Would You Buy Something From a Disengaged Retail Employee?

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May 27, 2014

Have you ever had a poor customer service experience while shopping?

Think back on a recent poor service experience. What did that make you think about the company, that brand, and your future plans to purchase again from the retailer?

I’ve certainly had my fair share of bad experiences. While I don’t believe the axiom “the customer is always right,” the customer does expect a certain level of service based on how the company projects its brand values in the market. And the front line employees are the (literal) face of the brand to customers.

Engagement is critical to retail success

In retail (along with other largely customer-facing industries like hospitality), high levels of employee engagement are especially critical to success as nothing drives a customer away faster than a disengaged, disgruntled employee. Recent UK surveys published in Osney Media make this quite clear:

  • Employee disengagement costs the retail sector £628 million ($1.057 billion) per year;
  • A Maverick survey of retail employees found them among the most disengaged employees in Britain
  • An increase in employee engagement investment of 10 percent would result in an additional £2700 ($4,548) per employee per year in profits for UK businesses in all sectors (which equals 3 percent of current GDP)

Employees can’t project the brand values if they don’t know what they are.

Employees can’t engage with and demonstrate what they don’t know. As consumers, we expect a different experience if we’re shopping in Wal-Mart or Macy’s or the Galeries Lafayette in Paris.

As an example, these stores work hard to train their employees to meet and exceed customer needs and expectations for their environments. You wouldn’t walk into Wal-Mart expecting a full-service perfume counter, for example.

A failure to understand brand values

Yet, the same survey referenced above revealed:

  • 77 percent of retail employees do not engage with their company’s brand values.
  • 63 percent of those workers who do not engage with brand values have also never been trained on the importance of those values.
  • 60 percent failed to understand how fundamental their employer’s values were to their own job roles.

Think of the impact on Macy’s sales if a new employee, recently arrived from a career at Wal-Mart, continues to deliver the service experience they were trained for at Wal-Mart with no training or knowledge of Macy’s brand values and “how they do things.” The same negative impact on sales would be true if the situations were reversed.

Look at the numbers in the first set of bullets. The upside is tremendous and immediate to an organization for properly training and educating employees on the company’s brand values and expectations on how each employee demonstrates those values in the daily work.

Recognition is a key ingredient

The article also points out:

This only illustrates how in today’s challenging climate, the effective engagement of employees in the retail industry has become an increasingly vital requirement to maintain exemplary customer service levels and maximise sales. Making employees feel valued and striving to build genuine relationships with them can help retailers reduce staff turnover and build loyalty amongst employees, resulting in optimal performance – crucial to hitting requisite sales targets.”

The fastest, most effective and most immediate way of training employees on the importance of your brand values, including how those values are “fundamental to the employee’s own job” is through frequent, timely and very specific recognition of every employee every time he or she demonstrates a value in their work.

That’s what makes the values come alive for employees in a way this memorable and meaningful to what they do each and every day.

What’s your favorite retail brand? How do you see their employees demonstrating the brand values?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

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