In order to keep your store plugging along, you need to create and follow set guidelines and policies. Without doing so, you and your staff will just be left spinning your tires. Sticking to a policy might not be too difficult, but creating one that works certainly can be. A great way to come up with a top-quality policy is by emulating the policies of successful retail stores. If there’s one store that generally thrills customers to no end, it’s the Apple Store. With more than 300 stores worldwide, Apple has carved out an impressive niche for itself in terms of customer service. By implementing a few of the store’s best techniques, you should be able to create a workable and successful policy.
You should never take a “sink or swim” philosophy when it comes to the employees who will be interacting with customers. According to various reports, Apple takes pains to ensure that its employees who work face-to-face with customers are extensively trained. While some folks are born with the innate ability to interact well with others, it doesn’t mean that they do so in a way that makes sense in a retail environment. No matter what kinds of attributes such employees bring to the table, they should receive ample amounts of training.
Set Guidelines for Customer Interactions
Employees should emerge from their training sessions with plenty of tools, tips and techniques for interacting with customers. Apple puts firm guidelines in place to ensure that customers come away with positive impressions. You should strive to do the same. For example, Apple employees are taught to listen above anything else. They are trained to show customers that they are listening by sprinkling their responses with phrases like “I see” and “go on.” They are taught not to use negative phrases like “unfortunately”; instead, they use phrases like “as it turns out.”
Problem Solving should Trump Selling
Your employees are out on the floor to sell things, so that’s what they should do – right? According to Apple’s philosophy, that’s not the way to go. In fact, Apple Store employees are trained to focus on problem solving rather than making sales. When you step into an Apple Store, you don’t have to worry about being harassed by the salespeople. This fosters a more pleasant, relaxed and positive environment. Try implementing a similar policy at your store and see how it works for you.
Positivity over Negativity
Looking on the bright side of life is a great way to keep customers happy. Your employees need to learn how to deliver not-so-great news in a positive and upbeat way. This doesn’t mean that they should avoid sharing unpleasant news; it just means that they need to learn how to frame it in the right way. When delivering such news, they need to make it clear that solutions are available. Instead of saying, “We are out of stock on that size,” an employee could say something like, “We are expecting a shipment that includes that size in two days.”
Give Everyone Suitable Roles
An introverted person isn’t going to be too happy standing out on the floor interacting with customers. Similarly, an extrovert is going to be wasting his talents stocking shelves in the back. Assess each employee’s strengths and weaknesses in order to find a suitable role for each one. If a person seems like a round peg in a square hole, it’s probably because he has been given the wrong position. Stay flexible and be willing to switch people around if the need arises. Your customers will appreciate it when you give employees roles that make the most of their natural strengths. When you put that extrovert on the sales floor, you are sure to see many more happy, smiling faces out there.
The Apple Store isn’t perfect – no retail business is – but it has a strong and loyal following. The entire Apple brand has been built up around fostering a strong bond with customers. If you have never visited an Apple Store, you should do so before you create or reconfigure your store’s policies. Spend a little time there; interact with the staff. Watch how various employees resolve issues and deal with problems. You are sure to come away with some great ideas for improving the overall feel of your own store. In the long run, the things that you learn from the Apple Store will help you create a stronger and more successful business.
Content adapted from Wall Street Journals article, “Secrets From Apple’s Genius Bar: Full Loyalty, No Negativity“
Photo from Grant Robertson, “iPad Launch Day – Atlanta, Georgia” April 3, 2009 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.