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Sun 11 Nov 2007 04:00 AM

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Transform your perspective

With competition for talent becoming increasingly fierce, retailers should put themselves in their customers’ shoes to attain success.

Have you ever thought about your own experiences as a customer? No doubt at times they are good, and invariably they are poor. When you experience poor service, how do you feel? You may have experienced higher than normal levels of stress, frustration, resentment, and a resigned sense of indifference to the product or brand.

If you are a service provider, think about how many times your customers may have gone through a similar experience, in turn ‘getting into the shoes of the customer'. While we might never create perfect levels of service on a consistent basis, we can certainly be prepared to recover from poor service.

One place to begin is to get the basics right. When you are a customer and you walk into a retail store, what do you expect?

• A smile and a greeting

• A ear to your inquiry should you have one

• A knowledgeable response in terms of service or product information

• A solution should you have a complaint

Is this really too much to ask from any front line employee? Achieving good customer service is all about getting the basics right. If you are a retail manager then the next time you are with your team, ask them to think about their experiences as customers. They go shopping. What do they like and dislike? What does good customer service look like to them? What do they think should be done in the store to avoid the poor levels of service that they may have experienced?

Remember that once your customer-facing employees are given the chance to get involved in improving service they will normally take ownership for it. According to a recent report by UK-based research company Prosell, the chief grounds for unhappiness among customers is unhappy staff.

Prosell's report found 61% of front line workers agree that their managers' behaviour towards them has a direct impact on the level of service they provide.

Effective customer service demands more than just training, rather it requires regular involvement from front line managers.

How often do you ask customers what they think good customer service should look like? Regular and documented customer feedback is the basis of the continuous improvement line in any organisation. While many have invested heavily in this area, how often does this feedback get down to the people who interact with the customer on a daily basis?

Getting your employees involved in improving customer service is smart getting the customer involved as well is even smarter. Think about it, what is your value proposition? How do you know your customers are getting it? Organisations are discovering novel ways to do this.

The CEO of the airline JetBlue in the US takes time out and becomes a member of the cabin crew. Serving passengers like the other flight attendants, he uses the experience to find out what passengers think first-hand.

Evidence suggests that organisations in the service sector interested in conducting customer reviews stand a better chance of growing customer loyalty, and there should be a timely process to make those improvements happen although there is a cost associated with this.

I think most of us are mature enough to accept that it is never going to be business as usual in the fast-paced and competitive world of retail. Some of the success factors to achieve your business goals will balance on how you treat and train your front line staff. Getting into the shoes of the customer has never been as relevant to success as it is today.

Myles Doherty is founder and director of Performance Connect.

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