While we like to think about relationships with consumers from a broad organizational perspective, ultimately the heavy load of this consumer perception is carried by the people directly involved in these interactions. At the end of the day, it comes down to your employee’s ability to make real, human connections with individuals who contact your brand online, over-the-phone, or walk into your store. When considering the in-store experience specifically, individual employees have an enormous impact on your brand’s ability to form meaningful, long-term relationships with its patrons. Retail organizations can gain an advantage by training in-store associates to simply acknowledge each and every guest with a greeting statement when they enter and depart your brick-and-mortar location.
The first step to establishing a great in-store experience is greeting every single patron as they walk into your store. The longer they wait for a greeting, the less likely they will leave your store with a positive perception of the service you provided. Ideally, your employees are greeting customers within one minute of them walking into your store, but in reality, many customers wait over five minutes before any sort of acknowledgement takes place. Second To None recently conducted a benchmarking study of select casual apparel locations within the United States, and we found that an average of 37% of respondents were in the store for over five minutes before receiving a greeting from an employee, while 39% of respondents waited less than one minute. This small discrepancy shows that there is an opportunity for brands to quickly jump ahead of the competition and become an in-store experience industry leader.
One of the best ways to establish high customer acknowledgement in your stores is to make sure that they are properly staffed. Without the appropriate number of associates present in your store during operating hours, there is a much higher risk that your brand will wind up closer to the 5+ minutes category. Of the brands we measured, the highest average number of employees present when a customer walked into the store was four, and the lowest was 2.74. While massive retail stores like Macy’s or Nordstrom’s will have to granulize this by department or floor, for the typical retail store, keeping about four employees at all times should help encourage high levels of customer acknowledgment, ultimately leading to a better overall perception of your brand.
An initial greeting is an important step along the path-to-purchase because it opens up the door to further service requests, without making the customer exert an extra effort. The typical greeting should be a standard, “Hello, how are you doing today?” Once you have opened up the communication, employees should then ask whether or not there is any sort of assistance they can provide. If a customer does need help, your brand looks eager to serve, and if they do not at that moment you have established a relationship with the customer so that they feel open to do so if something comes up. Regardless of what this initial interaction directly leads to, simply training employees to be proactive about these greetings and acknowledgements can help to establish a positive consumer perception of your brand.
Retail organizations can gain a significant competitive advantage with the service provided by in-store employees, and it all starts with an appropriate greeting statement. Many brands are not currently prioritizing customer acknowledgment as a pillar of their Customer Experience platform, meaning that there is an opportunity to attain a significant portion of your consumers’ mindshare by excelling in this area. Ultimately, employees bear the responsibility to provide a great in-store experience to the many customers that walk through your door. Ensure that these opportunities start off on the right foot by training all in-store associates to acknowledge each and every customer that walks through your door.