We’d like to congratulate the winners of the Sales Assistant of the Year awards. The thousands of convenience shoppers we speak to every month never let us forget how important sales staff are in building loyalty and driving sales, writes HIM's Katie Littler. They’re called ‘sales assistants’ 
for a reason!

People like doing business with people they like. The same rules apply in convenience stores. Staff friendliness remains the most important factor to shoppers in the channel, and ‘speed of service’ is also growing in importance year on year.

But quality service means different things to different shoppers: friendliness, knowledge, and just having more staff all qualify with shoppers. Some are looking for a functional service while for others it’s more emotional. In Scotland, shoppers are primarily looking for a ‘friendly familiar face’, good service is much more of an emotional experience, whereas in London shoppers are more likely to value ‘functional service’ – “get me in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible”.

Having ‘more staff’ is the biggest driver to creating a better shopping experience, according to 29% of convenience shoppers, but we know this is a luxury that most stores can’t afford. So we need to be smart with the staff we have. Pet peeves from shoppers include staff members chatting amongst themselves; not being greeted on entry; lack of eye contact – all things which can easily be addressed for no extra cost or time. As many as 12% of shoppers said help with packing would improve their shopping experience in convenience stores.

It’s worth visiting quick-service restaurants such as Prêt à Manger and Starbucks for inspiration. They have made quality of service as important as quality products, and treat the overall ‘experience’ as equally important to the products they sell.

Given the unquestionable importance of service in convenience, great sales assistants deserve to be held up and celebrated. A wise (Nisa) retailer recently said: “You don’t have a customer until they come back. Until then, you only have a purchase.” Remember, full-time sales staff will see the same customer 200 times in a year, so they really do make a difference!