The hallmark of large retailers is, and always has been, providing excellent service. That’s the main reason why most of their customers choose them as a priority option for their purchases. They have come to rely on their teams’ product knowledge, wise advice, and project experience. However, if the supermarket teams do not provide a “knock-your-socks-off” service all the time, your customers can go shopping at the self-service or convenience stores.
By engaging your teams to provide outstanding service, you positively affect the loyalty of your customers. A great effective service can indeed neutralize the advantage of the hard discount stores vs. hypermarket in price and level the playing field competitively for you.
I will never forget the most important lesson of the big box that our former retailers knew instinctively: “Success was the result of great service and low prices.”
Specialty stores want to take advantage of shopping in hard discounters and hypermarkets (big box stores) is not convenient for customers, especially with the service, which is sporadic or even non-existent.
When teams in a supermarket discover that providing outstanding service to their customers minimizes the pressure on product prices, it can be equivalent of “discovering fire”, talking at the retail level.
To help you focus your teams, here are ten key points Walmart works on that you can use to turn great service into a competitive advantage:
- If you’re not a discount store, don’t try to act like one.
By their nature, retailers are highly competitive – people who enjoy the opportunity to take on aggressive competitors. Unfortunately, when it comes to price competition with department stores, discount stores, and category killers, small, independent supermarket operators want to avoid the temptation to engage in price wars.
By playing the game of the discounters, “you are playing right into their hands. It is a trap they have set for you and a competitive battle they would love to fight. It’s a battle that needs to be won, and they will win at any price. Once you aim at competitive pricing, your business will start to spin down (expenses will increase as sales volume drops), and there’s no turning back.
Besides, by sending the message to your customers that you are a discount store, you have changed their expectations forever. Remember: “low prices every day” is a volume-based discount store strategy to control your destiny by designing your niche strategy with products targeted at local tastes and preferences. We back them up with excellent service.
- Great customer service starts before a customer has even entered the supermarket.
It’s the little things that matter: Are your floors, windows, shelves, aisles, parking lot, and restrooms clean?
If you think about it, customers may either openly or subliminally assume that dirty facilities equal low quality and overpriced products. Are your shelves always well-stocked? Finding the products they want and need gives customers the feeling that there is no reason to shop elsewhere. Is your staff in place and ready to serve?
Are your cashiers efficient in their records? Customers can shop in your supermarket for an hour. Still, when it comes time to check out, we have to be quick and efficient in the checkout process; customers hate to wait, so you have to train your staff accordingly.
- Customer loyalty programs are a way for traditional stores to show that they are loyal to their customers and not the other way around.
The strategy behind loyalty programs is great: you reward customers for continuing to buy at your supermarket by offering products and services only available to loyalty cardholders.
Retailers work with customer loyalty programs to be highly effective in retaining existing customers and gaining new ones. A loyalty program is a highly effective customer retention program and one of the most effective tools you can use to grow your stores.
- Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, taught his employees to ask dissatisfied customers the question: “What do you want us to do?” His employees are then empowered to solve the problem.
Those of us who work in retail know the old saying, “the customer is always right,” is not literally true, but we have to act like it when it comes to our customers.
Your employees should always project a positive attitude and respect for your customers. It is not appropriate to argue with your customers. If you do, you will find that the outcome is harmful to your business. You may win the argument sometimes, but no more often than you lose a customer.
What is a customer who buys in the supermarket several times a year for a particular value? If you treat customers correctly, you can probably count on the business’s future and even good word-of-mouth advertising. Discuss and debate with your customers and ultimately prove them wrong; chances are you’ve already lost them for life.
That former customer will also tell everyone that he or she knows about your bad experience in your store.
That’s the customer service version of “win the battle, but lose the war.” Remember, your employees can’t afford to have a “bad” day because if it weren’t for your customers, your supermarket would be out of business.
If you mistreat your customers, they will choose to do business with your competitors. It would be best if you adopted the attitude that your customers are always right. You are on your way to establishing customer relationships that can last a lifetime.
Another great way to reward your customers is with exclusive promotional product offers that partner with branded product manufacturers can create.
