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Fri 1 Jun 2007 12:00 AM

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Unlocking employee potential

Many retailers in ME are losing sales as a result of failing to tap the potential of their shop floor staff.

While much is heard about the rapid scale of development in the Middle East retail sector, far less attention is focused on staff, particularly shop assistants who run the outlets.

Indeed, it seems that many retailers fail to pay enough attention to issues such as staff training and retention, despite it being vital to the operation of retail outlets and their sales performance.

In markets such as Dubai, it appears that many retailers are failing to train their staff adequately, and customer service is fast becoming one of the main problems in many outlets. The picture is familiar to many residents and visitors to Dubai, who will no doubt have visited shops where members of staff are standing around talking to each other when they could be assisting customers. On other occasions, customers are neglected in favour of other tasks, such as stocktaking and stock replenishment.

The problem is also familiar to Jason Kemp, director of Envision, a UK based retail consultancy that recently conducted a study into staff and customer interaction in various outlets in the UAE. The findings were a surprise to Kemp.

The research found that staff often failed to respond to customers, and worse still, that when staff did approach customers, the interaction often had a negative impact on the customer, who would leave the store without buying anything. Admittedly, the ‘negative impact' was sometimes the result of the staff member telling the customer that an item was out of stock, but on other occasion, it seems that cultural differences between staff and customers might have been to blame.

People from different countries may have different expectations of customer service when they enter a store, and shop floor staff need to be equipped to recognise this and act on it. If this is the case, then Dubai is one market where staff are receiving below par training, when what they actually need is the opposite.

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