This is part three of a three-part discussion with MOHR Retail’s new president, Mary Beth Garcia, about trends, challenges, and predictions for retailers in the coming year. Read part one here and part two here.
Looking at all the trends and challenges retailers are facing right now, what advice would you give retail leaders about prioritizing their talent development and management strategies for the coming year?
There are three key areas of focus that stand out to me:
1. Current Service Levels in Stores: Retailers have to bring back the service experience for the customer in the store to engage them and make them want to stay longer and return often. This is an age-old fundamental in retail, yet many retailers are letting technology take the place of the salesperson. You still need the human factor to engage the customer on a personal level while leveraging technology.
This requires more training on the so-called “soft” sales and service skills, like asking questions to determine needs, listening to customers’ responses to ensure suggestions are aligned with their needs, reinforcing and shaping agreement, testing for reaction, and closing the sale. To survive in today’s market, retailers have to provide an experience that entices customers to shop in the stores rather than order online all the time. We need them to make it just as easy to engage with us in the stores as it is online.
2. Recruiting and Interviewing: Whenever there’s a tough labor market, like there is now, the spotlight returns to recruiting and interviewing skills. But retailers need to do a better job of developing a mindset of recruiting as a continual process, not an isolated event. There also needs to be an emphasis on interviewing (behaviorally) skills that determine if the candidate is a good match for the store or retail environment and the company’s culture and brand. More skillful interviewers lead to better hires and will decrease turnover within the first 90-120 days.
3. Brand/Company Loyalty: In this “I want it now” market, it’s tough to build loyalty to one provider. But there are some things smart retailers are doing. For one, they promote their instore experiences, not just their sales and percentage-off promotions. Getting into never-ending price wars and discounting by the day and hour will not develop long-term brand loyalty.
The problem for retailers that have been down this discounting path already is that their customers bought on price, not quality of service. So, trying to retrain customers on the experience and the value in the service that is built into the pricing will be a big challenge.
The other challenge is dealing with how this has affected their associates, who likely have “promotion and price change fatigue.” They’ve basically been trained by retailers to sell on price. But now they need to understand the brand, culture, and mission of the company to see the value themselves. They’ll need to develop new selling and service skills to build brand and company loyalty.
All three of these areas have something in common. They require retailers to invest in their people, not just in new technology. To attract and retain the leaders and associates who will make or break your year, you have to be willing to give them the chance to develop, grow, and shine. Show them you value them, and they’ll put in their all for you.
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