- Breakage of inventory is a breakage of your business!
Walkthrough your supermarket as if you were a customer. What do you think is the condition of your aisles and shelves? Are there boxes of products on the floor? Are you able to quickly move through the halls with a shopping cart? Are there gaps in your inventory when products are missing?
Great execution of store operations requires a commitment to training your staff fully on the shelves and shelves during the day.
Being in value is the ball game in retail. Those who best execute their marketing strategies will increase sales and improve their profitability. Purchase at any Hard Discount, and you will see how they fail to keep products in stock throughout the day.
It creates a competitive opportunity for you. Customers expect to find the products they want to buy on the shelves every time they visit your supermarket.
- If the products aren’t there, do you think your customers will give up on buying that product until they are back in stock, or will they go to your competitor to make the purchase? Why give your customers a reason to think about buying from your competitor’s supermarket?
It may sound fun and essential. But those who can keep the shelves stocked are creating a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Operationally, there is nothing more important to your store’s success than being supplied continuously with 100% of your assortment.
- Betting on promotions.
When announcing product promotions, it is essential to execute the correct projections to buy enough and ensure that the advertised products are available throughout the offering. There is nothing wrong with being promotionally oriented as long as you risk buying enough inventory to support your promotions.
Few things are more annoying to customers than visiting your supermarket to buy a product on promotion and then finding that it is out of stock once they arrive at the store. It is one of the fastest ways to destroy the reputation of the supermarket and its customers.
Never build an expectation and then fail to meet it.
- Use an outside-in approach to product and service selection.
Selecting the right products for your stores and your services to customers was one of Sam Walton’s great secrets to Walmart’s Success.
He used an outside-in approach to sales-driven products. Every day he visited his stores and asked his customers what they liked or disliked in the assortment combination, what products they didn’t find, and what they would like to see in his stores. His approach is still in use today through the company’s purchasing managers traveling to the stores each week.
Our companies can also look for product and service ideas from customers who are already shopping in our stores. Regardless of the method you use, it is vitally essential to obtain product demand information from your customers directly.
- Customers are the boss and can be fired for simply deciding to spend their money elsewhere.
Do you know who pays the bills in your business? About the rent, light, gas, electricity, and even your payment and benefits. Of course, the answer is your customers because they choose to spend their money in our stores. However, they can change their shopping habits, and they do it all the time.
Never forget that they may choose to walk away from your supermarket in favor of spending their money at your competitor’s store.
- Shop at your competitors’ stores and study their prices, products, and promotional activities and look for ideas you can replicate.
Managers and buyers need to study their local competition. They must understand the pricing structure, products, and promotional activity of their competitor. Let’s face it: no business is more transparent than retail.
Sam Walton believed in “brazenly stealing ideas” from competitors’ stores just by walking into their stores and observing their operations. He always told us that there are no extra points for original thinking. He believed that if you can copy an existing idea already in use by another retailer, it is cheaper than designing a solution from scratch.
Pay special attention to the ideas you can bring back and use immediately to improve your customers’ service.
What are you doing to make your customers want to keep doing business with you? There are plenty of alternative sources for store products, so be sure to explain to your employees that the customer is “the boss” and the importance of providing outstanding service.
Sam Walton intentionally put his desk at the front of his stores to see all the customers in the checkout lines and how his employees handled customer problems.
When a customer makes a purchase, it is easy to smile and thank them for their purchase. How do you react when your employees receive customers for a refund or complaint?
Cashiers are well trained in cashiering and collecting money, but not so well in teaching them the importance of service after the sale. Do they offer service with a smile? Are you so happy to see the customer returning a purchase?
The reality is that you must handle transactions in the same positive way. Some companies have restrictive return/service policies that create bad feelings for their customers.
If you treat your customers well when they have a problem, you will be rewarded for returning again and again. If you distrust your customers and make them feel like naughty children when they try to return a product, they will go out and spend their money elsewhere.
Show your loyalty to your customers by taking care of them when they have a problem. They will reciprocate by being loyal to your store.
A good rule to follow is this: Take care of your customers the same way you would like to be treated.