There’s always room for improvement
Jewelry store owners and their staff must exhibit exemplary “retailer etiquette” for every customer that comes through their door. Experts give average letter grades to retail jewelers, and like any ongoing learning process, there’s always room for improvement on retailer etiquette essentials – especially with the ever-changing retail landscape.
For Main Street jewelry stores some sales are lost to pure players like Blue Nile. But larger challenges loom than a young bridal jewelry customer starting a sales presentation with printouts of diamond certs and ring designs from a website. Each year online shopping continues to increase, even across age demographic groups, with convenience and free shipping as some of the leading reasons.
Cyber Monday 2017 was one for the history books. Online transactions totaled a record $6.59 billion, a 16.8 percent increase over the previous year. Mobile phone sales alone reached $2 billion of that figure, according to Adobe Insights. Online shopping, however, is just one dynamic that is shaking up retail.
Shopping malls are struggling. By 2022, analysts estimate one out of four shopping malls in the US could be out of business. The chief reasons include changing tastes, widening wealth gaps and, no surprise, online shopping, according to a July 31, 2017 TIME magazine article titled “Why the Death of Malls is About More Than Shopping.”
In the wake of the 2008 housing market crash, customer service became fashionable again. Thankfully, for retailers of all shapes, sizes and products sold, it has not gone out of style a decade later. Good customer service, not surprisingly, is one of the six retailer etiquette essentials.
Topping this list is good communications and interpersonal relationship skills. There are challenges for retail jewelers as mobile phones have proven the cellular saying of “talking more and saying less” to be tragically true.
“We’re missing personal communication with customers,” says Dr. Linda Talley, behavioral theorist and president of Linda Talley & Associates, Inc. “We’ve lost that personal connection with ourselves because we’re so connected to cell phones.”
Jewelry store owners have made adjustments on the sales floor with stated and informal cell phone policies. These efforts are recognized, but the great irony of modern day retail sales in the age of powerful mobile devices is phone calls to the store receive less than common courtesies, which are inextricably linked to poor communication skills.
“For the most part I think they [basic phone skills] are lacking,” says Brad Huisken, an internationally known retail trainer and speaker and founder of IAS Training. “Too often the phone is answered with a ‘Paul’s Jewelry’ and that is it.”
Brad added. “The telephone in many cases is the first contact with a company. The phone should be answered with a good morning, afternoon, or evening, the name of the store and then the name of the person answering the phone. And, always ask permission to put someone on hold.”
Good listening and speaking skills are number-two on the retailer etiquette essentials list. The basics of listening more and talking less in a sales presentation are common sense starters. Always be sure to restate and reaffirm what the customer has said. And, be mindful of what your body and facial expressions are saying.
“We know that people read your nonverbal communication prior to listening to anything you say,” says Linda. “Your nonverbal behavior informs the relationship you want to have with peers, boss, and customers. Verbal skills are important, but so much more is said without saying a word.”
Other retailer etiquette essentials include basic problem solving and customer service skills and the ability to work well with others. Proficiency in product knowledge is something that can be taught through specified training. Nevertheless, retailer etiquette essentials begin with store owners’ existing staff, which is usually a cross-section of age demographics.
In retail, especially luxury jewelry sales, the coming together of two very different generations is just as evident behind the sales counter as it is on the showroom floor. The generational differences, however, are not just measured in years.
“When comparing retail jewelry store environments of the past, I think in general people have become less personable,” says Brad. “There’s too much focus on making sales and not enough focus on developing long-term relationships. I call it back to the future retailing.”
Linda’s view of the generational differences in a store’s sales staff is mostly about the basic skill set each demographic brings to the business. “The older generations are wiser and may have a stronger work ethic,” says Linda. “They are a good role model for the younger generations. The younger generations are hard-wired for technology and they are good teachers of technology.”
Retailer etiquette essentials for jewelry store owners’ current staff can be instituted through training and policies. Linda encourages store owners and their staff to mystery shop stores to learn about best retail behaviors.
“It doesn’t have to be other luxury retailers,” says Linda. “Retailer etiquette essentials can even be learned at the Dollar Store. The trick is paying attention to what turns customers on and off. If you don’t like a certain retail behavior, chances are your jewelry store customer won’t like it either.” Linda encourages staff and store owners alike to discuss these findings at store meetings.
Brad shares the opinion that retailer etiquette essentials are improved by implementing and enforcing established policies. “Retailers today need to institute and enforce non-negotiable sales and customer service standards,” says Brad. “If they can get a McDonalds’ employee to say ‘would you like fries with that’ we can certainly get our people to provide exceptional sales and customer service skills.”
Training your store’s existing staff has its merits, but numerous resources – primarily time and money – can be saved by hiring for retailer etiquette essentials. “An addition to this essentials list should be emotional intelligence,” says Linda. “Retailers hire for skills and attempt to train for humanity. It should be the other way around.”
In Linda’s training for retail jewelers, she defines emotional intelligence as self-awareness, monitoring and regulating one’s behavior, empathy, motivation and a solid foundation of social skills. Of these qualities and characteristics, Linda sees a troubling lack of empathy these days.
Store owners, however, can emphasize some sales basics to compensate for this deficit, starting with a simple handshake. Physical contact always enhances a relationship. And, having the store owner or sales manager dissect a day on the sales floor to discover ways of making changes in retailer etiquette essentials can incrementally change a sales associate for the better.
Brad has a similar approach to hiring sales associates. “Retailers need to hire people that are looking more for a career than just a job,” says Brad. “Skills can be taught – personality can’t. Hire people with caring personalities, we can teach the other skills.”
And, Brad emphasizes jewelry store owners should take a critical look at their basic hiring practices. “Sure, there are good people everywhere,” he says. “But good interviewing and hiring skills need to be administered along with a personality profile resource and testing on basic skills.” Brad recommends the TTS or Thurston Temperament Schedule as proven personality profile assessment resources.