What can the retail industry learn from the hospitality sector?

Have you ever found yourself lost in a big department store looking for that one item that you really need to finish up your shopping list? Then finally, you spot a sales assistant, you approach them, finally seeing some hope at the end of a restless journey around the store… but they just quickly point you to a far away shelf, 3 isles back where most likely, you will still be lost looking for the item – sound familiar?

However, you probably have also experienced the opposite; a smiling and helpful retail assistant that with much care walked you to the item you needed and showed you all the alternatives available that you might be interested in.

Why does it matter which experience is received if the consumer still managed to leave the store with the desired product?

Many factors indeed influence the answer, however, meticulous attention to customer experience is what matters the most in order to encourage repeat customers and increase the average value of per transaction.

In today’s world, it has become much easier for the majority of the population, at least in the Western world, to have access to an array of luxury and desired products, through the introduction of discounts, outlets and so forth. Therefore the price and monetary value of a product has greatly decreased in importance in the consumer’s purchasing journey, because if that was their only concern, consumers have fast access to shopping online where anything can be found and prices can be compared instantly, so why would they visit a store? …For the experience!

What retailers should be aiming for is a personalised service that makes the customer feel taken care of. The emphasis should be on the experience that shopping can bring, through well-selected and trained staff that can demonstrate a valued and highly attentive service that goes beyond the mere execution of the minimum requirements. If the staff are knowledgeable, friendly and willing to help it will give the consumer an experience that goes beyond the norm, meaning they are likely to return; recommend the retailer to friends and family and often spend more than initially anticipated.

Retailers could learn a lot regarding this attitude and service from those who are trained and work in hospitality. Hospitality is a sector that before anything else values the quality of the service. Hospitality employees are usually extremely careful of the customers’ needs and their first impressions, they focus on ‘pampering’ their clients and this is something that retailers should be more concerned with.

Such attitude really helps to drive sales and performance, because a satisfied customer is a returning customer.

In the world of recruitment, we have really noticed an increase in retail companies looking for employees from a hospitality background for these reasons exactly! Retailers are not behind the curve in realising consumer’s expectations of the shopping experience are rising, so shopping centre management are looking to grow their teams with individuals that are experienced with delivering exceptional customer service in order to meet the growing consumer demand for a seamless shopping experience.

Jennifer Greco, International Shopping Centers Consultant, Foundation Recruitment

Photography - Nick Harrison

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