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Comment: don’t let the wrong staff ruin your Christmas
Lucy Beaumont

Christmas is a make-or-break time to build your customer base and up-sell related products. But your marketing efforts - and your anticipated profits - could all go up in smoke if you fail to recruit the right staff. By Lucy Beaumont


Comment: don’t let the wrong staff ruin your Christmas

In the run-up to Christmas, retailers’ attention and budgets turn to marketing. Substantial sums are invested in new displays, adverts, marketing promotions and so on, all designed to entice Christmas shoppers to come to their store and spend.

Last year John Lewis spent £7 million on its ‘Bear and Hare’ campaign, and by all means it paid off with sales over the Christmas period totalling a reported £734 million. But marketing activity alone can only do so much. Once in store, retailers are at the mercy of their employees and their ability to provide great service and up-sell to achieve Christmas sales targets. This is where the wrong staff can ruin your Christmas.

Christmas shoppers who encounter unhelpful, unfriendly and even rude employees have the power to impact sales. Not only do they take their custom elsewhere, they also share their experiences with friends and family, and potentially thousands of others via social media. This can cost you both their custom at Christmas and throughout the rest of the year.  

So whilst you may be inundated with applications for retail staff leading up to the Christmas period, it’s important to consider the cost of employing the wrong people.

What makes a good retail employee will vary depending on the company, values and the role in question. But most retailers look for employees who are both customer focused and are able to up-sell. That’s actually a combination that’s hard to find.

Our research shows that 40% of the working population are inclined to be customer-focused and 37% to up-sell. But what happens if we employ retail staff who are strong in one area, but not the other?

Those who show strong selling traits but are low on customer service may come across as manipulative and alienate customers. Alternatively, if someone is strong on customer service but low on selling, they may over-indulge customers without up-selling other services.

This all points to the fact that retailers really need employees who are strong in both areas. Yet our data shows that only 12% of the working population have the desired combination of customer service and sales focus. In other words, only one in ten of your potential recruits is actually likely to be right for the role.  

So before you start advertising for Christmas vacancies this year, think carefully about what you need from your employees in order to benefit your customers and your business. And remember, your frontline employees are the embodiment of your brand when they’re dealing with customers.  

Lucy Beaumont is solutions director at assessment specialist Talent Q, and will be speaking at the Retail HR Summit 2014, taking place on Wednesday 8 October at the Cavendish Conference Centre in London.  Click here to view the full programme and register.


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