How Much Warmth is Right?
Grooming Retail Executives is a fine art. They are the touch point with your customer and hence are the most critical of all your mechanisms at the point of sale.
But their job isn’t as straight forward as that of a sales executive who meets customers at their premises. When a sales executive visits the customer, the customer is expecting his pitch.
On the other hand, many customers in stores do not want the pitch from the executive. The executive needs to know at a glance who is a “just looking around” customer – the window shoppers, and distinguish them from the serious buyers. Complicating the entire impression are impulse buyers who may have walked into the store to just look around, but end up buying an armload of things.
Today, many of these customers do not take too well to an executive who tags behind them. They want to browse in peace without the executive asking questions and suggesting things unless they are ready for it. So it isn’t entirely uncommon for the executive to hang around in their vicinity while the customer does all she can to avoid his eye. Distance this preference for distance from the executive, customers still have the need for warmth in the store.
Accomplishing the Fine Balance between Warmth and Distance
Typically, when we look at the spectrum of customer-facing executives, finance executives are at the formal end of the spectrum, where the keywords are efficiency with courteousness. For one thing, in most of their cases, the sale is already made. For another thing, customers want reliability and a good bit of distance from the executive since they don’t want prying eyes into their state of financial affairs, only their auditor has the right to that.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the hospitality industry where the executives operate under the keywords of warmth and welcome. Here too, the sale is done most of the time, but the form of handling the customer is entirely different. That is because the customers are looking for a great personal experience and hence look for these traits in the executive. If your executive recognizes the customer, it is so much the better, because the customer wants to feel at home and comfortable at the hotel or resort. Knowing that he is recognized, adds to the touch.
Lying in the middle of this spectrum is the Retail Executive who has to perform a delicate balancing act of efficiency, distance and warmth. Depending on the product and the price range that the store caters to, they can range from close to the finance executive who waits for the customer to come to him, to the hospitality executive who reaches out to the customer and welcomes him and the family.
When to Show Warmth & How Much
The aspects of when to show warmth and how much to show depends on the type of product range and store that you have. The Retail Executive is groomed accordingly. But individual differences exist among customers, so even if you believe that your customers tend towards one or the other end of the spectrum, your Executives still need to understand the nuances.
The First Rule to remember is that, if the executive’s function is to solve a problem, it is time for courteousness and efficiency. Because, when the customer comes to the executive with a problem, no amount of warmth helps. She wants the problem resolved quickly and efficiently. If, on the other hand, it is one of helping the customer make a purchase, it is time for warmth and welcome.
The Second Rule is that in stores that carry the mid to low-priced products, be it clothes, household provisions or any other, where the customer is simply looking for a good buy, the scale tilts towards efficiency and a more neutral attitude, although certainly with a smile.
The Third Rule is related to the nature of purchase. The more routine the purchase, the less the customer wants interference. Customers are fickle and what they want is a good deal and efficiency. In these cases, the only time the customer seeks the executive is when they can’t find an item or there is an issue with the product.
On the other hand, the more high-priced the store gets, the higher the customer need for recognition and thereby warmth and welcome. While this is true for stores carrying expensive items like appliances and high-end gadgets where the customer seeks advice from the executive, things go a step further in case of high-end stores that carry for example, designer clothing or jewelry. At this end of the price and exclusivity scale, the customer seeks recognition and hence your Retail Executive becomes more like his counterpart in the hospitality industry. More importantly, the executive needs to know not just the basics, but also carry in-depth knowledge about the clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, appliances or whatever high-end product he is handling, because his job here is to help the customer make the purchase.
In short, the difference is one between a Big Bazaar and say, a Remanika store offering clothing and accessories. In the former, you need to train the executives to wait for the customer to ask them for help and point her in the right direction, essentially to solve a problem. In a Remanika store on the other hand, the executives are there to welcome the customer, handhold her from start to finish with patience and an ability to help them make a purchase. That is the time when they can display their warmth.
So the bottom line questions for your business are:
1. Does the customer need help to solve a problem or does she need it to make a purchase?
2. What is the price range of the products?
3. What is the nature of purchase?
Answers to these questions help you structure your training program right for grooming the Retail Executive.
What counts for warmth? We shall answer that question in the forthcoming post in Part – II of this Retail Executive Grooming series – What Counts for Warmth? Grooming Your Retail Executive.