I’m not sure exactly why, but most customer service associates do not understand that every consumer purchase has a story behind it. Learning the story is a critical component to make a human connection. The connection is the first step in creating and then building a relationship. It is a process. Without that initial connection, the opportunity for repeat business will definitely be diminished.
I recently brought a flash drive into a neighborhood camera store. The associate asked me how she could help. I told her I wanted to make prints. She said, “fine,” came out from behind the counter, put the flash drive in, and voila, 15 family photos appeared on the screen. Obviously, these pictures, memories of special moments in my life – my granddaughter’s baby naming, a wedding, and a birthday celebration – were important to me.
I guess I was expecting some response from the associate because I was disappointed when there was no recognition from her. With my “customer experience/service expert” hat on, it was clear that the associate missed an opportunity to connect with her customer, me. Especially in that store and context, with visible evidence right in front of us, it would have been simple. Even a comment of, “looks like you had a great party or that’s a cute baby,” would have been sufficient. I left with my prints and the thought that the next time I wanted photo prints or anything related, I would take my business elsewhere.
In any business, buying a sofa, scarf or even a box of candy all have a personal story. The sofa could be furniture for a newly weds’ first home together, the scarf, a gift for a dear friend who just came home from the hospital and the candy might be for a future mother-in-law on the day the groom plans to ask his father-in-law for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The back-story itself is not important; that it exists is the issue.
Sales associates should always be trained to ask questions without being invasive. If someone is buying a gift, learning what the occasion is could be an excellent icebreaker. For stores that primarily offer self-serve, the checkout staff can be easily trained to notice when scanning items, what they are. By authentically saying, “that’s a wonderful gift” as they wrap it, or, “that’s a great buy,” or, “what a lovely scarf,” helps build an instant connection.
No one walks into a store, visits a website or calls a contact center unless they are hoping they find what they are looking for. Each purchase has a story attached. A wise retailer will train their employees to be observant, listen to not only what the customer is saying, but how he or she is feeling. Finding out the story behind the purchase sets the stage for repeat business.
When hiring new associates for your business, make sure they are naturally curious. While it’s true that curiosity might have killed the cat, it doesn’t apply in the retail world. A curious nature makes an associate more inclined not to see consumer’s purchase as a widget with no meaning, but an item with significance.
Do you hire associates who are curious, interested and eager to learn new things and meet new people?