By Niki Wheeler, Director, Launch
Little did I realise when I worked in a pub (aged 14) and for a couple of big retailers (16-21), that retail and hospitality are the ultimate training grounds for comms.
You need to know what your sales targets are, what is part of a new menu or collection, on sale, popular or has been featured in the press. You also need to love the buzz of keeping customers happy.
It goes without saying that you have to live and breathe a brand when you are on the frontline, regardless of how sore your feet are and how big the queue. You aren’t just wearing the badge, the uniform or splurging your staff discount on the latest merchandise. Survival means quickly assessing every single person who walks in – what they say they want (and what they really want) and what they’ll spend.
You need to be able to navigate, tell a story, be resourceful, (and resilient when people are rude to you), smile and know when to escalate an issue. Today, you might also get secretly videoed, photographed or quoted on social media if you don’t get it right.
Our team cut their teeth in pubs, bars, boutiques, supermarkets, amusement parks and some of the best known retailers on the high street before they joined us. One of them says she still channels a Four Seasons approach to customer service when she hits the phone and her ‘smile and dial’ approach gets killer results.
As comms operators – realistic operational suggestions to those who’ve got a shop, hotel or branch to run in terms of pictures, stunts, events or dressing a space have a huge commercial impact – particularly in the run up to Christmas.
Yet while those in our game still need to get their sleeves rolled up to gift wrap, stuff goodie bags and manage guest lists as required – the best transferable skill from a customer service job is still thinking on your feet when there is a problem.
Not only does a job on a front desk or shop floor tell your employer you’ve got get up and go – it shows you are likely to have an innate understanding of customer service that goes deeper than product placement.
It means that when you work on channel management (today’s ultimate escalation of a customer gripe) or on day to day issues management (often rooted in miscommunication or operational glitches and where media are often tagged or cc’d into complaints) – you have the potential to think like an extension of a client’s customer care team.
So, as students graduate from school or university and move on from the jobs that have kept them in rent and beer money – it will often be the lessons they learnt pulling pints or dealing with a return that will be as useful as some of the skills they learnt in the classroom.
Needless to say, as we keep an eye out for the talent of the future – those with customer service principles are well placed to apply.