Job description for Retail Sales Associate
In today’s ‘brick and mortar’ retail environments, one of the most critical objectives is to create an excellent customer experience. Management of the customer experience is a concept being embraced globally by retailers and has even become part of mission statements for corporations. Thus, Starbucks is renowned for the unique experience it creates for customers, the computer giant Dell focuses on positive customer interactions, Valero Energy is directed towards quality, value and convenience for its retail customers, and Toyota lists dealer support and positive experiences for customers in its mission statement (Michelli 2007; Verhoef et al., 2009).
Duties of sales associates have a variety of aspects. These include the environment of their assigned area — including maintenance of stock, safety, and cleanliness of the area as well as simply making the area ‘shoppable’. The associate must know their products and their department, being able not only to provide information to the customer concerning features of products, but also understanding in-stock items that may be related and appropriate for the customer. The role of the sales associate includes direct action to seek out and greet customers, to assess customer needs and to provide assistance as well as to close a sale. The associates should also be able to work at need in other departments, knowing at least the basics of adjacent departments.
It is the duty and/or responsibility of each sales associate to ensure that the environment is clean and safe for employees as well as customers. The associate should be aware of all protocols, standards, and policies for safety, undergo safety training, and be pro-active in correcting and/or preventing safety hazards. As well, any safety violations should immediately be reported to managerial staff and/or ameliorated if possible. Sales associates work under the direction of a supervisor or manager, and work together with other departmental associates, and associates of other departments. The goals are always to assure that the needs of customers are met (Sales Associate Job Description, n.d.).
Retail Sales Associate Job Description: Internal and External Requirements
Internal requirements (Retail Sales Associate Job Description, 2011)
Strong work ethic: report on time and ready to work as scheduled
Learn and be aware about goals, mission, objectives, programs and structure of company in order to excel in customer service
Provide a friendly environment, thus ensuring outstanding service for each customer — greet, acknowledge, and assist customers — Customer service as top priority
Maintain knowledge concerning products, as well as advertisements and promotions and any company programs
Have necessary sales register skills- ring up sales, balance register drawer
Flexible and able to work within company protocols for merchandising, maintenance of displays, back-stocking, keeping environment neat, organized, clean and safe
Appropriate telephone etiquette using preferred company messages, able to use equipment to answer calls, routing calls to other departments, calling Manager as needed
Participate in store opening/closing functions as assigned (Retail Sales Associate Job Description, 2011)
External requirements (Sales Associate Job Description, n.d.)
Adheres to company requirements with respect to dress code and all aspects of work schedule; able to use time wisely on the job, completing assigned tasks and pro-actively seeks out appropriate work during ‘down time’
Professional approach to job in terns of appearance, attitude, and interactions with others
Effective company relationships in terms of co-workers, knowledge sharing, and avoidance/resolution of conflict
Growth potential — interested and active in working to improve knowledge of company, products, and customer service
Organizational behavior modification for sales associates
“Back to the future” could be one way of looking at the current changes in the retail environment. Where once customers were welcomed, assisted, and provided with a positive shopping experience, much of this personalization has disappeared. However, it is precisely this return to customer-oriented service that is the hallmark of the changing retail environment, based on a realization that customers have choices and will preferentially shop where they are given appropriate and friendly service. As well, such care for the customer builds loyalty, and engenders returning customers who may, next time, bring their friends as well.
Retailers today have realized that enhancement of the shopping experience for customers is a key factor in not only generating sales but also garnering repeat business. Anticipation of shopping behavior is one approach, as is increasing personalization (What’s Driving Tomorrow’s Retail Experience?, 2012). In many cases, the brick and mortar businesses are folding or down-sizing, in favor of online businesses; some would say that shopping in a store that’s not online is simply no longer a viable market for businesses. However, that may not be the whole story. Some industry pundits suggest that in-store shopping will continue to dominate, but it is precisely the experience that the retailer can provide that makes the difference (What’s Driving Tomorrow’s Retail Experience?, 2012).
