Retail jobs are an excellent training ground for the rest of your professional career. After all, where else can you gain firsthand experience in customer service, long hours and crisis management all in one place? You can benefit from the lessons learned by retail workers even if you've never folded shirts or stocked merchandise.
Start from the Bottom
Retail workers often start out in a store's lowest position, whether that's stocking shelves or bagging groceries. While they are doing the company's grunt work, they learn about the store from the ground up. When a worker moves up to higher positions in the store or in the retail industry, his background knowledge is invaluable. A CEO who has experience as a floor associate, for example, might use his knowledge of customer behavior to evaluate new merchandising strategies. This type of ground-level knowledge can give you unique insight and inform your decisions in any industry. It also helps you see the business through a filter of reality, which isn't possible when you enter directly at the top.
Education is Crucial to Customer Service
In many stores, customers look to retail workers as the be-all, end-all source of information. A worker who has taken the time to learn about the products and the departments is a better resource for customers. Instead of saying "I don't know," he can provide advice or recommendations — or, when he doesn't have an answer, bring the customer to an employer who does. As the old saying goes, information is power, and professionals across all industries can strengthen their performance by learning more about their company, products and clients. No matter what level you work at, there is always more to learn.
The Importance of Positive Communication
Retail workers are the main point of contact at many retail stores, and as such, they bear the brunt of customer anger. While most workers will do their best to appease upset shoppers, they are human. Customers who are rude or dismissive are not likely to inspire store workers to go the extra mile. Pleasant and polite customers, on the other hand, are more likely to get better service. The same is true for all businesses; people who have a positive attitude and do not assign personal blame have an easier time getting ahead. Whether you're dealing with a tough negotiation or a simple meeting, respect and open communication are invaluable tools.
Fast Crisis Management
Retail workers are the front line of defense for any store. They deal with combative customers, look for missing children and prevent theft. In some cases, they must enforce gun control. If a person is angry or upset, store staff defuse the situation before it inconveniences other shoppers. Crisis situations can crop up quickly, requiring retail industry workers to react quickly and develop a safe action plan. When a person exits a retail job, it is often with improved crisis management skills that can be useful everywhere from client negotiations to vendor disputes.
While retail workers often have unenviable job duties, they also gather knowledge that is useful in all types of careers. By incorporating these lessons into your existing business activities, you can improve performance and build stronger relationships.
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