What do retail customers really want? With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, now is a good time to ask this question. More than anything, it seems shoppers want their in-store checkout experience to be faster.
In a recent study commissioned by Digimarc, 88 percent of adults say they’d like a faster checkout process. Long lines to check out and slow checkout speeds (cited by 50 percent of respondents) are their top complaints about in-store shopping.
The study notes the checkout process is a retailer’s “last opportunity” to make a good impression on shoppers. After all, even if someone has a fantastic experience in your store and finds everything they came for, a frustrating checkout process can spoil the whole thing, leaving an unpleasant memory that keeps them from ever coming back.
But it’s not just the need for speed that has shoppers feeling a bit frustrated with checkout. More than 6 in 10 (61 percent) say they often feel the sales associates are more focused on scanning their items, and less on asking if customers are satisfied with the shopping experience.
Customers don’t want to remove the human element from sales, nor do they want sales clerks to be robots. (That’s why the majority of respondents avoid self-checkout options even when they’re offered.) In fact, if anything they want the checkout process to be more human, not less. How can you combine human interaction with fast service? Follow these three tips.
Make Sure POS is Updated and Functioning
Balking scanners and slow connections will slow down your checkout line. As I’ve suggested before in this column, you can also speed checkout (or at least create that perception) by using tablets or smart phones to take mobile payments so that customers can check out from multiple places in your store.
With recent technology developments and security requirements such as the new EMV chips on credit cards, now is a good time to review your system and give it an overhaul if needed.
Provide Continuous Employee Training
It’s not all about technology: Even the smoothest running point of sale system won’t work right if your sales clerks aren’t properly trained to use it. Don’t consider training a one-time activity, either.
Hold regular training sessions with your sales staff to troubleshoot problems; have them share tips for providing better service; and uncover the issues hindering them from providing fast, friendly assistance.
Often, sales associates will discuss these issues among themselves, but not share them with you or your managers; regular meetings are a good place to bring such problems to light.
Focus on Friendliness
You will need to strike a balance between speedy service and personal service. We’ve all experienced the slow checkout line that seems to go fast because the sales associate interacts with customers, thanks people for their patience, chats with them and is just plain friendly and positive, instead of grumpy and stressed.
Remind your salespeople to take the time to look customers in the eye, ask them if they found everything they needed and, most of all, show a genuine desire to help. Don’t just talk the talk; walk the walk.
If you tell employees to be friendly to customers, but get upset with them for looking up from their scanning for a moment to chat, you’re sending a mixed message.
Customer Service  Photo via Shutterstock