Monday, November 30, 2009

Lost Retail Sales and Attitude

Rarely do I grace the doors of shopping centres, simply because I find the floors a challenge for someone with a walking problem.

About 6 weeks before Christmas, I had the opportunity to do some sightseeing in a reasonably large metropolitan shopping centre.

I realize that sales people don’t get paid a lot of money, and a lot of the staff are young people, who maybe just filling in time between courses, careers or better offers. I know that some of them do work on commission, particularly those in the telecommunications industry, and yet the response I got left a lot to be desired.

I must admit I have little patience for shopping, let alone sloppy sales assistants. I dislike shopping at the best of times.

But to walk into a store and have people (staff) standing in the corner talking amongst themselves and not address the customer is very poor decorum. In fact it’s plain bad manners.

I am the sort of person that uses the sales staff as a gauge as to how the store receives and treats its’ customers. I have been known to determine who gets a big ticket sale simply because of the manner of the sales staff and I may have already visited 5 or 6 stores. I could very well go back to the 1st or the 2nd store, simply because of the manner of the staff.

I come from a customer service background, in fact you could say I was born and bred into into it. My parents owned holiday accommodation for as long as I can remember and only recently have they sold the business and moved onto retirement. Yes, I am aware that some customers can be painful, but to assume someone is painful before you have even spoken to them. In other words judging a book by its’ cover, is something that one shouldn’t do in customer service, particularly sales.

I take great pride in the fact that I am not your Average Joe, I don’t dress up, I don’t dress down, I wear clothes that I find comfortable. When you look at me – you would call me ‘middle class’. My hair is tidy, my clothes are clean and ironed. You would see 100’s of people like me every day.

I recall one very vivid memory, I was looking to buy a GPS, long before they became fashionable, before their prices dropped through the floor and when there were really only 2 or 3 brands on the market.

I visited 4 stores in the space or 1 hour, I stood in front of the display cabinets, trying to figure out which brand/model was best suited to my needs.

1st store The young customer sales service guy was helpful, friendly and had a hands on approach, nearly bought the unit there and then, but decided I had better check out the other stores.

2nd store – there were too many chiefs and not enough indians, I couldn’t get anyone to attend to my needs

3rd store – the sales person, ‘sort of’ knew about them, but hadn’t used them and was reluctant to advise me on what may have suited my needs.

4th store couldn’t get the middle-aged salesperson attention – I walked out after about 10 minutes

I returned to the first store and requested to the see the same person, I had originally been speaking to. He was out the back on a tea break. He was retrieved from said break and made a sale. It turns out that this day was his last, as he was moving to another sales position in another chain and I can see why. He had a can do attitude with a pleasant approach.

A smile costs nothing and yet it can be so rewarding!

If you work in sales remember, even to acknowledge someone can keep them in the store until you are free to be able to attend to their needs, wants, or desires!


  1. Good points, and one that brings us to the real issue - sales is a complex area to learn skills, if done well, yet business often neglects to train sales staff well. Unfortunately, management is often not well trained either, so the opportunity to really build a strong relationship with customers and staff goes begging. As do the shopper's tightly held dollars.

    To be good at sales, means (to me) selling with integrity. It means learning about the needs and wants of the customer, and helping them to articulate that (sometimes it isn't easy for the customer to know what will satisfy all they want in the product). It means being able to fit a product to the result desired, and being honest about what the product limitations and on-target benefits might be. Getting the sale can be done through dishonest means, but getting the customer back is what real sales is about.

  2. Thank-you for the comment - I don;t blame that staff as a whole - I mean they are employed by someone at the store and attitude and sales volums should be monitored at that end.

    I do make reference to "uses the sales staff as a gauge as to how the store receives and treats its’ customers."

    It's not wholly the staff's fault, although attitude goes a long way to fixing many problems, The stores MUST offer product and customer service training.

    Without that, the store fails, the name gets dragged through the mud and the public won't come back

    The aim of sales is to get the public wanting to return and recommending the store - not the other way around.

    and yes - dishonestly in product promotion is another reason why in that instance I did the walk around ;)