Retail Jobs: Customer Service Is Where It’s At
by John Kirkland, Center Director at the Bronx Workforce1 Career Center
A recent article in Women’s Wear Dailycarried the simple and rather bland title, “Customer Service: Getting Back to Basics.”Yet another article on the basic tenets of customer service, I thought. You know, “discover the customer’s needs, suggest solutions, provide product information, answer objections, ask for the sale, and repeat.”
Customer service is no longer a retailer “nice-to-have,” it is a critical element, maybe the critical element, in the brick and mortar retailer’s competitive arsenal. Said Steve Sadove, CEO of Saks Inc., “Service is even more important than it’s ever been. If I’m going to spend the time and effort of going to a store, the service had better be good.”
When you think about it, it’s easy to see why. Shoppers today have so many alternatives that don’t involve going anywhere or spending any money to get there. Just fire up the internet or the smart phone and order away. In-person service is where the retail store can separate itself from the online competitors and make the shopping experience not only worthwhile, but even compelling.
And it’s the retail employees – from the sales floor to the stockroom and beyond – that deliver that service. The Bronx Workforce1 Career Center leads the retail hiring efforts for the entire, citywide Workforce1 system. We are particularly sensitive to the needs of the retail accounts we serve with our recruiting and pre-screening services. And, it is crystal clear that customer service is on the top of retailers minds!
So, if you are looking for a job in the retail industry, here are some things you should keep in mind when you interview to show the retail hiring manager that you are on top of your game:
- Obviously, emphasize the importance of customer service; your understanding of it; your commitment to it; your enthusiasm for it and your desire to become expert at it.
- Be ready with several specific examples of great customer service you have delivered, regardless of the job you were doing at the time. Every job has some customer service element.
- Know the lingo….retailers like Target often call sales associates “Team Members” and customers “Guests.” Why? They know great customer service is a team effort and that they are lucky to have customers in their store rather than home and online.
- Ask about any customer service training that the employer might offer. Several major retailers, including Saks, The Container Store, and Macy’s believe so strongly in it that they spend well in excess of the industry average to train and maintain excellent service as a competitive strength.
- If you think you could use a refresher in advance of getting into the job market, check out the customer service offerings at LaGuardia Community College and Jobs to Build On. Both offer a 10-hour course in the basics.
Remember, in retail, customer service is where it’s at!
John Kirkland is the Center Director of the Bronx Workforce1 Career Center. If you have a question or comment for John, drop him a note below. And, don’t forget to share this advice with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or your favorite social media site.