The comprehensive process of making organizational changes begins with upper level management making a strategic plan that is disseminated throughout all of the employee staff. A change in organizational behavior is ultimately dependent upon a change in individual behavior, and this requires clear cut goal-setting as well as in-place change protocols that will facilitate the desired changes. As stated by Kerper (1998), the use of a strategic plan enables everyone, from management through employees, to understand actionable corporate goals, and to also understand each of their roles. With clearly defined objectives, consensus can be reached, and when there is buy-in from both employees and management, these plans have a greater chance of success (Kerper, 1998).
Customers have a choice, and that choice begins the instant they enter a store. They could choose another store, and they could go online; and most of the time they can find the product for at least 10-25% less at another location. Getting them to stay in ‘your store’ and to make a purchase is about making them feel welcome, interested, supported, and happy. Furthermore, the real goal is to get them to come back again. The moment a customer enters the store is the retailer’s ideal opportunity to make them feel welcome. Now, given the advent and rapid spread of mobile technology, this opportunity can be enhanced to assist the customer.
For example, right now a shopper can use their ‘smart phone’ in a store to not only look at a product, send a picture of an item they’re considering to a friend, but also to price-compare and even see if there’s a better deal at this store’s web-site. Using smart phone technology, a shopper can be confident of finding what they need and/or simply desire; be instantly welcomed upon arrival into the store, and possibly assisted before the sales personnel even approach them; have a map of the store delivered to their handset, and even see if the item they want is in stock in the correct size needed. Obviously, this technology also offers the potential for companies to maintain a customer data-base and deliver customized special offers right to the specific individual (What’s Driving Tomorrow’s Retail Experience?, 2012).
For the consumer, product information is important, especially for those ‘committed shoppers’ who feel a wrong purchase might have social implications. Helping shoppers get product information is the job of the sales associate, and these employees can help both with providing information to customers and working on inventory visibility. One modern approach suggests improved linking of store inventories to smart phones. This also alters the dynamic with the sales associate but enables them to help directly. The smart-phone could provide shopper pre-selected or personalized inventory, which the sales associate can help with. The sales associate can show the customer alternatives, and associated merchandise. The sales associate can also help the customer to join the company web-site and be more aware of company promotions. As well, these types of modern technology can help the sales associates and the company to keep shelves properly stocked, and keep track of ‘hot’ or fashionable items that might need to be res-stocked and/or re-ordered (What’s Driving Tomorrow’s Retail Experience?, 2012)
When a customer is about to purchase, the sales associate can make a difference. In small ways such as showing a customer additional coordinated items, or helping the customer discriminate between two choices, the sales associate is often key in the purchase decision. With clothing it might be as simple as the sales associate knowing the appropriate garment care needed; or with a computer item, the sales person knowledge can help in choosing the appropriate items. Some stores have moved to having multi-media presentations as well (What’s Driving Tomorrow Retail Experience?, 2012)
Benefits for the Organization
When an organization is seeking to make a strategic change, the person designated as the change agent is an important part of the process. The change agent may be involved in company services for employees and management that include the following:  evaluation of company needs for future developmental growth;  evaluation of the organizational structure and how best to proceed with changes;  evaluation, guidance, and coaching of the change plan once decided upon;  implementation of the changes based upon the organizational structure and the change characteristics desired;  training the employees who are involved in teaching others the new organizational plan;  ongoing assessment as change is implemented to see how it is working, and what recommendations the employees and management have as implementation proceeds;  focus on tactical and strategic plans;  evaluation of how changes are working with respect to the customer base and even comparison of monthly sales figures;  and diagnosis to see where best change can occur that will achieve the maximum impact (Kerper, 1998).
When an organization desires to change, each step should be performed systematically to allow both managerial and employee ‘buy-in’ and to enable all involved to enhance and/or develop needed competencies (for example in terms of training on new equipment). As change begins to work at all levels, the total organizational performance will improve particularly if employees are involved and enabled (Kerper, 1998).
Performance Measurement of Employees
Establish performance goal(s) or standards
Performance measurement requires pre-definition of goals and/or set standards. These goals may perhaps be subjective, such as ‘be more cheerful and friendly to customers’, yet, nonetheless goals are needed. Without having performance goals and standards, one cannot evaluate or interpret results of change implementation. Using performance measurement also builds progress as each step forward is identified (Development Process, n.d.).
