Working in retail is no easy feat! I guess this post is a bit more target-specific, but I know that the retail industry employs the largest number of people and I figured that I will at least have a relatively big audience to cater to!
I also thought those not working in retail might find a peek into the unknown quite interesting. As you know, I’m a pharmacist and I work with patients. I also take their money and ring up their sales, so that makes them my customers as well. I know a bit about both worlds. There is a difference between handling a patient and handling a customer.
I’m going to focus more on the customer side for this post. Let me tell you why this topic is important to me.
Starting on the Inside…
I realized very soon that if I wanted to survive the industry I would need to make a mind-shift. You need to think differently than before if you want to be successful in working with people who are demanding, and who are full of (sometimes unrealistic) expectations.
I am taking that new way of thinking and applying it to other areas of life as well. For example, I learned to take the act of responsibility very seriously. No complaining customer will be happy when you tell them you’ve made a mistake and that you’re sorry. You might think they would forgive and forget. But, no! It flies through their heads without attaching anywhere. It doesn’t register. It’s not what they want to hear. They want immediate solutions. And they want to feel that they are your one and only customer and that no one else matters…
Of course, that is unrealistic because you see hundreds of people on a daily basis, but if you try to do a bit more relationship building you can make them feel important, and that is what you want to achieve. What makes it easier is that people don’t like change and they are most likely to shop at the same place over and over. Try to identify your regular customers and start to get to know them better.
I apply this to my daily life by being more mindful of the things happening around me. I focus on the details, like when, how and why? This helps me to have more authority and “ammunition” to win arguments with if needed. It also helps me to stay accountable for my behavior and identify areas I need to work on. People like to follow others who seem to have control. By applying this simple technique you will ensure your customers walk away happy! And come back again…
Making Decisions in Between
I gained so many insights into the way people (and I myself) think over the past year. Working in the retail industry showed me the importance of thought patterns. To me, the difference between mind shift and thoughts is that mind shift is about perspective while thought patterns are tangible choices you make in the moment. Numerous times I see that when I start with a task and something begins to stress me out, what goes on inside my head will determine the eventual outcome of the situation. Thus, I must choose how I want to think and react toward my obstacle.
I made a silent promise to myself that I will not get emotionally involved in any conversation unless I choose to. And so far it has been working great for me! When I’m not emotionally involved it gives me the opportunity to look at the situation from an outsider’s perspective. There are no emotions to cloud my view. I now make better decisions and I’m more successful in accomplishing my goals.
…then Focusing on the Outside
While working in retail, it helps to know how to read into the behavior of your customers in order for you to make better conclusions and assumptions. In all the books I’ve read about influential people, I’ve heard one principle being repeated over and over again – you need to dig deeper and get to the root of your problem before you can truly solve it. Don’t focus on the symptoms but search for the cause of the symptoms. The three most prevalent behaviors I see in practice are the following:
1. Always in a hurry
This is a great opportunity for you to make mistakes and lose your temper. Unfortunately, restlessness is contagious! But I can honestly say that I’ve never been glad about the issues that I had to resolve after the customer has left, just because their nervousness made me stumble. I’ve learned to keep a consistent tempo which ensures that I’m accurate and thorough. And I’m not joining in their race. They are welcome to come back later.
Whether it is your patience, knowledge, or your sanity, they will test it. Humans are competitive creatures and get a heap of feel-good hormones flushed into their system when they win. Luckily I’m aware of that, so I stand back, stay calm, and answer to the best of my capabilities. I try not to get offended or angry, but I just let it pass.
3. Moods come and go
Never label a customer after one bad or good experience. People are full of surprises! I’ve learned from experience that it is best to take each day as it comes, and not to have too many expectations. Or be unnecessarily over-prepared.
Ten Practical Tips for Working in Retail
1. Face your fears
Use fear to your advantage and tackle problems with intense determination. The satisfaction that comes with accomplishing heavy tasks will serve as your well-earned reward.
2. Do more than what is expected
People like to be spoiled and walking the extra mile for someone would definitely leave a lasting impact. You can start by choosing one customer a day and increase the number as you get into the habit of giving great service.
3. Don’t get emotionally involved
It is just your job and they’re just your customers. It’s not worth it to bring your own dignity into the picture. This way you can make every day, a good day.
4. Know your weaknesses
Transparency builds trust. You will always have a manager above you that you can turn to for assistance. Or you can buy some time to figure things out by offering to call a customer back. Don’t pretend that you know more than you do. People will see through you. Rather play it safe!
5. Build relationships
This is what will make people come back to you. Getting down to their level and reaching into their world will make them feel that you care for them. And you might learn something new in the process as well.
6. Bring out the best in others
By staying calm in a heated argument, and using techniques such as paraphrasing, you can help to calm the customer to join you in the cool waters. The customer will be able to communicate more accurately and clearly and unnecessary arguments will be avoided.
7. Be firm but humble
Don’t be the victim of verbal abuse. But stay put in your place to avoid humiliation and to gain respect.
8. Don’t expect justice
Life is never fair. Definitely not in retail. Better to come to work prepared and without idealistic expectations.
9. Be proud of who you are
You don’t have to change your character or beliefs for anyone. If you are proud of who you are, other people will be too. Even your customers.
10. Learn from your mistakes
Your greatest master is the mistakes you make. In the beginning take one minute, hour and day at a time. Before you know it you’ll be comfortable in your working environment and things will get easier.
I truly hope this blog post was helpful to you, whether you’re new in the industry or still considering to become a part of it. I can truly say that I learned skills in retail that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else.
Working in retail helped to shape me as a person and I’m grateful for the opportunity. The industry took a lot but also gave me valuable wisdom and experience. If you ever get the opportunity to work in the retail industry, I encourage you to take part in the challenge and allow yourself to grow.