Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Transition Away from Transitory Bias

Sometimes shoppers feel like the retailer is picking on them. When that happens, how do the shoppers explain it to themselves? According to an exploratory study at University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, the most likely assumption is universal mistreatment—the shopkeeper treats everybody shabbily. It’s poor customer service and nothing personal.
     Another possible shopper explanation to themselves is intentional discrimination because of the particular shopper’s personal characteristics. Researchers at Clemson University and University of North Carolina-Wilmington found that discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities continues to plague retail settings.
     Some frontline retail staff who carry biases against minorities operate on the assumption that it’s only the minorities who are disturbed by discriminatory behavior. Since the prejudiced staff members decide consciously or subconsciously that they’d prefer not to do business with minorities anyway, they resist changing their behavior.
     Purge discriminatory behavior. The Clemson/North Carolina researchers found that many white shoppers became as outraged as blacks when the white shoppers observed a black customer being treated in a discriminatory way.
     But in the Florida study, a much more common explanation of feeling picked on was coined “transitory bias” by the researchers. Transitory bias is a shopper’s perception that he is being treated poorly as a reaction to something the shopper did or failed to do in the store.
     There are situations where a retailer’s brusque treatment of a consumer is fully justified because of what the consumer did. It’s okay not to treat shoplifting cordially. And one of the transitory bias triggers described by the researchers was ridicule of a restaurant server. Good riddance to ridicule! You should never allow yourself or your staff to be harassed.
     By and large, however, you’d like your shoppers to feel their presence is appreciated even when they don’t follow all the store rules. Other transitory bias triggers described by the Florida study participants included:
  • Asking questions which reveal low knowledge of the product category 
  • Declining to take recommendations given by the sales staff 
  • Making special requests of the salesperson 
  • Complaining 
  • Asking the salesperson to negotiate the price or the purchase terms 
     All those behaviors are perfectly fine in our stores, aren’t they? We’d do well to audit in ourselves and our sales staff whether any of those behaviors from a shopper consciously or subconsciously sets off a rude retailing response. If we find ourselves firing back inappropriately at a shopper, we should immediately apologize.

Click below for more: 
Limit Terms in Customers’ Vocabulary 
Watch Out for Discrimination

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