Creating a Pure Customer Environment

Retailers want to deliver a shopping experience consistent with customers' expectations of the
environment, products and employees found in their stores. But too often associates concentrate
on non-selling tasks when customers are in your stores. Associates need to be refocused on the
customer. Sounds simple enough, but many of today's foremost retailers are not effectively and
consistently achieving this focus in all of their stores.

Turn your managers into leaders
Managers are in a unique position to set the tone on customer satisfaction in each and everyone of your stores. You can help your managers by streamlining administrative and non-selling tasks so that they can help associates set selling priorities. The emphasis should be on an active approach to selling.

Develop a customer service vision for the entire organization
A clear vision is the driving force of an effective customer service strategy. The vision should be more than a slogan --it should be a vital, living, changing culture. Everything at your company should be aligned with this vision. And keeping the vision simple will allow consistent execution by all employees, creating satisfied, repeat customers.

Involve the whole organization
Your service vision should be a company­wide effort that sends the message that, "This is a great place to shop and a great place to work." You must first and foremost convey the company standards to your staff because these are the people who will convey the message to your customers. The company standards must be carefully defined and thoroughly understood by your staff -- so that the desired attitudes and behaviors can be reflected in their actions and interactions with customers. In the end, actions alone will make a lasting impression on your customers.

Vision and Training are not enough
A well-defined vision and thorough training won't guarantee success. Employees must embrace the ideas before they can practice the techniques and communicate the vision to customers. Many programs fail because they're viewed by employees as another "flavor-of-the-month" program, a cardboard priority that will bend or crumble during the next expense crunch. The program needs commitment -- not lip-service -- from top management.

Consistency is the key to commitment
Everything from labor scheduling, training, store policies and performance reviews must be aligned with the vision and applied consistently. Only the program's consistent application can develop the managers' and associates' complete commitment to your customers.

Remember the program is conveyed first from associate to associate and then from associate to customers. Many departments never deal directly with customers, but they do deal with other associates. By ensuring that internal customers are treated with the same vision as external customers, the needs of your external customers will be met.

For more information on this topic contact Pat Fitzpatrick at Atlanta Retail Consulting Inc