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Five tips for effective customer service in the retail sector

The more engaged customers are, the
more likely they will keep coming back.

By Nicole Attias

What is true empathy? Is it hearing what the consumer says and waiting until they calm down? When dealing with any client, it is imperative franchisees put themselves in their guests’ shoes to obtain a complete understanding of the situation. That said, practicing superb guest service becomes even more of a challenge in the retail sector, where dealing with end-users is an emotionally driven experience. So what’s a franchisee to do? Consider the following:

1. Speak with positive language and tonality

When customers are upset with mistakes or problems that have not been resolved, a manager’s behaviour can be a decisive factor in the situation’s outcome. On the phone, a franchisee might be tempted to tell an upset customer to remain calm; however, this will only exacerbate the situation. In this circumstance, it is best to remain silent and allow the client to vent, while taking notes as they speak. Once the rant stops, an owner can ask questions about the situation in a positive manner. Further, the proprietor should reassure the consumer they will find a reasonable solution to the issue. In contrast, if a franchisee is not in a good mood, they should avoid answering phone calls as an annoyed tone can create a larger problem. Additionally, when addressing an issue in person, maintain good eye contact and body language with the customer.

If a franchisee is not in a good mood, they should avoid answering phone calls as an annoyed tone can create a larger problem.

2. Use their name

Getting a morning coffee at the same spot every day can be comforting when one is treated warmly. That said, most people want to feel important—especially in today’s world where simple courtesies have been forgotten. Therefore, owners should treat their clients with such pleasantries. Hearing one’s name subconsciously signifies a high level of importance and also creates an interest in repeat business. This is important to remember as a purchase is often based on feeling and not necessarily determined by price.

3. Listen

Hearing an angry customer march into a company store is not pleasant. In such instances, the owner has to play the role of a therapist. Further, it is important to remain silent until the client is ready to hear a response; when replying, it is important to use a calm tone with empathy. The situation will serve as a learning experience and will help an owner improve their business.

4. Learn to say “no”

Managers should use caution if they are placed in a situation where they must use “no” toward a client. In many cases, an upset customer does not want to hear a franchisee state, “I’m sorry, but we cannot do this for you because it is not part of our company policy.” That said, it might be better for a proprietor to say “no” by apologizing and offering alternate solutions with a smile. Genuine sincerity cannot be simulated and generally, customers can quickly determine if a franchisee cares about their problems and continued business.

There are many useful ways to treat customers effectively—especially when managing a difficult situation.

5. Follow up

Excellent customer service not only addresses issues that arise in daily business, but it also extends beyond the transaction that just took place. Therefore, following up with a client a few weeks after a discussion can help build long-term trust in the business and owner—do not take this step for granted. It is amazing the amount of established relationships that can be lost due to negligence.

Closing thoughts

There are many useful ways to treat customers effectively—especially when managing a difficult situation. However, once the trust between a client and a manager is broken, it is extremely difficult to repair. Franchisees should continuously prepare themselves for future encounters. Emphasizing with customers will help ensure a proprietor’s long-term success.

Nicole Attias is a sales representative with Colliers and has extensive business development experience, be it cold calling or networking in the industry. Her skills include article and business writing, delivering presentations, and public relations. Attias is also an entrepreneur who has worked in different industries prior to real estate including: recruiting and corporate training and helping companies grow their client base. She has a bachelor of arts (BA) (honours) in psychology from York University, a Leadership Certificate from Seneca College, and has participated in Toastmasters International for public speaking training.

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