HR need to provide retail staff with better customer service skills

by Human Capital08 Jun 2011
HR managers in the retail sector have been encouraged to provide superior customer service training to employees, in order to compete with waning retail figures and the online boom.
Retailers are losing out to online competition because ‘old fashioned’ customer service skills have been lost, according to retail service expert Timothy Millett from i perform.
“Organisations focused on customer experience generally outperform their competitors 2:1 in revenue growth and report 5%-10% higher profit margins,” he said.
“Retailers who are getting it right by creating superior customer experiences are not feeling the pinch. Luxury brands in particular are really dominating as they realise the value in training their front-line staff to give them expert product understanding and the knowledge of what it takes to satisfy the customer.”
Millett referred to a US study that found that even in a tough economy consumers reward exceptional customer experiences, with retailers seeing improved financial results. Over 73% of the respondents stated that they would expand their purchases with a business by 10% or more if the service was superior.
Vaughn Paul, director of HR at Optus, said that keeping employee skills up to date is an important element for a company with a wide range of customer service roles.
“What’s really important, particularly at the coal face, is that [employees have] quick orientation around getting ready for work, and that they’re getting regular updates around the product/system side so they can be effective in their day to day role,” he said.
“Also around the mindset side – what does customer experience really mean and how do I differentiate and align what the company wants me to do?"

Mark Whiteley, director of learning and development at Luxottica, told Human Capital that more than ever, successful retail strategy centres around the customer experience

He said that HR in the retail sector need to be translating the business' needs and goals to their employees and providing them with a better understanding of the organisation's customers.
“HR plays a key role in building the context around our strategic objectives to build equity in our people to believe in why we do what we do,” he said.
According to Whiteley, the L&D team is a critical conduit in improving employee’s understanding of the customer journey and how the right questioning strategies can build relationships and uncover the customer’s needs.
“If done well, the retail customer experience should evoke a powerful emotional response. It should be memorable and build equity with your customers because their encounter with your business delivers an exceptional experience. That’s a key point of difference in the bricks and mortar versus online retail space.
“From an HR perspective, our focus on creating world class customer experiences is reflected in the strategy driven through our L&D teams, but also in the way HR engages with our internal customers.”

- David Corkery

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