In our Future of Retail 2017 report, PSFK Labs discusses strategies to prioritize customer service, which begins with associate advocates
Front of house associates are retail’s valuable support units. In addition to selling products, providing answers to customer questions and conducting typical store functions, they are responsible for crafting an emotional, genuine relationship with customers.
In our latest trends report, the Future of Retail 2017, PSFK’s researchers provide key strategies that retailers are using in order to train their associates to seamlessly forge this connection. One section looks at how associates who are appropriately trained to feel empowered to resolve customer issues, and to provide input to products and services, on their own are more likely to become brand advocates. To encourage associates to take on these active roles, therefore, retailers must provide them with tools to act as their own agents.
However, retailers shouldn’t be encouraged to adopt an entirely hands-off approach to their management style. It’s important that businesses provide associates with a concrete set of guidelines to follow. By providing the framework for successful interpersonal interaction, retailers can ensure consistency across their stores, while giving the associate room to improvise based on the context of each situation.
By encouraging the employee to go the extra mile with each individual, this helps the customer feel that they matter. According to Mark Nolan, Senior Director Of Service Partner Management at T-Mobile, “Front-line representatives [need to] feel much more empowered to make the right decision for each individual customer. We want to…make everyone understand that our top priority remains the customer and the customer’s experience.”
Other brands aren’t only giving employees more responsibility on the sales floor, but are collecting their input on a variety of store topics, from product testing to new services. The grocer Whole Foods Market has created a testing group comprised of in-store associates to ensure consistency across its private label products. The group ensures products’ taste, quality and value suit the expectations of Whole Foods Market’s consumer base.
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By leveraging in-store associates as resources for information, employees are encouraged to feel empowered over their work. Consequently, management acquires a more in-depth knowledge of the processes of their business that they might otherwise be unaware of.
While this may seem like a daunting task, the benefits outweigh the risks. Even though retailers may be hesitant to relax their hold on policies, trusting employee intuition can help draw insight into specific customer pain points. Through employee empowerment strategies, retailers can facilitate emotional customer connections in an above-average retail experience.
Built on a robust study of trends and patterns in the market, the Future of Retail 2017 report offers transformational strategies for a customer-first business. The directional playbook from PSFK‘s research team helps business leaders drive success with insights into empowering employees, optimizing operations and leveraging technology.