A study recently published by Wharton, University of
Pennsylvania and Verde Group discusses the findings of a survey of 1000 randomly
selected consumers. The objective of the survey was to discover what problems
shoppers were encountering during their shopping experiences at retail stores
and which of those problems were most likely to be discussed with others and
which actually put customer loyalty at risk.
The findings were, of course, predictable. In the final analysis, sales
associates appear to be able to Ďmake or breakí the shopping experience. I donít
believe we really need surveys to figure this out but, given the simplicity of
the findings, they will likely be of some use in convincing retailers of the
reality. DMSRetail.com has always maintained that retailers should pay more,
expect more and get more. see article at
The study may also be useful in identifying actual behaviors that retailerís can
address in order to ensure their customer loyalty is not at risk. The bottom
line is that the majority of customers take greater issue with sales associate
problems than with store problems. So, if you address the behaviors of sales
associates and do an adequate job with your store, merchandising, pricing, etc.
you should be able to keep your customers satisfied with their shopping
experience, encouraging them to speak about your organization only when they
have something favorable to say and, of course, to keep coming back.
The most damaging sales associate problems were found to be:
1. Not being able to
find a sales associate,
2. Being ignored by sales associates and
3. Insensitivity to
long check-out lines.
Iím sure that could not come as a surprise to anyone in retail management. Those
problems have all been addressed, havenít they? How is it that they continue to
be issues facing consumers in the 21st century?
To this retail consultant the study provides very interesting reading
particularly when you get to the part where the retailer is let off the hook for
the problems presumably created by sales associates. It is absolutely
unbelievable that this paper would justify the retailers that provide inadequate
wages and insufficient staff levels to properly take care of their customers.
They say that most of the required sales associate behaviors are trainable and
recruiting a certain type of individual in the first place will solve these
It is suggested, in the study, that competition in the retail industry may not
permit higher wages or bonuses to be used to recruit better talent. It is also
suggested that hiring more workers wonít necessarily help but having staff who
are sensitive to the customers needs may. So, having too few associates is
acceptable as long as those associates are sensitive?
It doesnít work that way. Having too few associates on the sales floor shows the
companyís lack of sensitivity to both the customers and the associates. Even the
most sensitive associate will lose their focus on their customers if the tasks
involved in maintaining the store are overwhelming or if there are too few sales
associates to properly service all of the customers. At some point even the most
sensitive associate will feel that the company doesnít provide enough hours
(payroll $) for proper floor coverage and execution of tasks so it canít really
be that important.
It goes without saying that Store Managers should be recruiting associates who
are friendly, outgoing, intelligent, well presented, image appropriate,
respectful, sensitive, and the list goes on. If all sales associates were model
hires, the problems for customers would largely disappear provided the store is
sufficiently staffed. But most retailers are not willing to pay higher hourly
rates or to compensate based on performance. They cannot attract the model
individual so they continue to hire, and attempt to train, unqualified
individuals who are willing to accept lower wages. Often these associates cannot
be counted on to take care of business the way the retailer expects them to. On
top of that, there are usually too few of these individuals on the sales floor.
Wages and compensation plans for retail store employees need to be studied again
and again until a solution is found. Usually that solution can be found by cost
reduction measures being applied to other areas of the business Ė instead of the
store sales floor Ė and by scientific evaluation of the correlation between
sales and payroll.
I canít begin to explain why this is not being discussed in more boardrooms.
You can reach
Josephine Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org
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