Company culture doesn't just impact teammates — it also sets a precedent for customer experience. Culture starts at the top, and in retail, the store manager sets the example. From the moment you arrive on-site, you should know the names of store team members, show that you're willing to tackle any task necessary, and be willing to bend the rules to take care of shoppers.
Customer service is a balance: It's imperative that managers know when to give in to shopper exceptions and when to stand behind the decisions of the team member.
Team members need to know their viewpoints are being heard and that their managers support them. Gallup reports that a good company culture results in employee commitment to customer service, satisfaction, and engagement — which results in a 10% increase in customer ratings, a 20% gain in sales, and a 21% increase in profitability.
A good company culture won't create itself, though. And nearly 60% of employees believe managers are responsible for creating and implementing employee engagement strategies.
Poor culture = poor customer experience
Team members who don't buy into the company culture often don't care about the business's success. They're indifferent to customer satisfaction and may hide behind rules instead of trying to find solutions to shopper concerns.
Zero-tolerance policies, for example, can make teammates feel powerful and, therefore, harm company culture. Team members have no choice but to enforce the rules instead of working with the customer to find a mutually beneficial solution. Even worse, they have to listen to customers voice their displeasure over what they perceive to be illogical policies — especially when it comes to returns or price changes.
Customers expect fast solutions and feel validated when their concerns can be addressed by the first team member they speak to. If a team member has to "get a manager" to satisfy a customer's request, it makes the customer feel the request is unreasonable. That can result in negative emotions and a bad customer service experience.
Company culture should be a business topic, not just an HR topic, allowing management to consider employees and customers as part of the same strategy. If managers break rules to take care of customers without backing employees or explaining their decisions, this can result in lower motivation across the team.
When team members don't feel valued by management, their connection to the business's purpose begins to break down. Eventually, they're just punching time cards. That's the last thing you want.
According to Gallup, work units that are most engaged have significantly less turnover and absenteeism. They also outperform the least engaged work units by 10% on customer ratings and 21% in productivity.
Establishing a healthy company culture
There are several proven approaches store managers can implement to improve their company culture and impact customers' in-store experiences for the better.
1. Stand behind your team members. Encourage your team members to handle customer service issues and allow them to deliver the service they want to provide. When a larger concern does arise, recommend that they assess all elements of the situation before escalation to management.
If you're asked to intervene, support your frontline team members if you need to make an exception to a policy. For instance: "Our policies required Mary to decline your return; however, she was correct in calling me over to review it. I will make an exception for you based on the facts she's shared with me."
2. Recognize team efforts. Team members crave appreciation, and you shouldn't be afraid to give it — not just in terms of a bonus. They like to receive gift cards, flexible work hours, or even just a "thank you" note. It's key to compliment your employees' work in front of their colleagues, customers, or even field leaders when they're in the store.
Everyone wants to feel wanted. When your team members feel needed and appreciated by the company they work for, the results are visible in many ways — especially to customers.
3. Join in with your team. When you have the time, join your team members to help them complete tasks so they can leave for break or head home early. Support isn't just anticipating needs ahead of a crisis. It also comes in the form of tools, training, budget, and moral support in completing the tasks.
These practices show your team members you appreciate their efforts and respect them as people, not just as employees.
Focusing on team member happiness is key to achieving customer happiness. After all, happy employees are more apt to go the extra mile, resulting in an increase in company profits and customer service scores. Feedback and praise help employees feel they're making a difference for the better and help build a better company culture.