Stuttgart. Most customers at retail shops in Germany want better sales advice as well as salespeople who offer assistance without being asked and are able to answer questions. This is the result of a recent representative survey commissioned by Porsche Consulting GmbH headquartered in Bietigheim-Bissingen and carried out by the Forsa market research institute.
A total of 59 percent of customers 18 years of age and older are critical of the quality of advice they receive from sales personnel: approximately one third (32%) feel that sales advice is only sometimes good and 27 percent report that they “rarely if ever” receive adequate advice. Nearly half of customers surveyed note a lack of competent personnel who are able to answer questions about individual products. Four of ten customers desire greater support in searching for specific items, in procuring items not currently in stock, and in comparing alternatives.
The survey revealed insufficient availability of personnel to be a major source of unsatisfactory sales advice. Four of ten customers expect to have to go looking for sales personnel first – or at least to have to wait before being able to talk with them. This situation has consequences for the retail sector: 81 percent of respondents have changed plans to purchase something in the past when sales advice has not met their expectations. Women tend to draw back from planned purchases more so than men, according to the survey, as do middle-aged and older customers compared to younger ones under the age of 30 who are more prepared to compromise.
Retailers face a high risk of losing unsatisfied customers for good. Many customers who do not go through with a planned purchase because they feel inadequately advised tend to boycott the shop in general. According to the survey, two of three customers (66%) permanently avoid shops at which sales advice did not meet their expectations. Market researchers from Forsa arrived at the following conclusion: “Improving the quality of sales advice in the retail sector would appear to be urgently necessary.”
To enable sales personnel to spend more time with customers, Porsche Consulting’s specialists in this sector advise retailers in particular to make all their processes more efficient and integral. Sales activities need to be distinct from what might be termed support activities – such as stocking shelves. In addition, the logistics at branch locations could be organized considerably more effectively if incoming goods processes were streamlined. Ready-made deliveries – prepared for direct placement in the sales area – could reduce the time and effort spent on unpacking and restocking. Another equally important area consists of precise personnel planning with clearly defined responsibilities, ongoing employee training, and clear rules about personnel presence in sales areas.
Eberhard Weiblen, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche Consulting GmbH, is convinced that “perfect processes can enable retailers to score points with their customers as well as their employees. When employees engage in the activities for which they were trained and hired, both their satisfaction and that of the customers goes up.” As he adds, “If their processes were consistently oriented to the needs of consumers, German retailers could derive 20 percent more time for their customers – without having to add additional personnel.”
Porsche Consulting GmbH headquartered in Bietigheim-Bissingen is a subsidiary of the sports car company Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart. Founded in 1994 with a staff of four, it currently employs more than 350 people. An internationally active company with four subsidiaries of its own located in Milan (Italy), São Paulo (Brazil), Atlanta (USA), and Shanghai (China), Porsche Consulting is one of Germany’s leading management consulting companies. Its experts in operational excellence advise corporations and medium-sized companies worldwide in the automotive, aeronautics and aviation, and mechanical and plant engineering industries. Additional clients come from the pharmaceutical, healthcare, service, consumer goods, and trade sectors.
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