On a scale of one to five, what is your overall customer service experience at your favorite retail store?

We have seen the headlines about Sears and the downfall of its operations. One of the biggest issues facing the Canadian department store was a lack of customer service presence in addition to an online e-commerce service, especially with eBay and Amazon leading the race.

The next time you think that changing your store presentation will help increase return on investment, have a real conversation with your staff. Here is a list of tips to consider to help get your retail store back on track.

1. Think Like Your Customers

Do you know what your customers desire? If you do, you are on the right track.

The first step is to sit in your store after it closes and walk around as if you are a customer. Think about how easy it is for them to find products. You might have to remove clothing racks or create more space to improve the appearance. Now is the time to make a change to help increase sales before the New Year.

Do you have enough staff scheduled during peak times?

While saving money on employment is beneficial, if you only have two cashiers in a busy store on a Friday evening, imagine how inconvenient it is for customers to wait in a line up to ask a question. The idea is to make your store easily accessible for assistance, and one way this can be done is by setting up kiosks for people to find retail items.

Walmart has decided to change its hours of stocking products from overnight to the day. This change will help customers find products they need with more retail specialists available in the store.

2. Improve employee relations

This area of employment is often overlooked. Your employees need to feel motivated to put a genuine smile on their face and help customers promptly.

Ask your human resources team if you can offer employees additional healthcare benefits, flexible work shifts, one personal day a year, bonuses for high sales performance or an additional week for vacation.

Another idea is to offer customer service training throughout the year with role-playing scenarios. Management and employees can have a roundtable discussion on their thoughts on customer complaints and creative ways to improve the set up in the store.

3. Establish an e-commerce presence

According to Statistics Canada, at the end of 2016, e-commerce stores in Canada rose from 1.8 to 3.5 percent. An example of an e-commerce company is EMFURN, an online platform that is decreasing the cost of running a retail store by providing furniture items online. The ability to do e-commerce can offer cost savings in taxes, rent, electricity, and staffing.

Another tip is to package your e-commerce deliveries with fancy wrapping, and include a recipe card or a thank you note to help improve the customer experience.

4. Make your store child-friendly

We have all seen it before. Babies crying in lineups and children running around the store as their parents struggle to entertain them.

To help make your store more child-friendly, set up an area with safe toys and a TV for children to play in as parents shop. Remember to add books, crayons and scratch paper for children to enjoy.

5. Develop an app

Imagine an app that customers can use in the comfort of their own home to find products before coming into your retail store. You can set up an area to the side of your cashing out section for an employee to be on call to find the product, label it with the customer’s name and give it to them when they arrive. If you have a fear that it will prevent customers from coming into your store, know that there will be a segment of your audience that will prefer the in-person experience.

Your retail store experience is of high importance and a representation of how you do business. Just a few changes can help you attract new customers and stand out from your competitors. If you want to create change, the time is now with a few months left before the end of the year. It is time to create a welcoming customer experience your market does not expect. Instead of searching for ideas from your competitors, ask internal and external stakeholders about what they need and deliver.

Written by: Makeda Waterman, Professional Writer, Guest Contributor