intruding into the customer’s space. He is being indifferent to the customer’s desire for privacy. Loud conversations too are intrusive to the customer whether with a colleague or another customer.
Lack of Knowledge –
When the customer chooses to take the retail executive’s guidance, she looks for knowledge. She doesn’t want to be shunted from one section executive to another when she looks for different products. The shunting equates to indifference to her and is the opposite of warmth. While she might not want your executive to display overt behaviors of warmth, she certainly doesn’t like this indifference.
3 Steps to Prevent Indifference
The First Step for the Retail Executive is to know the products in the store, not just in his section, but at least the basics of the other sections so that most customer queries are answered by most executives in the store.
The Second Step is for the Retail Executive to understand in the blink of an eye the customer’s preference for help and advice. If they are window shopping customers, they need to be left on their own. They may come back another time to make a purchase. If they are customers who know what they want, again, it’s better to leave them on their own.
The Third Step is to know the customer’s product preferences. The best path to warmth emerges from reading the customer’s cues for what she wants. A customer who is comfortable with taking the executive’s advice would be put off by the wrong piece of advice.
It isn’t like the good old days when the customer entered a shop, walked to the counter and sat down on the stool or the gaddi while the sales person showed sari after sari or dress after dress to the customer. In the process and with a few judicious questions during the conversation, he learnt what the customer wanted. Today, the hints are far more subtle.
The Retail Executive does not have time at his disposal for a long conversation where he can elicit the required information from the customer. Who is the purchase for? What is the age group? What color preferences do they have? What is the likely budget? These were questions the sales person of olden days had the luxury of asking and getting the answer for. Today, it would be considered prying.
The Executive needs to watch the customer carefully and assess from what she is browsing through, what she is buying, who could be the possible recipient, what the preferences are, what is in fashion for that age group and so on, before he can offer the right advice. This is an essential part of a Retail Executive’s training program.
In conclusion, to build retail executives of that caliber, what you as a store owner need to do is train them in depth in the 4 Elements of First Impressions – Clothing, Grooming, Body Language, Etiquette, Vocal Communication to match their brand or store needs. At the same time, train them in the Art of reading the customer through Body Language, what they search and what they pick up and then take action based on that reading.