This month we’ve decided to present a new feature in our magazine. We are honoring eight Superstars Behind the Counter, the true not-so-silent warriors that ring the cash register every day. They are a retailer’s greatest assets.
Recently, as we all know by now, Amazon revealed a huge new business development with a brick-and-mortar store called Amazon Go. It has no cashiers; shoppers simply swipe their Amazon card and a cloud-like system tracks their purchases. Pick up what you need, leave, get charged electronically. It’s certainly a notion that turned a lot of heads in the retail community. Maybe it’s good for food or books. But where are the people?
Smart businesses know that employees helping customers figure out the best products for them is key to forming a lasting relationship.
“If you believe your people are a bottom line cost, then you are hiring the wrong people,” said William Vanderbloemen, founder/CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group. A new report from Korn Ferry revealed employers now value technology over all other assets, including their employees. Vanderbloemen wanted to counter this: “I believe people are still your greatest and most valuable asset,” he said.
I’ve written before about understanding “The Customer Journey” in your environment. The minute a customer walks into your store, or visits your website, or calls your customer service line, they begin their journey in your store. And there are so many points along the way where they can have a bad experience that will walk them right out the door (or have them move to the next website). So much of this journey might not involve interaction with a person. It might entail how clean your store is or how organized your displays are. It might be the amount of time someone has to wait on the phone or at the cash register, or how long it takes to return a product. The “journey” takes place on many different levels.
But clearly the most important part of any journey is your focus on the customer. “Customer service is what establishes your reputation as a business,” said Vanderbloemen. When a customer says, “I’ve never been treated like that before by a company,” that’s what keeps and grows your customer base. Or, on the other hand, it might be the one interaction that prevents that person from ever walking into your store again.
Bill Macaitis, former CMO and current advisor of Slack, said: “Marketing doesn’t define what a brand is. A brand is made up of every single interaction someone has with your company.” What makes you memorable and what keeps people coming back to you is in large part thanks to the people who establish your reputation.
I recently came across an article about McDonald’s responding to the rise of the minimum wage by replacing full-service employees with self-service kiosks. Union demands for a higher starting wage have forced businesses with small profit margins to make decisions like this. But think about your experience at McDonald’s with an iPad monitored by an apathetic worker versus the “service and a smile” philosophy that you should employ in your store. Training your employees to leave customers feeling “well served” might be the key to your success. Moreover, it might be the most critical part of the customer journey.
“In the last 100 years, technology has completely transformed the way businesses are run,” said Vanderbloemen. “Without the technology that we have in what seems like the most simple and basic innovations—like laptops or Internet access—many things would be near impossible. Every college graduate these days is highly proficient with a computer, which was not a reality just 30 years ago. The tech world will continue to be on the cutting edge of innovation and business.”
But people are still a vital part of that process. After all, that’s where ideas are born, tested and tweaked. In the end, technology means a better future for your business, but humans are at the helm of those breakthroughs.
Retail Superstars: Your Greatest Assets
That brings us back to our superstars concept. Sometimes employers take their own people for granted. They love the interactions they have with customers. And they literally depend on them to close the sale each and every day. When we asked our industry to nominate their favorite salespeople, and tell us a story about them, the results were astounding. Some talked about product knowledge. Others talked about personal accomplishments. Some talked about good humor or going the extra mile that didn’t necessarily end in a sale. But it certainly resulted in a lasting impression.
It is those lasting impressions that might be the key to your success. Think about it: If customers leave your store smiling, odds are they’ll be back.
We’re proud to celebrate eight Superstars Behind the Counter in this issue. We plan on making this an annual feature in Digital Imaging Reporter.
Your people are truly your greatest assets. Make sure they feel that appreciation every day.