Why investing in front-end store staff is the best brand marketing strategy
Brands tend to ignore the front-end retail staff and instead focus exclusively on investing in marketing not realizing that customer touch points are vital to marketing success.
Retail operations include many aspects such as store design, display management, customer service, staff management and inventory optimization. All these combine to make a major part of the shopping experience but the key to a store’s success depends on exemplary customer service.
SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SEE MY EMPLOYEES AS A COST TO BE MANAGED BUT I SEE THEM AS POTENTIAL PASSIONATE BRAND AMBASSADORS. — Richard Branson Virgin Airlines
The Indian retail industry is the fifthlargest retail destination globally and the fastest growing in the world. Today, as brands – both home-grown and global – vie with each other for a larger share of the customer wallet combined with the rise of e-commerce, the retail industry has its fair share of challenges. Today’s increasingly disruptive environment has forced brands to stand up, relook their strategy and adapt to the changing times.
Successful retailers agree that the key to success in e-commerce or brick and mortar retail is to offer amazing customer service. In times to come, this aspect will become even more vital. In-spite of this known paradigm, brands tend to ignore the frontend retail staff even as they invest heavily in brand marketing, not realizing that your customer touch points are vital to marketing success.
Retail operations include many aspects such as store design, display management, customer service, staff management and inventory optimization. All these combine to make a major part of the shopping experience but the key to a store’s success depends on exemplary customer service. It helps stores increase their competitiveness and helps the little guys compete against the big guys and also withstand the pressures arising from growing online retail.
Here, it becomes imperative for brands to invest in talent. Companies tend to skimp on the frontend whilst investing in their middle and senior management on-boarding them at fat salaries but are reluctant to incentivise the front-end sales personnel. This is the biggest fallacy that proves to be detrimental to a brand’s health and they are then left staring in the face of stagnant or falling sales.
To hire the right talent and effectively train them on product knowledge, grooming, soft skills, and suggestive sales focusing on customer experience that befits the brand is the call of the day. The best employees demonstrate a sense of responsibility, drive and brand ownership. Build organizational connectivity by showing your employees that you care, mentor them with a future career growth plan and equip them with tangible and intangible tools on how to treat customers and deliver superior service.
A superior customer service is the key differentiator to online retail. Giving customers a reason to visit could become your advantage over e-commerce and it can be complemented by offering a seamless omni-channel experience that integrates convenience and personalization for customers.
Brands would do well to have clearly defined job descriptions, updated to reflect responsibilities, employee reviews and feedback that should be taken regularly. There must be communication transparency in evaluating performance, compensation, and sales incentives. No matter what the future turns out to be, customer experience at your store touch points will be the key to success and differentiation in a largely clustered online and offline retail environment.
The author is Founder and Managing Director, Unison International, one of India’s top human resources consulting firms.