Elly Valas a leading US retail consultant and the co-author of Guerrilla Retailing has warned Australia retailers that despite an economic downturn they must not become complacent and if anything they should increase their level of service and “spend more on marketing”.
Talking to ChannelNews she said “I was in Australia earlier this year and it appeared that you were heading in the opposite direction to the USA so I am surprised to hear that consumer confidence is slipping”.
Valas who has consulted to NARTA, Auto Barn and the Good Guys wrote in an article for Dealerscope in the USA” The government may be afraid to use the “R” word but I know that for many, business has slowed since this time last year.
She said “I’m no economist, but here are the assumptions on which you can base your forecast for the rest of this year.
1. Oil will not go back to $100 a barrel.
2. Food prices will continue to rise because of high transportation costs.
3. Consumer confidence is at a record low.
4. Unemployment will rise
5. Whining won’t help.
But there’s also this:
> CEA projects that billions in consumer electronics will be purchased this year.
> 96.0% percent of Australians are working.
Stop worrying about the economy and start focusing on things you can control. If business is flat or down, you’ll have to steal market share from your competitors to stay even or grow. In order to that, you’ll have to be faster, smarter, more creative, and offer better customer service.
She claims that a recent retail study on consumer dissatisfaction revealed the top reasons why customers don’t buy. One third reported they couldn’t find a sales associate; 25 percent were completely ignored by a sales associate, and six said they left because associates were poorly trained.
According to a study conducted by Bain & Company, 80 percent of companies believed they delivered a “superior experience” to their customers. Customers of those companies, however, only felt that eight percent delivered an exceptional experience. Ouch.
There are consumers who want to buy the products you sell. They don’t want to drive around wasting expensive fuel trying to find good values and exceptional service. Let them know that by coming to your store first, they’ll find wide selection, sales expertise, great values and full service.
Act like a job applicant-after all, you’re trying to get “hired” as your client’s trusted advisor-and create a resume to convince prospects why they should buy from you.
Meet with your team and list the ways your company differentiates your customer’s buying experience. Don’t forget to tout your extended credit terms; delivery, repair, service and installation departments; experienced sales staff; extensive displays; and brand-name product selection. List your no lemon policy and your price guarantee.
Let customers know they can call to make appointments to ensure that an associate will be available when they come in-even if it’s after hours. Tell shoppers your installers are CEDIA certified or that your associates participate in mandatory product and sales training every week. Don’t hesitate to sell your staff as career professionals. Publicize awards you’ve won from trade associations, industry groups or magazines. You only get to be retailer of the year if you know your stuff.
Monitor your customer satisfaction to ensure outstanding service. Tell your clients you’ll be in touch with them to answer any questions that may come up after they’ve used their products for a week or so. Call customers to ensure they are satisfied with the purchase experience. Field any questions they have and ask if they’d buy from you again. Finally, ask them to refer friends.
Customer dissatisfaction happens when there is a disconnect in the experience customers think they’re going to get and what is actually delivered. Warehouse clubs are successful because they deliver on their no-frills, low-price promise. If you’re claiming to be the best, then your store needs to shine and your team needs to dress and act like professionals.
If you’ve done all of this and you’re convinced the service experience you offer is a reason to buy from you, there’s one more promise that will help drive customers to your store: Offer to refund the cost of the gas it took to get to your store to anyone who feels the quality of service you delivered didn’t match expectation.
When gas is over $2 a litre every customer who comes to your store is a buyer. Your job is to make sure they buy from you and not from your competitors.