3 Reasons Your Customers May Be Defecting to Online Shopping

Macy's store during 2006 Christimas in San Fra...
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In my experience, most retail sales-floor training is “baptism under fire” with a lot of apologies to both the new employee and ultimately, the customer. And since most hiring is done between customers without proper preparation and investigation before the applicant arrives, this is truly a heartbreak since there are so many super qualified people out there looking for jobs.

Would you pick just any location to place your  business? Would you buy just any equipment for your store? Would you put just any merchandise in it? Then don’t just settle when you are hiring. And invest in good training, too!

Don’t blame e-commerce for your sluggish sales – customers may be switching to online shopping vs. your brick and mortar establishments for these 3 reasons:

  1. Poor hiring and training
  2. Lack of staff loyalty to your company mission
  3. Lack of Customer Connection

Here’s an example:

True story:

I was Christmas Shopping Sunday at Macy’s in Alpharetta, GA (a northern suburb of Metro Atlanta, GA). My growing teenage son needed some jeans, too, so while he was in the fitting room, I noticed some tables marked “Morning Special.” I looked at my cell phone and saw it was about 12:45 pm, so I assumed I had missed it, but since the signs were still up, I asked a passing salesperson when the “Morning Specials” ended. She said she didn’t know and started to walk off.

HUH?! That stopped me cold. Are you kidding me? “I don’t know!!!” ??? Which part about this was the worst…

A. That she didn’t know because of lack of training.

B. That she lacked the loyalty to her employer and therefore was satisfied to tell me that she didn’t know, or…

C. That she didn’t care about me as a customer and didn’t mind leaving me without an answer.

I couldn’t let this go. I quickly said, “You don’t know?!!!” And unbelievably, she said, “No. (pause) I guess I could find out if you want me to.” I said, “Well, yes!”

She came back and said, (and I am not making this up), “Well, it’s either 1pm or 2pm.” HUH, again!!! I was nonplussed. Surprisingly, she seemed to sense I wasn’t thrilled with her answer, and said, “One lady says it’s 1, but I think I saw in the paper that it was 2, so I think it’s 2.”

Am I really having this ridiculous exchange with her? I told her I wanted to know for sure since it was almost 1. She answered again that she believed it was 2. I told her I’d like to know for sure, so she reluctantly left again to ask someone else.

She returned to tell me (yes, you guessed it) … that it was over at 1 pm. I was SOL since it was now 12:59 pm.

Was that salesperson stupid, indifferent, or let’s all say this together…Poorly hired and poorly trained. I have seen a lot of discussions on LinkedIn lately on how important sales training is.  Is this not the perfect example?

So who is really to blame? Yes, the salesperson was negligent and derelict of duty, and she was willing to likely piss me off as a customer who might have trusted her guess that the sale was over at 2, but in the end – it is the employer’s fault.

His/Her poor choice in hiring and lack of good training and follow up allowed the risk that I would be royally upset at the register when told that the “Morning Special” ended an hour ago and I was not getting the discount. Why would I bother to return there to shop after this experience? I might as well shop online…

There are so many potentially bad results from this possible scenario that I don’t have enough room or your potential attention span to discuss. But what is equally concerning to me, is the indifference many employers have regarding employee training. Is it any wonder the staff is not loyal to your sales mission? If you don’t care if they get it right, why should they?

Your sales are based on the response a customer has to your store, your products, and how they are presented.

YOUR SALESPEOPLE ARE YOUR STORE by all accounts and purposes in the eye of the customer. The salesperson answers the phone, is the FIRST point of contact on the sales floor and is responsible for the feeling the customer has as they leave your store – in other words, the behavior and response of the salesperson toward the customer determines the likelihood of whether a customer will come back far more than the merchandise.

So, if the customer has no reason to feel that the shopping experience in your brick and mortar location is any better or more productive than an online shopping experience, why should they come back? Why shouldn’t they buy online if the experience is little different?

Fortunately, the bad taste in my mouth left later when I found a better salesperson who actually gave a damn about me as a customer – a young man who wanted to help me find some jeans with a very cheerful and helpful attitude and knowledge of the merchandise! YAY! Maybe the young lady I had earlier was temporary help for the holidays – but wouldn’t you still want to maximize your sales with properly hired and trained staff regardless of whether they are temporary or permanent?

Spend as much time researching those you employ as you do your products and marketing! And properly train them! (more on training in another post)

In these times, it is an employer’s market when it comes to hiring. Take advantage of it! Unemployment insurance is limited and quality people are spending 1-2 years seeking employment. They may be overqualified, but who better to serve your customer? They may eventually leave for something better, but the influence they have on the rest of the staff and your customers will make it all worth it. You might learn something, too!