Dealing with sometimes demanding, sometimes ornery, sometimes outright hostile customers may be the biggest challenge any retail employee must face. Retail places all employees in a veritable public relations position because the way employees handle customers reflects on the business as a whole. That’s why management is generally adamant about all employees possessing ace interpersonal skills—even if those employees don’t spend their days behind the customer service desk. So no matter if you’re a stock clerk, cashier, or floor manager, you may learn a thing or 8 by perusing these customer service skills every retail employee needs to know to succeed.
1. Be patient
This one is Customer Service 101. Simply being patient may also be tougher than it sounds. A customer, especially an agitated one, can really try your patience with demands or complaints. Just remember that your customer’s needs and emotions come before your own. Take the time to listen to your customer’s problems without allowing him or her to dominate the conversation or distract you from your duties. When you figure out the problem and how you can solve it, politely wrap up the conversation so you can take care of your customer’s request. Most customers will appreciate a swift end to their ranting if they think their needs are about to be met.
2. Remain positive—no matter what
Don’t wait for the customer to set the tone of a discussion, because a disgruntled one probably won’t be gearing up for the most pleasant exchange in the world. Greet all comers with a smile and a cheerful, “How may I help you?” Hopefully your positivity will rub off on the customer so that the tone of the conversation doesn’t go south.
3. Be ready for anything
One thing any retail worker learns quickly is that the workday is unpredictable. Things can be going smoothly for hours, but all it takes is for one sourpuss to bust through the door for the workday to take a wrong turn. So always be ready for any eventualities. Remember that you are at work, and you must deliver quality customer service on a dime regardless of your own state of mind.
4. Know your business
Few things will frustrate customers in need more than the notion that they are talking to someone who cannot help them. What’s more, few things are more frustrating or bewildering for retail employees than feeling as though they don’t know what a customer wants. Prevent those situations by knowing the ins and outs of all aspects of your business. For example, you may not work in layaway, but you should still know what it is in the event a customer wants to pay for an item at a later date. Having an answer to any question will set the customer at ease and keep you in control of all situations.
5. Hone your communication skills
Another key to staying in control is communicating well. This does not just mean speaking audibly, confidently, and properly. It also requires you to be aware of your own body language. Maintain eye contact with the customer. Uncross your arms. Stand up straight. These traits convey the air of confidence that will make your customers feel as though they are in good hands.
6. Find the problem
While it is your duty to always communicate well, you cannot always expect the same from your customers. Yet it is still your job to help them. So you may have to sift through some irrelevant or confused talk to figure out what exactly your customer wants. That should be your goal, no matter how angry or garbled the language that’s coming your way.
7. Read between the lines if necessary
Usually, you don’t have to be a body language expert to read your customers effectively, as customers tend express their moods clearly. Some may be tricky though. For example, a customer may ask for help with a particular work-related issue, but the real agenda is that he or she is lonely and just wants to talk to someone. In such cases, be polite, be sensitive, but bring the conversation to as quick of an end as possible so you can get on with your duties. In other cases, customers might just be looking for a fight. Never take the bait. Bring the confrontation to as quick and polite a conclusion as possible, and if necessary, just walk away and allow security to step in before things get out of hand.
8. Stay cool
No matter what the customer’s tone or problem may be, you must always greet them with professionalism. Don’t let them rattle you. Keep your cool. Get into character as if you are playing the role of the world’s greatest customer service representative—even if your main job is to stock shelves or work the register.
Always remember that you are an important member of the organization and it is your job to represent the company positively, competently, and calmly whenever dealing with its customers.