You, Your Customer and Counter Relationships

Dec 2, 2009

Ever gone to a retailer and been met with a smug, no interest face? Have you thought to yourself, why am I even here talking to a counter person who really doesn’t even give a hoot? Perhaps you’re like many who view the person as the front door to the business. Furthermore, you most likely perceive the counter person as the business.

Behavior and communication is an environment set up by two parties. Knowing which buttons to push is a science as you select your next move in developing a friendly atmosphere with your customer. It is that atmosphere that either translates to a sale or just another body passing by. You may ask why the customer didn’t stay, didn’t ask questions, didn’t approach the counter and didn’t ask for advice. The answer may be in your body language the all-encompassing image spoken or not.

Got Personality?

Your persona is an indicator as to professionalism. Without a doubt, it is a key factor in the maintenance of your developing a new or sustaining a current relationship. If one thinks of a company representative, what comes to mind? It is with a probing thought that you immediately recall the pros and cons of your experiences with a counter person. Was the person acting as the “company” treating you as a VIP, or was it just a counter slug filling up space within their eight-hour day?

A coin has two sides, as do most personalities. Not every person has a 100% day everyday. But, it is the little things that convey the message of, “I want to serve your needs and serve it as a professional.” The customer is looking for the smile, the positive communicative stance, the verbal welcome that is genuine and the feeling that he’s getting the best of the best personal service.

Starting off with the basics, you’ll need to address common communication practices within your workplace. This is often more difficult when you try to balance the technical personality with the customer-needs satisfaction quotient. Being able to explain in a simple yet effective way is not an easy task. This is mainly because one must bring both a pleasant and affirmative personality to serving the customer as well as the knowledge of the product and/or service offered.

There are factors that may aid in overcoming the natural barriers and shortfalls of a counter person who has the product knowledge but is still improving their personal communication skills. And there are simple-yet effective-visual considerations, such as fitting the professional image of the business as an established and grounded enterprise the self-confidence builder of being able to communicate and speak your business as a professional.

Communication skills are a series of practice drills while at the same time building your business knowledge. This will actually enable you to improve your personal command of the business and product language. That’s a solid one-two punch in resolving minor obstacles while developing your business style and delivery.

Not only will you be more comfortable with the situation, but your customer will have a feeling of dealing with a counter person who has a built-in personal belief system with their business, product, service and who delivers with confidence.

A business owner can aid their counter person with training, encouragement and role-playing. Some people have a natural ability to meet and greet, while others are a hazard to the business. Thus, it is an important communication strategy to implement a series of group staff meetings focusing on improving communication skills as a process of improving business development.

Producing sales is an absolute requirement to maintaining and keeping the bottom line in the black. Thus, it is the customer who is the bottom line: the person who really keeps your front door open and who is likely to refer others to your business. Customer service is an immediate top priority. Keeping the customer is keeping residual income streams.

Keeping the customer coming back is the counter person’s primary job. This is accomplished with a number of simple yet extremely effective methods such as greeting your customer, anticipating the customer’s need, making a buying suggestion, taking the customer to the product or reference where the item is located and providing a parting comment with the extension of personal attention.

The Greeting

The greeting must be a genuine approach that is appreciated by the customer. With a friendly eye and contact smile, the greeting to your establishment is greatly appreciated by the buyer. This doesn’t have to be an aggressive overt interaction with the customer just a sincere, “Welcome.” After all, while it is your place of business, remember it is the customer who keeps the doors open. Eye contact is also an element of greeting. It is this encounter, with a smile, that encourages the customer to fulfill their purpose in opening that front door.

This is also important when doing an event such as a show. Don’t tackle the customer. This is when you rush to their side, present yourself with an over zealous greeting and smother the customer with a blast of information faster than an auctioneer hocking a ’57 T-Bird.

Meeting the Need, Making a Suggestion

Anticipating the need is when the counter person has established communication with the buyer. The customer has entered your business, connected with the counter person through the greeting process and may ask for a particular product or have a question. Having proper training in product knowledge is critical within this element of communicating with the customer. You can’t afford to stumble, be inadequately prepared or not be familiar with product specs. This is the pre-sale period when product knowledge, providing information and having an adequate delivery of the message is critical to maintaining and establishing that your company or shop is top drawer. Miss here and you may have missed the sale.

At this point you may have another opportunity to make a product suggestion, such as add-on equipment or accessories. Remember, small add-on’s add to the bottom line. In the product training of your personnel, advise your counter person not to get lost in the excitement of the sale, but suggest additional products that may meet an additional need of the customer.

Lead the Way

Provided you have adequate coverage of the counter, take your customer to the part location in your store. Do not simply point; that is lazy customer service.

Walk the customer to the part, and encourage them to inspect the surrounding area for additional products you offer. If you demonstrate the product at the counter, do so with the product facing the customer and enhance their desire by pointing out and referencing the products or service features and benefits.

Again, don’t hurry the sales process. Enable your customer to engage in conversation and answer questions. Actually encourage them to participate by asking them leading questions about their specific application and refer to their car or truck. Again, it is important to be as knowledgeable as possible. Constant education is key.

The Invitation To Come Again

Parting comments are important and equal to any other component of their visit. It is the thank you for coming to the store whether they bought or not. It is the personal touch for them to revisit your store. The customer will be pleased to assess their overall experience as genuine appreciation is conveyed.

Think of the last time you visited your favorite restaurant. It was the waitperson that either enabled your dinning experience to be a pleasure or not. It was their service that encourages you to be a return customer. The same is true of the counter experience, whether as a parts sale or a service job.

Talking is Learning to Speak

How many times have we listened to the evening news and recalled that the newscaster is speaks slowly? Yes, slowly and with an articulate manner. Frequently we talk fast trying to get the message across in a positive way but lose the meaning and content along the way. At best, the customer hears the words but they mean nothing because of speaking fast. So talk slow, be articulate, mention with conviction and present yourself as a knowledgeable representative of your product, company and service.

A silent form of communication is the make-up of your retail store or service shop. This environment is crucial in maintaining a pleasurable experience for the customer. There are a variety of specific, simple and cost-effective factors that play a part in extending the counter space to the overall environment. Consider color, flooring, fixtures and perhaps cool tunes that are mellow to the ear and are not blasting above 1040 watts, as if the setting were a summer bash.

Note the popular parts superstores in your area. All have a color combination that is a common display on the walls, counters and windows. Mimic the contrast with your stop or store, and you’ll be addressing bland by not being bland.

Consider how you’d feel entering your establishment. Would you refer others, come back, have confidence and feel a part of the interaction process with the personnel? If you are wondering or have a maybe, maybe it’s time for a serious appraisal. I suggest you assess yourself, your personnel and your environment. In doing so, communicate to yourself first and foremost as you continue to build your business and improve your bottom-line with improved communication and counter-building skills.