Why Leaders Have to Walk the Talk

As we all know, the way our customers buy is forever changing as technology becomes more and more into play for traditional bricks and mortar retailing. More and more time and money are being invested into making stores look amazing so customers are wowed when they first walk in. The buzz word for retail these days seems to be retailtainment, (which I mentioned in an earlier blog), whereby customers are entertained by the store environment in an effort to draw them in and get them to stay longer.

Now I’m all for this, as anything that creates an experience has to be good for the customer, however, my biggest issue is the staff has to back this up with their enthusiasm. It’s their enthusiasm that shows they want to be there, wants to serve the customer and it shows through as a genuine interest in wanting to make the customer feel special.

The big problem right there. As I have banged on before many times the level of service that I see and experience is a long way (most of the time) from enthusiastic. We have all experienced the lack of attention as staff talk amongst themselves, put tasks first and when they do approach give a strong impression that the customer is an interruption. Retailers can have all the technological bells and whistles, but if the staff doesn’t back it up it’s just not going to work anywhere as well as it should.

One of the many reasons why our service is still poor, or at best average, is because of poor leadership. Customer experience is management driven. If the leader of the business has a focus on service, then the staff will too. Often senior leaders are too far removed from the frontline, they don’t spend enough time in the store talking to staff and talking to the most important people in every business, the customer. Little or no time is spent observing how staff interact with customers.

Senior leaders have to know what challenges their customers face, so they can solve them and they have to know what challenges and road blocks prevent their staff from providing excellent customer service. The only way to know is to spend time at the front line – where the money is made or lost!

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappo’s spends time each month taking customer’s calls in their contact center. What a great example for staff and customers love talking to the main person. Here are some tips for senior leaders if you want to drive a customer service culture:

  • Spend time at the frontline actually serving and talking to customers on a monthly basis – the staff and customers will love it
  • Regularly spend time in store talking to both customers and staff members – no filter, you’ll actually find out what your customers and staff are experiencing
  • Seek feedback from the frontline team on what’s working and what’s not – encourage staff to come up with ideas to improve the customer experience
  • Encourage a culture of exceeding customer expectations – share stories and examples of staff who have done this and challenge everyone to constantly focus on this
  • Have a coaching culture whereby frontline staff is receiving feedback, particularly positive feedback on their interaction with customers – challenge store managers to lead this by being observant and watching how staff interact with customers.

There’s a bit of work to get this happening, but if you think just introducing exciting and cutting edge technology will do the trick, you’ll miss a massive opportunity to compliment this with amazing, passionate and enthusiastic staff. This, to me, is the ultimate experience that customers will love.

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Retail Solution” 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.