Can you help me?

 Can you help me?

In response to ever-increasing levels of competition from their on-line competitors, many traditional retailers are putting more emphasis on personal and friendly service – “the human touch.” After all, high-end retailers like Nordstrom have successfully used this approach for years. Deliver superior service and engender customer loyalty – it certainly sounds like a recipe for success.

Perhaps like us, you’ve noticed an uptick in attempted helpfulness in your recent shopping trips.

Or have you?

We’ve all felt the important difference between asking someone if they need help, and actually being able to help them. Many retailers are putting more employees on the sales floor and training them to greet customers with a smile and offer assistance. However, in many cases the “helpfulness” seems to stop there.

One of our Crew was telling us a story about a recent shopping trip. While she was perusing the shelves of a sporting goods store for an inflatable raft, no fewer than three employees came by to offer their assistance. One of them did not know what an inflatable raft was – and when she explained, said he had never seen one in the store. One left to find out if the store had any in stock – and never returned. The third stated that customer service could help – and pointed toward a line several people deep.

In the end, she located the item on her own. Only to be asked by the cheery checkout clerk – “did we help you find everything you needed?” Not surprisingly, she left feeling annoyed rather than well served.

As we were commiserating about similar experiences, we began to discuss the broader implications. Many organizations – not just retailers – have values that stress being of service to the customer and to one another. Yet how many of these organizations enable employees to give more than lip service to these values?

For example, another Crew member shared a different kind of example from her recent shopping experience at Wegmans – a grocery store chain well regarded for their strong culture and brand. An employee noticed her looking at the store signs trying to find an item and offered help. He then used a handheld device to look up the item and direct her to the correct aisle. And, he let her know she could download the Wegmans store app on her mobile phone so she could do the same.

Think about your organization. Is your team truly empowered to deliver on your promises? Do they have deep literacy around your business and offerings? Do you have meaningful core values that guide employees’ behaviors? Have you provided service standards and related training that bring those values to life?

Are your employees – your brand ambassadors – truly enabled and empowered to help customers?