A Positive First Impression

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Everybody talks about customer service. Training shouldn't be just for training's sake but to help the retailer's bottom line

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<p>A Positive First Impression ...By: Sarah Cumberland </p> <p>Retailing is dynamic, demanding and is a constant challenge. To thrive in this industry, your business needs to be tuned in to your customer needs and expectations. Nobody can have too much knowledge on the subject, says Dick Bates, retailer relations manager at Westfield. </p> <p>"Everybody talks about customer service. Training shouldn't be just for training's sake but to help the retailer's bottom line". We provide our retailers with a program that provides them with the actual skills they need to put into practice. </p> <p>The Australian Retailers Association (ARA), in partnership with Westfield, has designed a series of workshops to help retailers maximise sales, improve their profit margins and create the right buying environment to keep customers coming back. According to Bates, Westfield doesn't conduct the training itself because "you don't ask your landlord to babysit your kids". An extract from the ARA's program:Opening Techniques - You only have one chance to make a positive first impression with the customers in your store. Your customer should see you as: "helpful", "warm and friendly", sincere, interested, attentive, responsive to their needs, confident and positive. But the impression your customers have of your business can be formed even before you have a chance to impress them with your product knowledge and service skills. Some research shows that customers will form their first impression of your business within the first 3 to 4 seconds of coming into contact with your store....this can occur even while the customer is outside your business. </p> <p>Your opening technique will also impact your customer's impression of the business, and their willingness to buy. The Opening should include two distinct steps:*Acknowledge; and*Approach. </p> <p>Acknowledgment </p> <p>The acknowledgement of the customer serves no other purpose than to let the customer know that you have seen them and know that they are in the store. </p> <p>methods include: </p> <p>*Eye contact;*A wave; and/or*Some type of welcoming comment. </p> <p>The acknowledgement is like an invisible string connecting you to the customer, and the customer - through their actions - will indicate how you should approach them and the service they are seeking. The acknowledgement makes the approach a much more comfortable experience for you and the customer. </p> <p>Approach </p> <p>Your approach can take on one of three forms, depending on the actions of your customer: </p> <p>1. Service;2. Merchandise; or3. Greeting. </p> <p>1. Service </p> <p>The service approach is ideal for the customer who walks straight up to the counter and/or you. They know what they want, may need to ask a question or may pick up an item and move straight to the counter area. This customer should be welcomed and served as quickly as possible. </p> <p>2. Merchandise </p> <p>A customer is looking at a particular item of stock. They may be reading the label, looking at the box or touching the product. Select a product feature (characteristic) and start a conversation with the customer, about that feature. </p> <p>3. Greeting </p> <p>Your customer may be walking through the store, puzzled or looking a little hassled. Approach and start a conversation. Don't use the old retailer's favourite "Can I help YOU?" Like most of us, you will get the "No thanks! I'm just looking." response. Start the conversation about something the customer is wearing, a community or social event that may be occurring in your local area, the number of people about or, if appropriate, even the weather. </p> <p>Whether you use the Service, Merchandise or Greeting approach technique the key is to get your customer talking, find out what they need and want and provide them with a solution to those needs. </p> <p>The Westfield Retail Sales Skills Workshops will include seven steps in the sales process including: 1. Opening Techniques and;2. Gathering information from your customer;3. Selling Merchandise Benefits to your customers;4. Handling Customers Concerns, in making a commitment to the selling process;5. Finalising the sales and getting the commitment to buy from the customer;6. Wrapping up the process and inviting the customer back into the store; and7. Dealing with the Difficult Customer situation. </p> <p>Service Down The Line </p> <p>Westfield has moved to internet retailing with the announcement that it has formed a team to develop an Internet Shoppingtown.Research undertaken over the past two years has highlighted the potential for Westfield to extend the range of services it offers to both retailers and customers. "We are continually broadening the range of services we can offer retailers and their customers and the internet is one of them, as are the Westfield Visa credit card and the many in-centre customer services," says