If You Under Staff Your Store You’re In Big Trouble

I wrote last week about the challenging environment facing all physical retail stores this year, with already a number of well-recognized brands closing stores. This week I want to focus on something else that causes massive frustration in physical stores, but very rarely happens online – for slightly different reasons.

I’m talking about not having enough staff in store to serve customers. We have become a race that is so time poor, we won’t wait for anything and a queue in a store seems to last forever. When we can’t find a staff member to help us out, we are quick to voice our frustration and vote with our feet.

No such thing as a queue online, or not enough staff members, maybe just a poor internet connection, blackspot or a massive Black Friday when the website you’re on gets too much traffic at once and is overloaded. Those crafty online guys, and yes Amazon sticks out here, are doing everything to pinch your hard-earned customers and have them use their shopping carts instead.

I have encountered the lack of staff situation many times as well as had friends and colleagues regale stories of having to wait and not being able to find a staff member anywhere on the floor. The big department stores are often guilty of this. How do you try a pair of shoes on when you need the staff member to get them for you? At least with clothing, I can take it to the change room myself, but I’ll only buy what I came in for – a great salesperson can make other suggestions I hadn’t even thought of to increase the average sale – good for the store and also good for me.

You can’t add on sell with not enough staff, in fact, you’ll end up losing customers! A third of customers who experienced a problem at apparel stores were not able to locate help and 6% of all possible sales are lost because of lack of service (in a Report from Massachusetts Institute of Technology). I’m sure in some stores the loss of sales is higher than 6%, whatever the figure, no retailer can afford to lose sales. Especially in this situation where the frustration of no service could easily push customers to buy online – and they may never come back.

Most apparel retailers do have an advantage as a lot of customers still want to touch, feel and try on, but this is wasted if the retailer can’t deliver great service and manage their merchandise – all things that require having the right amount of staff in store when they are needed.

I understand that staffing is one of the biggest costs for retailers along with rent, so managing rosters is a critical role to get right. However getting it wrong causes so many issues with customers put the staff that is serving under immense pressure and they are highly likely to go into transaction mode to survive the influx. Customers don’t want to be transacted, they want an experience.

In summary, retailers have to focus on staffing to maximize sales and profits not to minimize costs. When the focus is on maximizing sales, staff feel supported and they know there are expectations to meet and exceed their KPI’s. When they do everyone wins and there’s are big chance the customer will make an effort to come back – and that’s what it’s all about!

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.