Improving sales through workplace culture

By Keri Algar

SYDNEY, NSW: Sentiments such as insincerity, rudeness and lack of attention were raised recently by a consumer who contacted Current.com.au to explain why they prefered to shop online rather than in-store.

“Based on my experience, the sales staff are mostly to be avoided at all costs and/or they will avoid you, so why bother wasting your and their time?” said the disgruntled consumer.

“Now, if they were to wear a special jacket or hat that says, ‘I am a professional, I have ethics, I don’t recommend based on margin, I match you to the best fit product, I have been trained on customer care and these products and this is my career’, then those sales staff might have credibility.”

According to workplace culture expert Steve Simpson, workplace culture is the foundation stone upon which everything else rests. Simpson suggests bad customer service boils down to discontent staff and their understanding of unwritten ground rules, such as ‘Around here, the only time anyone gets spoken to by the boss is when something is wrong’.

“Retailers need to get serious about creating the right kind of culture for their business,” Simpson told Current.com.au.

“When I go into a retailer and get no service, despite their being no other customers in the premises, I immediately know one of the underwritten ground rules in that business – ‘Around here, the company talks about the importance of service, but we know they don’t really mean it, so we don’t have to worry about it.’”

So, how can retailers create a profitable, sustainable culture?

“First, they must identify the attributes of the culture that that business needs to be truly successful.”

This can be deciding that a genuine commitment to sincere customer service is critical, or genuine cooperation between departments.

“Then they must think about the leadership behaviours that are necessary to create the kind of underwritten ground rules that reflect that culture.”

This can mean encouraging staff to realise their position has value for consumers and is valued employers.

“Finally, the leadership team needs to put in place strategies to continually reinforce that culture.”

Simpson told Current.com.au that using the unwritten ground rule concept in a major retailer recently had turned that business around, but that “this only happened with the genuine support of the CEO of that retailer".

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