Replace lazy, off-putting phrases with customer-friendly substitutes
and watch your sales jump
BY JULIE A. PALM
Words matter and what you say to a customer matters a lot. Throwaway phrases and poorly thought-out responses to questions can send customers scurrying away from your store and over to a competitor.
Retail Training Services, a firm based in Leesburg, Virginia, has compiled a list of dreadful comments retail sales associates sometimes make and offers more effective alternatives. The list was originally posted in a blog on the company’s website in 2011 but still holds valuable advice for RSAs today.
Bad: “I don’t know.”
Better: “That’s a great question. Let me find out for you.”
As a retail sales associate, you can’t know everything, but it is part of your job to be able to get answers to your customers’ questions.
Bad: “All sales are final.”
Better: “Let me know if you’re not satisfied and we’ll make it right.”
Your store may not offer comfort returns on mattresses or allow other items to be exchanged after purchase, but “retailers need to be flexible and allow a return or exchange against company policy if it comes down to keeping a customer,” RTS recommends.
Bad: “Calm down.”
Better: “I apologize.”
Let’s hope your exchanges with customers never get heated. If one does, diffuse the situation with an apology and then look for a solution to the problem.
Bad: “We’re closed.”
Better: “We close at XX and reopen at XX. Is there something I can quickly help you with now?”
“Before turning away a potential sale,” RTS says, “keep in mind that while the customer may not know the store’s hours of operation, they do want to spend money.”
Bad: “It’s over there.”
Better: “Follow me. I’ll show you right where it is.”
Pointing customers to another part of the store is dismissive and borderline rude. Lead them where they need to go and answer any questions they have when you get there.
Bad: “I can’t do that.”
Better: “I think the best solution is…”
Customers don’t like to hear the word, “no.” Find a way to turn a negative into something more positive.
Bad: “That’s against our policy.”
Better: “Typically our policy is XX, but I want to make this right for you. This is what I can do…”
“In today’s competitive market, retailers can’t afford to be inflexible. Retail store policies are important because they provide guidelines for how to handle most situation,” RTS says. “But it is important to understand the value of a satisfied customer.”
Bad: “I’m new here.”
Better: “Please bear with me and I’ll get you the help you need.”
Most customers understand what it’s like to be new on the job, but they still need assistance. Get someone who can help them as quickly as possible—and then stick around to learn how the matter is handled so you can learn for next time.
Bad: “Hold on.”
Better: “Are you able to hold for a moment?”
Never give a customer an order.
Bad: “I’m busy right now.”
Better: “I’d be happy to help you.”
Customers are the very reason retailers—and sales jobs—exist. Stop whatever else you’re doing and assist your customer.