Radical Hospitality in Retail with Suzanne Evans

June 4, 2024



In this episode, our special guest, Suzanne Evans, Vice President Head of Stores at Tecovas, provides invaluable insights into the pivotal role of hospitality in retail. Emphasizing the significance of fostering team development and nurturing a positive workplace culture, Evans highlights the delicate balance required between effective salesmanship and genuine customer service.

The conversation unravels the challenges and opportunities within the retail industry, with a particular focus on enhancing customer experiences, advancing employee development, and seamlessly integrating digital and physical retail channels.

Conversation Rundown

[ 6:38 - 8:19 ] The key to running a successful retail store.
Prioritizing customer service and investing in the growth and well-being of your team are key ingredients in achieving success. By focusing on empowering and educating team members, leaders can foster a positive work environment where employees are passionate and dedicated to delivering exceptional service. Building connections and showing genuine care for individuals can create a strong sense of teamwork and collaboration, ultimately leading to an outstanding customer experience. By embracing a partnership approach and valuing the contributions of every team member, leaders can cultivate a culture of support and mutual respect, ensuring both employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction are prioritized.

[ 11:00 - 14:15 ] How to create memorable customer experiences in-store?
Embodying Southern hospitality means creating engaging and memorable experiences for everyone, regardless of whether they become customers. It's about leaving a positive impact on people, making them feel seen and valued, even if they don't make a purchase. By treating interactions like hosting a party in your living room, where you're attentive to guests' needs and create warmth, you can foster a strong connection with your brand. This approach focuses on genuine hospitality rather than just sales, building a foundation for educating customers about products and cultivating passionate team members who bring the brand to life with their enthusiasm. Ultimately, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere is essential for leaving a lasting impression and fostering meaningful connections with customers.

[ 16:00 - 18:30 ] How to balance customer satisfaction and salesmanship in retail?
Finding the right balance between salesmanship and genuine education is crucial in retail. While some customers may respond well to a more aggressive approach, it's essential to prioritize understanding their needs and providing valuable information rather than simply pushing sales. Hiring individuals who excel in educating customers rather than convincing them to buy something they don't truly want ensures a positive experience for both the customer and the business in the long run. Commission-based sales can be tricky, requiring a delicate balance to avoid pressuring customers into purchases they may later regret. It's important to observe and support team members in their interactions with customers, creating an environment that values expertise and genuine connection. While some level of high-pressure sales may exist in the industry, success lies in finding a balance that prioritizes customer satisfaction and long-term relationships over immediate sales numbers.

[ 18:40 - 19:43 ] Why must store associates understand what their customers want?
Understanding the customer's needs, preferences, and mood is essential for store associates to provide a personalized shopping experience. While it's important to avoid pressuring customers into purchases they may regret, there are times when a gentle nudge can help them make a decision they'll be happy with in the long run. Passionate store associates who are knowledgeable about their brand and customers can gauge when it's appropriate to provide that extra encouragement. This approach not only enhances customer satisfaction but also reduces the risk of returned inventory, ultimately benefiting the company. By focusing on understanding and meeting the customer's needs, store associates can create positive shopping experiences that result in satisfied customers and successful sales.

[ 21:42 - 24:41 ] How to improve shopping experience by combining online and in-store options?
Creating a seamless and convenient shopping experience for customers has been a priority in my experience, particularly through strategies like buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) and blending online and in-store offerings. These approaches allow customers to engage with products both digitally and physically, satisfying their desire to see, touch, and feel items before purchasing. By combining online research with in-store experiences, customers can immerse themselves in the brand story, enhancing their connection to the product. This omnichannel approach not only streamlines the purchasing process but also fosters relationships between customers and the brand. As customers become familiar with the brand and develop rapport with store associates, they may feel more comfortable making online purchases as well, further expanding the business's reach and enhancing customer satisfaction. Overall, integrating various channels creates a synergistic relationship that benefits both consumers and the business.

[ 26:24 - 27:41 ] Why do store associates need to be fully equipped for omnichannel operations?
The role of a retail store manager, particularly in an omnichannel environment, is multifaceted and demanding. Beyond traditional responsibilities such as sales targets and customer service, managers now oversee complex fulfillment operations, transforming stores into hybrid retail and distribution centers. This expanded role requires exceptional organizational skills, commitment, and passion from managers and their teams. Investing in people, providing necessary resources, and fostering a supportive environment are critical for successfully navigating these complexities and achieving success in an omnichannel retail landscape.

[ 27:44 - 29:17 ] Why physical stores will benefit greatly from omnichannel strategies?
Embracing omnichannel strategies not only challenges traditional retail operations but also presents new opportunities for store managers and associates. By seamlessly integrating digital and physical experiences, stores can capitalize on customer interactions to drive additional revenue streams. For instance, associates can leverage in-store product experiences to encourage online purchases with local pickup options, enhancing customer convenience and loyalty. Similarly, adopting omnichannel fulfillment methods, such as shipping from local stores, enables cost-effective and timely delivery options, ultimately benefiting both customers and the business. Overall, embracing technology and omnichannel strategies empowers retail stores to maximize revenue potential and bridge the gap between digital and physical retail experiences.

Meet the Experts

Susanne Evans is the Vice President Head of Stores at Tecovas with over 18 years of experience in the retail industry. She is a seasoned professional with a diverse background that includes roles at prominent companies such as YETI, Michael Kors, bareMinerals and Macy's she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her current position.

Passionate about delivering exceptional customer experiences and fostering Southern hospitality, Susanne aims to drive results while maintaining a strong focus on customer satisfaction.

Retail Tips & Tweetables

Salesmanship is an extreme skill and the ones that are excellent are so so good that you could not put someone in their shoes and they would even come close.

I think ultimately customer service is first and foremost.

If you have a happy team, then your customers are happy.

If you pour into your people, educate them and help them grow, you can deliver an incredible customer experience.

I think there's always going to be a little bit of that high pressure sales, no matter where you go.

Invest in your people.

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