Compare actual performance to goal(s)
Comparison of predefined goals and actual performance is used to see areas of discrepancy where improvement may be needed. Deviations from performance goals are areas where corrective action may be required (Development Process, n.d.).
Methods to inform employees of new performance standards
The role of the manager includes communication with employees, and this role should include listening as well, or ‘two-way communication’. It is important for managers to get input from employees, particularly if change is desired. Studies have shown that when employees feel empowered and participatory, their work improves as does their attitude, and an engaged workforce is critical for success. Some of the steps involved should be obvious: include employees at an early stage in any company plans for reorganization; be respectful of employee input; empower employees to participate in decision-making where appropriate; ask employees for their opinions (Markos & Sridevi, 2010).
Training employees and keeping training up-to-date is critical for the new-and-improved retail centers. Employees must know how to use all equipment with which they are required to work, and hopefully such training includes trouble-shooting as well. Assist employees to grow by providing training that expands their horizons; for example, in a retail setting, it could be helpful to invite employees to participate in buying decisions and enable them to learn something about the process. Assisting employee growth enhances engagement which enhances the company. In general it can be assumed that increased on the job confidence will help the employee work better without supervision, and more readily be able to see extra work that needs to be done in ‘off times’. Improving employee independence frees up managerial time for other tasks as well (Markos & Sridevi, 2010).
Feedback 360 is a business term relating to a full spectrum feedback between employees at all levels and management, as well as upper management. Once goals are more clearly defined at all levels, it is easier for employees and management to adhere to them, as well as to understand when they have deviated from company goals. Including employees in the decision process increases commitment and job-orientation, also resulting in fewer costs to hire and train new employees. Removal of communication barriers can help an organization grow. It is precisely the person who works on the assembly-line day-tot-day who knows where particular bottlenecks might be that could be improved. Similarly, the retail employee might realize minor inconveniences, such as location of dressing-rooms with respect to the check-out counter, that could be improved and result in enhanced sales (Farooq & Khan, 2011). Bi-weekly and/or monthly meetings could be tested for such company meetings.
One surprising way in which employees could be rewarded by the company for excellent performance is to consider small ‘treats’ such as an outing. Company picnics are one such opportunity, where the firm pays the cost of the refreshments, and employees can relax and mingle. There might be company ‘drawings’ to win a company logo-sweatshirt, and even small public awards given, such as for perfect attendance, or highest sales. The attitude and actions of employees are a critical part of the success of an organization and small means of appreciation are important. Feedback, not only in an employee-supervisor meeting, but also in terms of peer-recognition is important. The company picnic could be a summer event; as well, the company could have a winter party, so that these feedback opportunities occurred on a six-month basis.
Reinforcing Positive Employee behaviors
Rewarding excellent employee actions can be more than financial gifts, or earned benefits such as raises. They can include other aspects of acknowledgment that empower the employee and provide recognition for their efforts. Appreciation from superiors on the job is important to employees, and enhances work effort as well as employee job satisfaction. This can be critical when change is ongoing, as change can be stressful (Wei & Yazdanifard, 2014).
Salary and benefits are of course also basic motivational factors for employees. Studies are made correlations between job satisfaction and personal income; this is not surprising. Work performance has been shown to be positively correlated with financial incentives. When employees are happy with their job, the company benefits as well (Wei & Yazdanifard, 2014).
Legality of Employee Monitoring
With changes in technology, changes in ethics and rules must follow, and sometimes the ethical considerations are slower to be implemented. For example, the 2001 work by Marshall addressed the postal system of the U.S., and how laws had to be changed. In this example, which the 1825 Congress established anti-tampering laws for mail, it took over 50 years before the Supreme Court provided Fourth Amendment protection to mail.
With respect to employee protection and legal ‘right to privacy’, this apparently depends upon the type of organization for which an individual works. According to Frayer (2002), some employees’ rights are protected by unions and by the National Labor Relations Act, while other employees are covered by the Fourth Amendment (government employees). In some cases, even non-union employees are covered by the National Labor Relations Act as well (Yerby, 2013).
