Columnists have used up a lot of space considering how technology and automation eliminate jobs in one field after another, including the commercial sector. However, the shining stars of commercial digitalization claim to be investing more than ever in staff and training. Why?
E-commerce is putting pressure on brick-and-mortar stores since consumers either won’t or don’t want to go shopping any longer. Buyers only visit physical outlets to touch and feel goods but purchase them online. At least that’s what many Finnish brick-and-mortar store owners constantly complain in public.
But if we change the landscape to the British moors, we discover a different story. Let’s take the example of the UK shopping chain, John Lewis, where one-third of all department store business comes from the Web, and where even online food purchases are growing by double-digit figures annually. All the same, John Lewis has announced that it is currently rolling out its biggest ever staff training program and distributing thousands of tablet computers to workers in traditional walk-in outlets.
Behind the major investment in personnel development is a change in customer buying behavior and a re-emergence of the service culture concept. Customers don’t choose e-commerce over traditional shopping because they prefer cold automation to human contact. They do it because the hectic bustle of daily life has increased, the amount of information available has grown explosively and the traditional shopping experience provides inadequate value in exchange for the time and effort they invest.
Nowadays, technological development makes it possible for sales staff in physical outlets to have all necessary information at their fingertips for the products they sell, including customer reviews and comments. Salespeople now have an insight into product availability throughout the store and warehouse network. But best of all, salespeople have customers standing in front of them. By listening to the customer and making use of all the information sources available to them, sales staff can accomplish more than the screen on any computing device.
According to research by the US consulting firm McKinsey, 70 percent of buyer experiences are based on how customers feel they are treated. Therefore, it is important to manage expectations. Although, in reality, the merchants’ world is made up of several different partners and information systems, to the customer, it is seamless.
An era of mediocrity has given way to the new rise of a service culture. So take care of your employees’ excellence and give them the tools they need to serve today’s customers. The service culture is a field where there is still room for growth—the fastest and most impressive will most certainly enjoy the customers’ appreciation and loyalty.