Saturday, June 8, 2013

The balance beam of retail...

In a retail business there is a balance beam that has to even out for things to run as smoothly as possible. A small upset in weight distribution can unbalance the so called beam, and eventually fall to one side. There are obviously three parts to a retail business; the consumer, the retailer, and the product. The first two have to be on the same page, so the consumer gets the correct product. But there is many obstacles to overcome in order for the end result to occur in a satisfactory manner.

1) The consumer has to, at minimum, have just enough knowledge of what they want, to be dangerous. Many problems come along with this, though. Sometimes the customer doesn't have a clue what he/she needs or wants, and leaves it to the retailer to decipher what feels like the Davinci code to figure out what they want. In some cases the customer is having a bad day, and will eventually be rude enough to the retailer for them to tune the customer out. Here I will use myself as an example, so I will say I. In most cases, I am infinitely more knowledgeable about my product than you are, so do not tell me how to do my job. The saying in retail is, the customer is always right! But you and I both know that is not 100% true, and they only say that to make you want to come back. I know it is hard, but you have to try and put yourself in my shoes. Try to realize how hard it is that day in and day out, I have to LET you make an idiot out of yourself and then apologize to you, even though I didn't actually do anything wrong. It takes a tole on my mental health, to listen to you be so wrong, yet, tell you you're right when it is all over. All so you can eventually call me an idiot, and leave. But alas, those few customers who have talked to me long enough to realize I have put my life into the field I serve, make it worth it when they shake my hand and tell me helpful I have been.

2) The retailer all too often, especially with todays technology, sits on a very slippery slope. They are combining a couple of elements and slowly declining their worth in todays market. The micro management has to stop, or at least be kept to a minimum.  The process of retail is such a simple concept, and with the right people, can be accomplished so easily. But the micro managing is taking it's tole on not only the salesman but the customer. We don't need to reinvent the wheel to sell a product, just let me sell it. That is, after all, why you hired me to begin with, so let me do it! The dreaded "car salesman" approach to selling can run off potential customers. And for salesman like me, I don't want to bother people to the point of running them off. It's part of my nature I guess, I want to be liked, and hate to be hated. The protocol set in place by some companies and how, when, and why to suggest certain things is bothersome. In a perfect world, the salesman is knowledgeable enough about the product he/she is "slinging" to not need guidance on how to "sling". But that leads me to my next concern. People like myself are getting run off, for less qualified, 'yes' people. You can imagine if the customer doesn't know what exactly they are looking for, and they happen upon a salesman who has no idea what they are doing either, the problem that creates. But that is what is slowly but surely happening. The people that spend their time working their way through the chain, becoming a master of their service are being pushed out, in favor of less qualified people to save a few bucks in pay roll. Next time you run into someone at a store who clearly has no idea what they are doing, don't put 100% of the fault on their shoulders. Most of the blame should reside on the shoulders of the company itself, because that is a part of maximizing profits.

3) Lastly, the product should be something I can stand behind. To me, honesty should be a key role in all aspects of retail/service. It isn't of course, but that is how the corporate chain conditions a salesman. If I have on hand , 3 similar products, 2 are high quality pieces and 1 is a low quality piece and I happen to be sold out of the first 2. Protocol suggests I still try and push that low quality piece on you, knowing full well it will have poor performance, for your needs. Oral protocol also suggests I tell you, the first 2 are better, but this one is still good, knowing full well it will probably break soon. Hell, it could break as soon as you get home, but at least I made the company the dollar it expects me to make them. But this can all circle back to the first two points I made. If the company banks on the lack of knowledge that both parties will have about the product, neither of you will ever know what just happened. I would rather lose a sale, because I was honest, than make a sale, with a lie. Write that down.

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