Does an organization actually have the legal right to monitor employees? In some cases, not only do they, but also, they are required to do so, lest the organization itself be subject to having broken the law. According to Court & Warmington (2004), survey data indicates that 68% of employers reported they needed to monitor employee activity to avoid legal liability. While to date, employers have not been required to monitor the computer/electronic communications of employees, recent scandals of unfirable government employees gambling online during work hours have led some to suggest that perhaps electronic monitoring might be appropriate (Yerby, 2013).
The exact ethical issues concerning a business monitoring its employees are a question of considerable interest. According to Woodbury (2003) issues involve considerations such as what employees do with company computers (such as accessing porn sites on company computers); others involve the manner in which employees use their time, from personal email to computer games and gambling. Apparently both shopping online and day trading are also known to occur on company computers (Woodbury, 2003). Part of this stems from a difference in opinion as to the definition of ‘ethical’ between the employee and the firm. The other side of the coin is that some businesses ‘monitor’ employee key-strokes, so that a simple employee break could be seen as being ‘off task’ (Woodbury, 2003). Yerby (2013) states that a computer program monitoring an employee only has raw data and may not know when an employee is taking a legitimate break.
In today’s retail markets, employee’s can make a real difference in contributing to customer satisfaction. With employees who are interested in their jobs and not just ‘marking time’, the business can succeed and grow, but it is important to reach and convince the employees that they can and do make a difference.
(n.d.). Development Process. Trade. Retrieved from: http://www.orau.gov/pbm/handbook/1-1.pdf
Court, L., & Warmington, C. (2004). The workplace privacy myth: why electronic monitoring is here to stay. Employment and Labor Law, 1(1), 1-20.
Farooq, M., & Khan, M.A. (2011). Impact of Training and Feedback on Employee Performance. Far East Journal, 23-33. Retrieved from: http://www.fareastjournals.com/files/fejpbv5n1p2.pdf
Frayer, C. (2002). Employee privacy and internet monitoring: balancing workers’ rights and dignity with legitimate management interests. Business Lawyer, 57(2), 857-878.
Kerper, D.A. (1998). Strategic Behavioral Organizational Change A Model for Success. Misty River Consulting. Retrieved from: http://www.mistyriver.net/downloadable_articles/Organizational%20Change%20Model.pdf
Markos, S., & Sridevi, S. (2010). Employee Engagement: The Key to Improving Performance. International Journal of Business and Management, 89-96. Retrieved from: http://www.myopinionatbesix.com/besixsurvey/media/besix-survey/pdf/4.-employee-engagement-the-key-to-improving-performance.pdf
Marshall, P. (2001). Are tougher laws needed to protect citizens? Privacy under Attack, 11(19), 1-30
(2011). Retail Sales Associate Job Description. Pacific Whale Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.pacificwhale.org/sites/pacificwhale.org/files/Retail%20Sales%20Associate%2020110511.pdf
Michelli, Joseph (2007), “The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary,” New York: McGraw Hill.
(n.d.). Sales Associate Job Description. The home depot. Retrieved from: http://wp.vcu.edu/dwardcareer/files/2013/03/home-depot-sales-associate.pdf
Verhoef, P., Lemon, K., Roggeveen, P., Tsiros, M., & Schlesinger, L. (2009). Customer Experience Creation: Determinants, Dynamics and Management Strategies. Journal of Retailing, 31-41. Retrieved from: http://www.rug.nl/staff/p.c.verhoef/jr_customer_experience.pdf
Wei, L.T., & Yazdanifard, R. (2014). The impact of Positive Reinforcement on Employees’ Performance in Organizations. American Journal of Industrial and Business Management, 9-12.
Woodbury, M. (2003).Computer and information ethics. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing LLC.
(2012). What’s Driving Tomorrow’s Retail Experience? Motorola Solutions. Retrieved from: https://www.zebra.com/content/dam/zebra/white-papers/en-us/motorola-whitepaper-zc-en-us.pdf
Yerby, J. (2013). Legal and ethical issues of employee monitoring. Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management, 44-55. Retrieved from: http://www.iiakm.org/ojakm/articles/2013/volume1_2/OJAKM_Volume1_2pp44-55.pdf
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