New Survey Says Retail Customer Service and Sales Reps Struggle in 5 Key Areas

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Making the right hires is critical for any retailer looking to boost sales. Knowing what traits to look for in candidates can give retailers a leg up on the competition – especially with unemployment falling and the talent pool shrinking.

Online reference-checker SkillSurvey recently released data revealing the top areas in which retail customer service and sales representatives need a little improvement:

  1. Maintaining up-to-date knowledge of company products and services
  2. Gathering information from customers and relevant sources to effectively answer questions
  3. Communicating information clearly so that customers can understand
  4. Tailoring recommendations of products and services to customers
  5. Encouraging customers to buy new products or services by presenting relevant options

According to the study, which was based on more than 19,000 references providing feedback on 4,000 candidates, customer service and sales reps across the board have trouble upselling and lack the ability to clearly communicate with shoppers.

These insights can help retailers improve their hiring processes, create more successful onboarding programs, and immediately serve customers more effectively.

“The survey indicates that retailers can lose money when they don’t take the time to identify and hire candidates with skills such as the ability to gather the right information from customers and tailor their recommendations accordingly,” says Ray Bixler, president and CEO of SkillSurvey. “Quality hires are critical because they positively impact customer interactions and therefore the bottom line of the business.”

Ineffective Ads, Interviews, and Onboarding Lead to Weaker Hires

Many companies fail to recognize key behaviors – or their lack – when assessing candidates because of poorly written job descriptions and ineffective interview practices.

“A well-written job description should include the necessary behaviors required for the role, which should then be reinforced in a structured interview,” says Bixler. “Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of a new hire ahead of time can help employers make more strategic decisions about how they deploy and train incoming employees.”

suitThe best companies recognize that the candidate’s experience during the hiring process can be the difference between a new hire who arrives energetic and enthusiastic and one who is lethargic and just happy to grab a paycheck. Bixler notes that the candidate experience also stretches into the onboarding process.

“Even during their first week or month, new hires are still deciding if they’ve made the right career decision,” he says. “An effective and personalized onboarding experience ensures that new hires are more positive about their choice, which will then lead to more positive experiences when they start interacting with customers.”

Some of the best onboarding practices personalize the experience as much as possible for incoming employees. For example, many companies use personality assessments and/or automated reference-checking solutions to truly understand a new hire’s behavioral strengths and areas of development. Doing this allows companies to target the on-boarding and training processes to meet the individual needs of each new hire.

“It is important to clearly communicate the behaviors and expectations of the customer service role,” says Bixler. “Training should focus not only on how to respond to customer requests but also on how to engage with customers in ways that make customers feel that their service experience exceeded their expectations.”

Companies that lend resources to these efforts will see better bottom-line business results and improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

“They may also see more engaged and happier customer service employees, since they are not only serving and responding to customer problems and complaints, but they are also problem solving and identifying solutions,” says Bixler.

The ability to upsell, tailor information, and make recommendations are clearly areas where customer service employees can frequently stand to improve. Knowing that a candidate has performed well in those areas in the past is a great indicator of future performance and means that candidate can likely be a role model for other employees.

By Samantha LoCoco