Enable your store staff with empowerement

More and more customers that walk into the stores are armed with an arsenal of information about the product they want to buy. As an employee, there’s really not much left to tell them about the specifics of the product, the advantages of one brand above the other, and certainly not about the pricing of the retailer in question. The customer is well prepared when heading out with his trusted smartphone always at his side, providing him with access to every kind of information imaginable!

So there you are… the store employee… all that product information embedded in your brain so you can indulge shoppers with product knowledge (which, of course, they already know or can even quite easily refute). It gets even worse when the customer standing in front of you starts listing the prices of your competitors and asks what you plan to do about it. The customer rarely tells you this simply in words, though, but uses his smartphone as back-up, which he then proudly sticks in your face to prove his point!

The smartphone, as you can imagine, is now an intrinsic part of the retail store. But for the store staff it is often still the biggest no-no in the employment guide. Although there are plenty of reasons why the store

staff should not be allowed to have a smartphone in the store, we should also realise that we’re sending them into the ring with both hands tied behind their backs.
Let’s assume for a moment that the protocol includes a paragraph stating that personnel are permitted to have a smartphone in the store, but are only allowed to use it to carry out tasks, like VM instructions, that offer optimal customer service (so not to stay in touch with private social contacts). This enables the staff member to quickly photograph the shelf setup and send it through to the head office to check. Or to show a selection of shops to the shopper with alternative prices. Or even to show digital content that can also be seen randomly throughout the store, but might have been overlooked. By being in control, the employee is given the chance to guide the sales talk in a certain direction. It is a powerful method of empowerment.

And it’s successful! In the UK, the Carphone Warehouse (The Phone House) recently launched the PinPoint program, a tool that helps employees select the right phone subscription for customers. Instead of starting the conversation off with the number of call minutes, gigabyte usage or brand preferences, the very first questions are where the shopper lives and works. This data is entered into the system and PinPoint then tells you which provider has the best coverage in those areas. It’s a sales argument almost everyone goes for, and one which can’t easily be found online or be compared. In no time you’re in the purchase funnel; the provider choice has already been made and the price becomes less relevant… The algorithms of PinPoint are complicated and can therefore only be calculated on a smart device, which is why it is essential that the store staff have one on them at all times.

The sales rationale behind PinPoint is of course quite easily translated to other retail segments. Have a sit-down with your staff and talk about what questions shoppers are now asking in the store. These are usually questions that they can’t find answers to online or are difficult to answer. Then ask your staff how they currently answer these questions and, together with them, come up with a solution to standardise this. It’s an inspirational team effort and a great way to find relevant shopper solutions you can actually benefit from in store. You may have to rewrite a protocol about the use of devices in the store, but that’s merely a formality. By the way, there’s not a staff member out there who’ll be surprised to read in that same protocol that private use of the device is prohibited.

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