Should you leave customer care to the least trained staff?

Bear shopping Christmas presents trolleyThe golden rule for every business man is this: “Put yourself in your customer’s place.” – Orison Swett Marden

I know, I get it, it’s November and we need to get staff on board for our Christmas period, not too early and certainly as inexpensively as possible.

For so many retail businesses, the Christmas trading period is the most profitable trading period of the year. This applies to both small and large businesses where typically some categories can take as much as 25 per cent of their annual sales in December, which could translate into more than half of their annual profit. Department stores included.

Yet during this period, so many sales positions are left to the young inexperienced junior casuals who have been poorly trained, if at all, in the art of selling. The product knowledge can be mixed, their selling skills can be variable and in many cases their care factor is careless.

So, why would a retail business, at the best time of the trading year, have the most inexperienced people on the front line, dealing with customers who are in the mood and mindset to spend, perhaps more freely than at any other time of the year? Is this good logic?

When a retail business seeks the very best temporary sales people, invests in training them on products, the features and benefits thereof and as well as the art of selling, we consistently see a huge difference to the sales outcome.

Although what is the commercial sense of training staff that may not be with us in the New Year?

Well here’s the logic of investing in all staff regardless of their tenure,

Let us assume a business decided to attract the best casuals, and employed them on attitude, paid them 20 per cent above the going rate (NSW) of $13.65 per hour and rewarded them for over achieving their sales targets, could we expect them to produce 33 per cent more sales than the normal, unmotivated casual staff that we so often see in stores at that time of the year. And the wage cost % improves in that equation.

                                                                                Weekly wage     Sales          Wage per cent

Normal 17 yo @ award rate 30hrs pw                  $410              $2,000       20 per cent


Motivated, trained @ $17.00 ph, 30 hrs             $510             $2,700         19 per cent

Not only is the business ahead in pure financial terms, but in the experience that customers will have and the lasting impression of the business though having these ‘Effective People’ in your business.

I suggest that one of the best investments a business can make around Christmas is to make sure it has the very best skills available to care for their customers in the best possible way. After all, one indifferent experience in a store is another reason to go online and avoid inferior service and sale skills, in stores.

Train, motivate, measure and reward your casuals and Christmas sales could be as good as you hope! Put untrained, unmotivated and cheap staff to serve your customers and Christmas could be not to your liking.

Peter Sheppard is senior Consultant and head of implementation division at Retail Doctor Group. Peter can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or [email protected].

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