Empower Your Checkout Operator

/
/
/
/
/
/
Empower Your Checkout Operator

Rethink Retail I recently went to my local hardware store with a planned purchase in mind of $800. Since no staff were available in store to ask a question I went to the checkout to ask for advice. The reply was disappointing “I don’t know, I’m only a checkout operator” and she let me leave the store unable to make a purchase. What disappointed me, was not only could I not find what I had come for, but the checkout operator’s view of their job position within the team. With regular news headlines concerning the ‘slow down’ in retail sales around the world, I believe this creates an urgent rethink for many retailers on how they operate their business. It’s the Economy, Stupid How often have you and I heard business people talk about the economy and or the weather for the reason sales are declining. Yes, this is a serious factor in the equation. In my own city electrical retailers are saying that the amount of consumers window shopping is remaining the same, but fewer customers are prepared to part with their hard earned wages. As you can imagine if a business employs checkout operators who believe their only responsibility is to take the customers money and not to interact with them, then the result will be that customers will change to a store that does. In the customers mind, most stores within a category sell the same things. It is the service experience that makes the difference. But, when retailing gets tougher, it is time for a retailer to be proactive and analyse what they can do to grow their business. What measures can be put in place that are low cost to the business, but generate high return. This is where the checkout operator comes to the fore. For many consumers, like the situation I found myself in, the checkout operator is the only ambassador for the store that they are exposed to. I use the word ambassador on purpose. They are representing the brand and all the other internal customers within the business. They have the opportunity to represent the brand and all their fellow team members in a positive way or in a negative way. The way they communicate with the consumer sets the tone for the consumer’s experiences both now and in the future when dealing with the business. Ambassador Training The role of the checkout operator is such a key position; the selection person needs to be proficient in the required skills as well as creating a positive human face for the business. Consumers are often more tolerant of any proficiency faults in the system as long as the person’s relationship skills are positive. The induction process is critical to the success of the organisation. A new checkout operator should be well aware of all the categories within the business and their position within the store. They should be introduced to the key team members and the product hero’s in each category to enable them to pass the consumer onto the relevant expert when they are unable to answer the question. The key component that is often missed is their ambassador training. This should include: • How they represent the rest of their team and the business brand. “I’m just a checkout operator” is demeaning to them, their position in the business and the whole business and should not be used by any checkout operator. • The chances are, because of the complexity of most retail businesses, they will not be able to answer most questions in detail. They should be trained on how to respond in a positive, pro-active way to ensure the customer leaves the situation with confidence. • The checkout operator needs an explanation on how important the conversion rate (changing lookers into buyers) and the average sale per customer is to the business, especially in difficult trading periods and how important their role is in the process. • One of the main customer stresses is waiting in line at a checkout. Researchers tell us that once a line gets longer than three people, the stress starts building and then increases with the length of the line. The checkout operator needs to appreciate this and be trained in how to use empathy statements when customer’s reach them when they have lined up for some considerable time. A “Sorry you had to wait so long” when said sincerely can help reduce those stresses and put a smile back on your customer’s face. In many situations businesses are desperate just to get staff to work on the checkout. That is no reason to not train them in the culture you expect them to present on behalf of your business. ‘Mystery Shop’ the retailers around you and you will soon discover who has an induction programme that is helping to grow their business. Check Out Action 1. Induct the team as ambassadors for your business. 2. Train the team in empathy statements for when consumers are stressed. 3. Employ people with personality for this key position. 4. Ensure the team are aware of how important the conversion rate and average sale are to the business. John Stanley is an internationally recognised conference speaker and retail consultan. He has authored several successful marketing and retail books including the best seller Just About Everything a Retail Manager Needs to Know. John’s retail experience covers hands-on retailing in supermarkets, hardware stores, garden centres, farmers markets and drug stores. For more information on John Stanley and how he can help your business prosper and grow, visit his website www.johnstanley.cc