You Have to Speak to Serve

You see a customer looking at an item on the shelf with a puzzled expression on her face. You walk over and say, “Good morning, ma’am. Thanks for visiting us today. Is there anything I can help you with?” 

With those words, her face falls. She shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head to indicate that she doesn’t understand what you mean.

You suddenly realize that she does not speak English, and now your hopes fall as well. With a seemingly insurmountable language barrier in your path, you watch as she puts the item back on the shelf and walks out of the store without making a purchase.

That is a fairly standard customer interaction, and it should have gone very well. The obvious problem?

You really can’t serve a customer if you can’t speak with them.

Yes, employees can try to get around the language issues with gestures and very simple questions, but where does that leave the customer? How do they feel about the exchange knowing that you are uncomfortable and unable to understand their needs and desires?

According to the data in the recently published infographic, over 56% of consumers say the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price. Retaining those customers has a financial reward as well; a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits from 25% to 85%.

Now that we understand the scope of the issue, what if you could change that surprisingly common interaction for your employees?

How Best Buy Does It

Retailers have long known about the language gap between customers and sales staff; however, there wasn’t always an answer to the question of how to solve that problem.

Best Buy found one.

They decided to leverage a solution from Rosetta Stone to allow employees to study and learn a new language. The cost of the training investment was offset by the resulting increase in sales.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a great video on how one Best Buy employee made over $100,000 in sales thanks to his new Spanish language skills.

Bringing it Home

Some people will watch the video and think that Timothy is selling electronics. That may be true, but it’s also just looking at the end result. That observation misses the key lesson this story teaches.

That he’s working hard to serve his customers well. Somewhere along the line it is easy to forget that the most important part of selling is serving. All the hard-sell tactics in the world are useless if you do not have a heart for serving your customers. On the contrary, true service to the customer, as in Timothy’s case, can earn you more sales than you ever would have imagined.

You have to speak to serve. It’s that simple.

Take a moment to consider your own sales force. Are they adequately trained to not only “manage” a conversation with customers speaking other languages, but to truly “serve” those customers well? Why or why not?

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