In terms of service, Christmas shopping this year has been a roller coaster ride from the highs of the interactions in the luxury stores of Pavillion to the lows of the interactions in the wannabe Malaysian fashion store in Mid Valley.
And even though approximately 85% of the interactions have left me frustrated, I want to be positive during the festive season and so am offering free advice to those retailers in Malaysia who want to build a profitable brand.
1) Teach your staff to smile when a customer walks into your shop. It costs nothing and instantly makes the customer feel welcome.
2) If you are a clothes store, get your staff to wear your clothes. If you are not a clothes store, develop a company policy on dress and stick to it. It may also help if you are responsible for laundry, that way the clothes will get washed.
3) Make it a company policy that all customer facing staff must have a shower and brush their teeth EVERY day, before coming to work. This is especially important in restaurants.
4) Teach your staff to approach the customer and say ‘good morning/afternoon’ etc with a smile on their face.
5) Teach your staff to understand how to respond if another customer interrupts a transaction. Essentially, teach them how to say no.
6) If you are a luxury or high end store, make it a company policy not to allow staff to drink from plastic bags when customers are in the store. Actually, make it a company policy not to allow staff to drink from plastic anything, ever.
7) The same goes with food. I walked into one store as a member of the staff was eating at the counter. He was on his own so came to serve me. I walked out 9 seconds later with half his samosa on my lapel.
8) The opening line, “Can I help you?” Begs a negative response. Teach your staff to try something open ended, such as “Are you looking for shirts or trousers?”
9) Sales staff are not order takers. If a customer, despite all the attempts by your staff to prevent him from making a purchase, insists on buying something, teach your staff to show something that goes well with the purchase. You never know, you might actually sell something else.
10) Listen carefully, the statement, “NO STOCK LAH!” is being used by many staff to get the prospect out of the store so the staff member can go back to sending sms messages to his friends. Teach your staff to apologise profusely for the fact that they just sold the last piece 15 minutes ago. Teach them to then explain that they will be happy to call other branches to see if they have the relevant product/size/colour. If you don’t have other branches, then teach them to ask nicely for the prospect’s number and explain that your customer service representative will call the prospect as soon as the correct product/size/colour comes in.
11) If someone buys something they have gone from being a prospect to a customer. Remember all that money you spent on launch party/PR/mailshots/leaflets/brochures/billboards/print ads etc? Well, you did all that for this moment. It wasn’t to create awareness, it was to drive this person to your store. And now he’s bought something, what are you going to do? Well, most of you let him walk out the door! Are you nuts? You have a 5% – 15% chance of selling to a prospect and a 50% chance of selling to an existing customer. So what is the point of letting a new customer walk out the door? It’s criminal! I’m serious! Be nice to this person, flatter him, spoil him, kiss him, do whatever it takes to get his contact information because he is now a customer. He is familiar with your product, your store, your staff, despite their best efforts. Your job now is to get him back into the store, preferably tomorrow!
12) Not every white person is a tourist. And not every tourist is a white person, but that’s another story. Just because a customer looks like a tourist, doesn’t mean he is one. Moreover, if he is wearing a suit, he probably has a white collar job which means, in Asia that he is probably paid well. Even if he is visiting, he may be back or he may be lonely so ensure your staff engage him.
13) The needs of a Saudi are different to those of an Englishman. And the needs of an Englishman are different to those of a Korean. You get the point. Invest in some training that teaches your staff to be able to develop rapport with different nationalities.
14) Pay your staff a commission on sales. If you don’t where is the incentive to sell your products? Without a commission, all the staff are doing is increasing your energy bill and destroying your brand.
15) While we are on the subject of remuneration, I suggest you pay your staff more. Every sales person I spoke to complained about their salary. One was earning RM550 per month, with no commission. That is slavery. Sales staff are an investment, not a cost. They represent your brand and, with the correct training, can multiply your profits enormously. And good ones are worth paying for. And before you tell me about the lack of loyalty, please don’t bother. If you create a nice environment with good pay, your staff will stick with you.
If you implement the above into your corporate strategy (if you have one, and many of the stores I visited over the last week can’t even spell it) then I guarantee you will increase your sales and move toward a more profitable brand.
I’ve got about 100 more of these but I’ve got a plane to catch. Happy Christmas!
7 thoughts on “Tips for building a retail brand”
You should bottle this post, send it to the Singapore Government & charge them a fortune… slight addition:
If you are hiring foreign (aka: Chinese) sales staff make sure they speak some English – even if you are a Chinese Restaurant – not all Singaporeans speak Mandarin, particularly the Chinese Singaporeans.
So if your front of house staff can’t communicate with your customer, they can’t take the bloody order!
Stuart, thanks for taking the time to post a comment.
I note a hint of frustration in your post!
It’s the classic price driven mentality indicative of many Asian firms. Slash and burn prices and hope that you can outlast the competition and be the last man standing and reap the profits! It’s gonna get ugly!
Frustrated? Moi? Long past frustrated, more ‘resigned to an uncertain fate’
Actually your post + my comments have been a long running topic in the Forum pages of the Straits Times, with Indians, Malay & Chinese all commenting “Why should we have to speak a foreign language to service staff when we want to order a meal? It’s Our country, regardless of race language or religion!”
Stuart said to bottle it and send it. I say, print it out in a 20″ X 30″ POSTER, LAMINATE, FRAME and then send it to the list of companies whose core business is in retail, and to the entire lot in the service sector from the banks to the airlines!
Brand is but just a logo, a colour and just a name!!! Sighs….let me not say any more..
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year..
I really like this blog. Please continue the great work. Regards!!!
Reminded me of someone I know here in Malaysia who is of Saudi & Brit parentage. Wonder what will appeal to him then? Oh well, merry Christmas and God bless!