Posted by on Sep 9, 2018 in Future of Retail, Views

By Dave Wendland, as seen in HealthCare Distributor magazine, “Out of the Box” column, July/August 2018

My teenage daughter is part of a competitive dance team which means there are many rehearsals, costumes, make-up purchases, road trips, and occasional drama. She and her team’s preparation for big events and the judging that surrounds it made me think about retail experiences and what customer-facing performances could look like.

The schedule
Dance competitions don’t just magically appear on a calendar with the hopes that the troupe will be ready to go. They are generally scheduled months in advance, providing enough time to create the program that will be presented. The location is known and start times, break times, and consideration for costume changes are all pre-determined and communicated. It is truly a well-orchestrated schedule that lets every dancer (and their parents) know the sequence of events and who needs to be where by when.

Same should be true of a retail operation. Unless the time that the doors open for business is magical and ever-changing or if the location of the operation is not known, there should be a well-documented schedule of events. Everyone should know their responsibilities (start times, break times, and perhaps even costume change times). And this schedule should be well-communicated and well-known to the public.

The preparation
Everything is rehearsed. From the way the dancers enter the stage to the manner in which they interact during a particular song. The precision of the choreography is one of my favorite aspects of any of my daughter’s performances. Fluidity, accuracy, and awareness combine to present a seemingly flawless routine. From the audience’s viewpoint, it is perfect.

Putting this in the perspective of a retail sales floor, is every-thing rehearsed, precise, and fluid? I certainly have not consistently witnessed this. Does each member of the team know their role, responsibilities, and the interaction with others? If not, it’s time to rehearse. Remember, if the goal is to perform as flawlessly as possible then spending the time rehearsing is essential.

The performance
It never ceases to amaze me that on the day of the performance, there is much bustling and hustling. Everyone is physically preparing (putting on their game faces, stretching, practicing, etc.) and mentally preparing for their time on stage. The dance routines may only be for a precious few moments, but it is the dancer’s time to shine. It is, after all, a performance with passion and something that each dancer takes significant pride in.

Too often I’ve walked into retail operations that should be “ready to perform” only to be met by unprepared sales clerks, a disheveled retail floor appearance, misarranged shelves (the stage), and absence of any passion or pride. This lack of performance-readiness is glaring…and I suspect you have encountered many times and know precisely what I’m describing.

The evaluation
For competitive dancers, a slate of experienced judges evaluates such things as choreography, costumes, technique, and overall performance. During a recent competition, the director of the event shared additional words of wisdom that had to do with showmanship, eye contact, and positive attitudes. The first few moments of any dance routine often set the tone for the entire performance and judges often form an impression that informs their final tally.

The same can be said about a retail experience. First impressions are formed from the first few steps into the store and that sets the tone for the entire shopping visit. Eye contact and “showmanship” is evaluated with each clerk or other employee encounter. And the overall choreography, presentation, and routine are judged. Perhaps consumers are offering a review on a social media site. But, if not, they are undoubtedly sharing their views among friends — good, bad, and ugly.

So my belief is that front-line workers at retail — and the entire management team — should approach every day as if it was a performance of a lifetime or that each day was their grand opening. As a result consumers would be far more likely to enjoy their experience, share their views, and ultimately increase their loyalty. I realize this entire column has been focused on the retail stage; however, the same applies to any business setting. If the schedule, preparation, performance, and evaluation are not managed effectively, customers will take notice and flee.

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