As seen in Creative Selling magazine – 

I was recently at an auto parts store, looking for a simple item. Once I finally found it, I made my way to the counter. The only two employees were working with a customer on a special order product. Okay, I understand maybe the one fellow is training the other in the fine art of placing special orders, no problem.

After about two minutes, they got the part ordered, problem solved. I was feeling like two minutes was a long time for me to be standing there but I was happy it was my turn.  I started to get a little anxious when one of the employees began repackaging a part they opened for the previous customer to look at. Of course, the parts didn’t go back into the packaging as well as it came out. I watched him take the part back out turn it around, turn it sideways and upside down about four times until I finally blurted out, “Maybe you could repackage that when you don’t have customers waiting to check out!” Just a friendly hint–he got it!

Maybe you’ve been mis-handled or needed someone to help you only to find the store understaffed. I don’t know about you, but despite my best efforts to be patient and understanding, I still struggle when I have a quick question and the person behind the counter is lollygagging around.

Why does this get us so upset? More importantly, how can we prevent our customers from feeling this way. Let’s explore the three elements that factor in heavily to this dynamic.

Pace – Expectations – Indifference.

As in life, the world of business has its ups and downs. There seem to be times when you can’t give your product away and others when you can’t keep it on the shelves. Retail stores face this challenge every day.

When a retail store is quiet and customers are scarce, employees externalize this by moving through their tasks at a lower rate of speed. Because many specialty retail stores often have these quiet periods, this (low rate) becomes the default pace. If you ask any retailer they will tell you floor traffic comes in unpredictable waves. Employees set the default pace to the rate of speed the store observes most of the time. The default pace may be free from a sense of urgency and may be incongruent with a customer walking in from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Moving at a slowly is fine if you live in the Caribbean; people expect a laid back slow pace. However, your general customer has an expectation of prompt and courteous service.  Let’s face it, we live in the world of instant. Whether it’s food, a cup of coffee or information, we expect it right away.

Customers are not unhappy to find your business swamped with customers. In fact customers prefer to shop and stay longer in a busy store. The problem comes in when customers are met with or have a perception of indifference. This tends to leave your patrons feeling as if your staff doesn’t care about their individual needs. Although it may not be the case, perception is reality. 

Customer expectations run high. Turning todays customer into tomorrows patron is no easy task. Internet retailers and social marketing experts have made great advances toward individualizing the shopping experience. The are working hard to captivate and satisfy your customer!

When your place of business is booming customers usually understand. What they can’t understand, is a lackadaisical approach. If your customers don’t generally get dropped off in busloads, it makes it difficult to recognize the need for a change in pace. Maybe you’ve looked up and all the suddenly wondered where all these people came from. When this happens, you can bet you’re probably a little late in shift gears.

None the less, get moving faster right away. Look up and greet customers. Say hello to everyone you pass. Help as many people as you can simultaneously. Walk fast everywhere you go. If you are working in a checkout line, answer questions while you’re waiting for the MasterCard to clear at the register.  Say hello, good morning, how are you today to customers as far back in line as reasonable.

Remember that people understand when you’re busy in a store… but not if you work slowly. Smile and be friendly. Your efforts will convey that you are working hard to keep your head above water. It is human nature for a customer to empathize when they see you struggling to stay afloat. Your customers will actually try to be helpful when they observe you making a concerted effort.  This can turn customers into part of the positive environment instead of the point of the problem.

Sure, you will have “those days” where nothing goes right. But, when all you have is lemons, make lemonade!  Your effort and positive attitude will not go unrecognizing when you are intentional about Picking Up The Pace.

All the best,

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