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11/01/2013

Empower Your Associates, It Matters

On a typical Saturday morning in my small town, I was armed with a list of items for various projects around the house and property. My destination: the local DIY warehouse store.

Living in a farmhouse built in 1901, I tend to visit this store on a regular basis. I avoid its biggest competitor because I find it difficult to navigate and its employees dismissive and unhelpful.

As I approached the checkout counters already thinking of which project to tackle first, I could see that only one line was open, but it was reasonably short. Twenty minutes later, it no longer seemed that way, and worse, the cashier had yet to make eye contact with the shoppers waiting in line. Finally, issue resolved, she waved me forward without a word about the delay or a hello.

You see, this is really the only substantive interaction that I'll have with the brand. I'll see a few sales circulars and might catch an ad on TV, but the folks on the sales floor (excellent, by the way) and the front-of-store personnel will likely be the only face-to-face contact I'll have with a representative of the brand. And I just had a bad experience. Point of difference lost.

Unfortunately, my experience is not unique. Though each time I have a less than optimal retail encounter, in grocery or any other channel, I wonder why so little has been invested in teaching front-line employees how critical their interaction with customers is and how to represent the brand publicly.

The reality is that this message must come from the top. My experience with the cashier at the DIY warehouse was not a failure on her part, but a failure in her training, both initial and continuing.

Think about how different that encounter could have been had she felt that she had the tools to deal with the stressful situation rather than ignore it. Think about how different that experience would have been for the shoppers–and what a different impression we would have walked out the door with.

Each time I have a less than optimal retail encounter, in grocery or any other channel, I wonder why so little has been invested in teaching front-line employees how critical their interaction with customers is and how to represent the brand publicly.

– Jennifer Acevedo,

Editor-In-Chief
[email protected]