retail advice

How to massively improve retail advice skills | Remotely

Retail advice can be hard to come by when you’re busy running your own bricks and mortar shop. There’s a lot to be done, and you end up doing the work of many. But a good lumberjack needs to stop and sharpen their axe every so often, which means others are running the show.

When customers come in a store and are greeted by the owner, they feel special. You make them feel special:

  1. You are the top dog and they know that. Being served by you is the maximum focus your business can give them.
  2. You have skin in the game. That means every interaction matters.

Sadly, this doesn’t always carry over when others are working. That’s a crappy truth, and one we have always worked in our stores to avoid. You get some bad apples but ultimately you’re responsible for recruiting AND training them. If you neglect either, you get what you deserve.

BUT, you only know what you know. I tell that to my team and sometimes, bad service levels are a result of us not knowing how to train them. So, it’s important that you train you too. Then you can understand better how to train your team.

Training is the No.1 piece of retail advice I can offer

Inconsistent service levels are one of the biggest bones of contention for shoppers. An AMEX study in 2011 said this:

78% of customers in 2011 interviewed by an American Express survey said that they had stopped using a business as the result of experiencing poor customer service

American Express Study of Shoppers

So when a shopper has had a great experience with you and an employee with no understanding of your values or feeling any sense of training lets them down – that can mean curtains. Curtains for your relationship with that customer, and eventually shutters down for the business.

retail advice to avoid business closure

But it is only ever your fault. Jocko Willink teaches this in his book Extreme Ownership. A great guide to taking control of bad situations we put ourselves in. That being said, as a business owner, I read (or listen) voraciously. If we aren’t learning we are falling behind.

I have even laid out some of the best books on shopkeeping we have in the Deathground Library, on the site.

Back to the start where I mentioned Zappos.

Zappos are an American online shoe retailer who despite an initial uncertain start, ended up being sold to Amazon. They went from being a bunch of no-hopers to a great big bear on Amazon’s back when it came to them cracking the shoe market.

Continuing to lose, Amazon just bought them out.

But what did Zappos do?

Well after downloading the CEO Tony Hsieh’s book ‘Delivering Happiness’ – I understood.

From the outset, their business had a core value. “Delivering Happiness.” It’s great really for an online retailer but unlike many business owners I have met who talk a good customer service mantra, they actually embody it.

I did a podcast a year or two back and interviewed a large retail brand. I asked him what his core values were. He said:

We are all about love man

No chance am I going to name him

My next question on the podcast was, so what do you mean by that? What can you show that supports that?


I decided not to run the podcast episode, it would have made me look like a shill for his brand.

Zappos took training to the next level. They even developed a training academy for those in the retail industry. They developed a cult-like following from staff and customers alike. And it all came down to a little piece of paper marked:


Forming Lasting Experiences Starts Here

You guessed it, FLESH stands for forming lasting experiences starts here. It was a score card system that allowed management to listen to a customer services call and score the retail advisor based on this metric. It included elements like these:

  • Did the retail advisor get the customer’s name
  • Did they get them to laugh
  • Did they find out their needs and make alternative suggestions led by needs not price
  • Were there awkward silences

The list is quite a tome but at the heart of it, was Zappos desire to make sure that the customer ended the call happy.

Seems simple doesn’t it. Isn’t that what we are all supposed to do?

But how many of us remember that each day.

As part of our retail consultancy we always litmus test whether this is present in the customer experience audit.

Here’s our number one retail advice tip for you today

Have you got CCTV? Sure you do, if you haven’t then you’re skating on thin ice anyway. If you don’t, it doesn’t cost a lot to fit yourself but for this, we are assuming you do.

Now, in your contracts with your staff, you will generally have a clause in their about closed circuit monitoring. This includes audio, but how many of us bother to fit it?

Practically no-one.

Well, it costs about £100 to buy and fit a microphone above the till. It may be the best retail advice tool I could suggest.

ETHICAL POINT: Tell your staff to avoid deeply personal conversations in the vicinity of a microphone for their own dignity.

So you’ve got a microphone above the till. This lets you do 3 things.

  1. You can check on customer complaints – Did they really get a tough time? Or are they trying it on?
  2. You can get a surprising large amount of information from intruders. Balaclavas don’t hide voices.
  3. You can monitor sales pitches from the comfort of your pool lounger in the sun.

For this, we are going to look at point 3.

How to improve retail advice remotely

Set out a structure of your perfect sales pitch.

Break it down, from how you greet the customer to how you say goodby.

Of course, add everything in between. We had a loyalty card system, so when we swiped the card it brought their name up. To make it look professional but really a way to use their first name – we would swipe the card, then go:

“John isn’t it?” Smile and carry on.

That would also show their last transaction, so you might like us, ask them how they got on with X product last time etc. The point I am focusing on here is trying to engage that customer in a conversation sufficient that either today or next time, the ice is broken. That ice that stands in the way of an upsell, or a cross-sale. These are all present or future opportunities to offer a customer better value or promote something new.

Either way, the stronger the rapport that develops, the more chance for customer retention and future sales.

Build your own perfect pitch and break it down into a scoring system.


One of the areas that small businesses often lack in terms of retail advice training is the absence of appraisals and structured training. We had that problem too.

This solved it.

Each month we would have picked out 5 random customer interactions and listened back to them.

We would score for charisma, friendliness, courtesy, add-ons etc.

Once you take off the worst and the best, you are left with the three middle scores. This gives you a real structure to talk through on an appraisal and makes the team member aware, that these things are monitored and valued.

Now they know what you care about, how you care about it and how they can improve.

Improvement deserves reward

One of the biggest driving factors in personal satisfaction is self-realisation. The understanding that what a person is doing is taking them closer to the desired goal. So, if you find you have responsive and willing team members, take the time to show your appreciation.

Hope you found this retail advice tip helpful. We would love to hear from you, if you want to take your business further.

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