Westfield managing director, David Lowy. "We see the internet as an opportunity to enhance business in the Shoppingtowns. </p> <p>This will be an important element in our strategy as consumers increasingly look for the 'out of home' experience as well as the convenience internet retailing might offer. "We also believe Westfield is well placed to help retailers develop a meaningful on-line presence. This includes small businesses which might not have the resources as well as medium and larger businesses that don't wish to 'go it alone' on the internet."Westfield Shoppingtowns already maintain an internet presence through the company's corporate websites in Australia and the USA. These are information only sites. </p> <p>The new internet Shoppingtown will be completely different in design and operation. The strategy is based on three key factors: *Westfield's unique brand which is synonymous with shopping* the potential to integrate the extensive Westfield Shoppingtown portfolio with online services - more than 270 million visits are made to Westfield Shoppingtowns in Australia each year, with 5,500 retail outlets generating $7 billion in sales.* its experience in aggregating retail services and marketing them to the consumer.Building the site will be similar to building a new centre. </p> <p>"Leasing agents" will convince retailers to take space on the Westfield site, using the well known brand to attract customers.With online shopping taking off worldwide, and US based retailers taking a large share of the pie, Australian retail web sites need to develop a strong presence to capitalise on the trend. "For retailers, online shopping is a powerful direct marketing and selling tool, which holds enormous potential for growth over the next few years," says Christa Davies, ninemsn's director of shopping. </p> <p>Wine retailer, Wineplanet, Greengrocer.com.au and computer retailer, Harris Technology, have partnered with ninemsn to provide internet shopping services."Online shopping is just another option for people right now, but in the next couple of years it will become the way of doing things," says Douglas Carlson, managing director of Greengrocer.com.au. It is simply a better business model for the perishable food industry. We reduce inventory because we buy only what we need when we need it. The customer tells us what they want and we buy the produce on a daily basis." </p> <p>First impressions are everything.We have all seen examples of this in our personal lives. When we meet someone new their appearance, tone of voice, manners (or lack of!) all have a very big effect on us.</p> <p>When a customer calls or goes into an office, business or agency the first person they talk to represents the entire company. This goes even further with people who are traveling to new places: just ONE rotten experience with a rude customer service person can ever after sour the persons attitude to the entire city, region, or country!!!</p> <p>To the customer YOU are the company. A good first impression starts a positive relationship with your customers. On the other hand a poor first impression can sometime end the relationship right there. And when you factor in word of mouth and how many other people the customer may talk to about their bad experience with your company you can see how important first impressions can be.</p> <p>A bad first impression is not impossible to undo, but it sure takes a lot of effort. The point is if you make a great first impression things are a LOT easier.</p> <p>Lets look at things from the customers point of view:</p> <p>When a customer calls or walks into a business for the first time they may be: happy, anxious, worried, lost, angry, frustrated, excited, or possibly all of the above! When you, as a customer, are new to a business you dont know anyone, youre not familiar with how things work. You dont know if youre going to like it there, if they will provide good service, if they will be friendly or helpful. There are a lot of doubts and questions! Many customers go in to a business for the first time actually expecting things to go badly. Some even get ready for battle before heading off to a new restaurant, hotel, doctor or auto mechanic.</p> <p>When you meet anyone new little things can affect your attitude towards the person very fast. If you already have a relationship with someone, and that person has a bad day or is in a bad mood it probably wont ruin or end your relationship. But if the person is new to you just one or two small negative points could end your relationship with the person right there.</p> <p>Speaking of first impressions, it is vital that you, as the customer service professional, do not make any assumptions about customers. Judging a customer by their appearance or how they speak is a huge mistake.</p> <p>So, anyone working on the front lines is supposed to do everything to make sure that they give all customers a great first impression and at the same time be sure to NOT let your first impressions of the customer in any way prevent you from delivering the best possible service. This can be a tall order sometimes.