The members of your supermarket staff interact with your customers on a daily basis. They are, of course, expected to provide good customer service at all times, but as the business owner or manager, you’d want to be sure that they are motivated to do their best. Propagating a culture oriented toward customer service is among the best ways to encourage your employees to ante their game in creating a pleasant experience for your shoppers.
The Big Deal with Culture
Organisational culture is an umbrella term that encompasses cultures present in organisations such as schools, government agencies and businesses, among others. Although its actual definition is broad and is often considered subjective, it is understood to include the behaviours, rituals, values and other things that make up a business. It may cover everything from the prevalent management style and development strategies to the dress code and even the workplace’s physical design. It is, as Robbie Katanga put it, “how organisations do things.”
Culture is a big topic in business because of its influence on the performance and competencies of employees. In fact, it is believed to influence leadership style, for example, more than any other aspect of the job. That said, a customer service culture would be helpful in creating a workforce whose priority is the satisfaction of your shoppers.
Establishing or shifting your corporate culture will not happen overnight and will take constant effort between you and your staff. Here are five ways to create a customer service culture in your supermarket:
1. Set expectations and best practices
As the head of the workforce, your role will include creating rules and setting performance standards. These will be vital in guiding your staff toward your goal of a more customer-friendly supermarket. Besides memos and other written announcements, you may communicate with your staff through brief meetings and huddles.
When communicating with your employees, it is a good idea to always use simple words to get your message across to them. You can lay down what you want them to do and how you want them to do it. Do you want them to prioritise answering customer enquiries? To whom do they escalate customer concerns? How will cleaning be scheduled to ensure that the store looks clean without disrupting the customers? Clarity is key in this area.
For best results, you will definitely have to maintain consistency. Activities that are constantly repeated become part of the culture more easily. You can try asking your employees to smile while interacting with your shoppers and you will notice them smiling more often before long.
2. Take your employees’ side
Building a customer service culture does not entail directing all of your attention to your customers. “Customers are always right,” it is said, but in the real world, this mindset may cause conflict between your staff and your shoppers. It may even result to you losing valuable employees in the long run.
A great way to achieve a sort of balance is to own only your mistakes. Suppose a customer complains that some of the fruits in your store have gone beyond fresh, then by all means apologise and discuss with your staff how such an error can be avoided in the future. But if your customer complains about your staff’s unwillingness to replace a product that was not purchased in your store, then pointing out your return policy and standing by your staff is the reasonable response. Showing your staff that you are willing to take their side puts them at ease, makes them happy and motivates them to put their customers first.
3. Train your staff
The most obvious benefit of training your employees is that it minimises mistakes. Imagine what would happen if you let your newest cashier handle the register without prior training. Training will let you guide your staff in best practices when interacting with customers and how they can provide shoppers with a positive experience.
Training erases feelings of job insecurity among the members of your workforce. It is an indirect way of telling them that their job is long term. It will help motivate your employees to invest their own time and effort in fulfilling their duties and making their customers happy.
4. Give recognition where it’s due
While customer service should be observed for its own sake, it does not hurt to give your staff recognition for their efforts. A reward for an employee who helped a disabled or elderly shopper carry their purchases will motivate others to do the same and go out of their way to offer assistance. The reward does not have to be huge either—a small token will do, just as long as it makes your employees feel that their efforts do not go unnoticed.
It may be a good idea to have a form of penalty for errors and misgivings, such as the failure to perform a task, leading to negative feedback from the customer. Once you have determined that the error was indeed on the part of your employee, then you may present a consequence. The penalty, however, does not have to be heavy and may depend on the severity of the mistake. A private discussion with your employee about what happened is a good start.
5. Ask customers for feedback
Building the right culture also requires feedback from the endeavour’s beneficiaries. You may ask your customers questions regarding your employees’ performance and how you can better your service. This will help you find areas of improvement that you can focus on.
With the right questions, you can determine whether your employees are giving accurate information about the availability of your inventory. You will know whether your cashier gives out accurate change. You will learn if your staff are polite enough or if they offer help, such as reaching for items in tall shelves or carrying purchases back to the customers’ car. It is worth noting even the smallest changes as they will soon accumulate to form the shift you want to steer your workplace culture to.
Forming a customer service culture will not be quick and as such, will require plenty of doing, rinsing, and repeating, so to speak. A solid goal, a good example and the right approach will become essential in forming a workplace culture that puts customer service first.
How do you create a customer service culture in your store? We would love to hear your stories in the comments below.
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