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What does being authentic really look like in retail sales?

Since joining the franchised motor trade from engineering some 30 years ago, I’ve always tried to provide exceptional experiences for customers, whilst also making sure that the businesses I represented were profitable and operated in line with stakeholder values. I guess that would now be termed as providing an authentic service!

My mantra has always been that, to stand out in a competitive landscape such as that of franchised car retailers where competitors potentially have the same product as you, then you must focus on creating interactions that leave a lasting impression on customers – for the right reasons! Not only that, but it’s a far nicer way to do business.

Whilst being proactive and willing to adapt to change are fundamental in business, I believe there are some ‘constants’ that can help you succeed. I hope these little tips prove useful…

Create a welcoming environment - First impressions matter - Warm and friendly greetings from staff can make customers feel at ease and set the tone for a positive experience. You may have just left a meeting and have a head full of thoughts distracting you, but that customer you walk past and inadvertently ignore won’t know any of that.

Make sure your digital offerings also convey and reflect this same approach!

Also ensure sure your retail space is clean and better than what the competition offers, people will notice.

Know your customers and always show respect to them - Listen fully to what your customers tell you - their preferences, pain points, and expectations. Use this knowledge to tailor your products, services, and interactions to meet their needs genuinely. Don’t feature dump on a customer but point out which of your product’s features can solve their problem. Equally be honest if you can’t meet their exact needs - but always try and find options for the customer!

Coach staff to be authentic - Your frontline staff are the face of your retail business. Help them in authentic communication and customer engagement skills. They need to be themselves to connect genuinely with customers, show empathy and actively listen to a customer’s needs. Authenticity and a great atmosphere are contagious, and when your business embodies that, customers will sense it and respond positively.

Provide a personalised experience -Be prepared and do your homework, use existing customer data, and purchase history to personalise each interaction. Address customers by name, listen fully to what they tell you and recommend products based on their preferences. It’s hugely important to acknowledge loyalty as the customer will appreciate this and know that you know your stuff! Use your CRM system effectively to record all relevant information, as a personalised experience shows customers that you value their business, care about their unique needs and have listened properly to them.

Be transparent and honest -These are absolute ‘musts’ if you are going to be authentic. Be upfront about product information, pricing, company policies and what you can and can’t do for a customer. Consultative selling means not pushing a product if it is not right for the customer, - guaranteed if you do, it will come back to bite you. Hold your hands up if you get it wrong - customers appreciate honesty and are more likely to trust an individual, company and brand that have integrity.

Provide excellent customer service right throughout the purchase and ownership cycle - Care about your customers. Always get back to a customer when you say you will and be prompt in resolving customer enquiries and concerns. Coach and support your staff to manage complaints with empathy and try to find solutions that meet the customer's needs. In my experience managing a complaint well can turn a dissatisfied customer into a very loyal advocate. Always, always act on customer feedback – both good and bad and encourage feedback at every opportunity, that’s how the best businesses keep improving.

Embrace innovation and technology – make it work for you and the company. Effective use of a CRM is essential. In today’s omnichannel World data is everything. Many people are ‘time poor’ and expect IT solutions to minimise inconvenience and maximise enjoyment.

Create memorable moments - Surprise and delight customers with unexpected gestures. A small, thoughtful act can leave a lasting impact and encourage customers to return. Essentially though - be brilliant at the basics because not everyone is…

I do hope these pointers help you and if R7 can assist with anything relating to this then please don’t hesitate to get in touch

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