</p> <p>Greeting a customerAlways make eye contact with the customer the first second they come in. Even if you are with another customer or on the phone, make eye contact and acknowledge that they are there immediately. A simple gesture tells the new person that you see them and will be right with them.</p> <p>Smile! Smile! Smile! Smile! Smile! Smile!Your greeting should tell the customer, I am glad youre here!</p> <p>Greetings such as:</p> <p> Good morning! How can I help you today?</p> <p> Hello, how is your day going so far? What can I help you with today?</p> <p> Hi, we havent seen you in a while!</p> <p> Welcome, what can I do for you today?</p> <p> Good afternoon! What can we do for you today?</p> <p>A friendly greeting immediately disarms the person and sets them at ease. It sets the tone for the rest of the interaction. No matter what the customers emotional state this will make things better. This is probably the single most important point for anyone working in any position where they greet customers.</p> <p>Every person who walks in the doorEvery person who comes in MUST be greeted in the most friendly way possible: new customers, old customers, customers who come in all the time, all of them. Repair people, delivery people, people who are lost and need directions, everyone. Remember, even if the person who comes is not and never will be a customer they still will relay their experiences with your company, good or bad, to everyone they talk to.</p> <p>If there is going to be a wait, tell the customer about it. Explain why, offer coffee, tea, etc. then every 10 to 15 minutes give the customer an update. Have gift cards from a local store, restaurant or espresso stand available for customers who have to wait too long. Always tell the truth about how long the wait will be. Saying it will be just a few more minutes when you know it will half an hour only makes things worse!</p> <p>Things you should never do: If the customer is early for their appointment NEVER communicate in any way that this is bad or creates a problem. The point is that the person arrived! Thats great! Go give the customer a hug! Dont berate them for the crime of being early. In fact you should not use the word early. If the customer comes early the first thing to do is to tell them how happy you are to see them. You can say something like, Just have a seat and I will go (or call) and see if they are ready for you. Or something positive, just work it out so that what you are saying is not Youre early and youre RUINING my schedule!!!</p> <p> Carry on a personal conversation with another employee, or phone call, while servicing a customer. This is particularly important when the customer first comes in. If you are at the front desk with another co-worker and a customer walks in you need to end any conversations you are having and look up at the customer with a smile BEFORE they reach the counter. Other wise the customer will get the impression that they are distracting you from your more important duties.</p> <p> Carry on ANY negative type of conversation ABOUT ANYTHING if there is a customer with earshot. This includes conversations about: other staff, other customers, other competitors.</p> <p> Convey the idea, feeling or attitude of being way too busy, overworked frantic or ANYTHING ELSE which would tell the customer that their being there is a problem. Generally customers dont want to hear about your problems at work or in your personal life. Just be positive, friendly, cheerful and happy to help them NO MATTER HOW SWAMPED YOU ARE.</p> <p>Click here to learn about our WelcomeTeam Training program. Posted in answering the phone, communication, customer service, customer service management, Customer service tips and strategies, customers, effective communication, greeting customers, marketing, perception of value | Tags: customer service, loyal customers, loyal employees, Customer service tips and strategies, customers, perception of value, perception, customer perception, choosing customer service staff, friendliness, customer service staff, customer, receptionist, greeting customers, friendly phone greeting, new customers, irate customers, irritated customers, golden rule of customer service, customer complaints, good customer service, customer attitude, customer service tools, attracting new clients, attracting new patients, word of mouth, word of mouth advertising, word of mouth marketing, satisfied clients, irritated patients, loyal patients, irritated clients First Impressions and Answering thePhoneFirst Impressions, Personalized Service and CustomerLoyalty </p> <p>6 Customer First Impressions</p> <p>Its amazing how some organizations are good with first impressions and others are not. By first impressions I mean the first point of contact a customer has with an organization.</p> <p>The reality is that customers have choices and organizations that get it pay attention to the details that matter to customers. Every organization is different as far as their first impression moment, but all organizations have that first opportunity to make their customer feel like they have come to the right pla...</p>