A Sales Master from Fukuoka tells his story. How does smile-centric customer service work?
Behind the United Arrows vision of "People: Excellent Service and Support" is the staff working at each shop. At a shop in Fukuoka, the hub of fashion in Kyushu, there is a legendary salesperson known for the loyal support he has from many customers. We sat down with Daisuke Yamashita, who is qualified as a Sales Master, one of United Arrows' top accolades, and asked him about what customer service and communication mean to him.
Special Thanks：Masakazu Kubo / Gamlangdii
Directing one’s voice to customers.
ーMr. Yamashita, tell us about your background and the nature of your work.
Yamashita: I’m thirty-five, and I joined the company thirteen years ago. I work at Beauty & Youth United Arrows in Fukuoka. United Arrows has a Sales Master qualification, which I have. I go to other shops to observe their work and coach my junior peers.
ーHow does the Sales Master qualification work?
Yamashita: To become a Sales Master, you must have a great track record of sales, lead the other staff through your conduct and knowledge of fashion, and have the support of loyal customers. This is given to skilled salespeople.
ーIs there something you always try to keep in mind when serving customers?
Yamashita: First is proactively approaching them, and second is creating an environment where customers feel like they can approach us.
ーWhat do you mean by “creating an environment?”
Yamashita: Well, looking at the customer. Even when you’re working the showfloor or serving other customers, maintaining eye contact with other customers will put them at ease and make them want to approach you once you finish with your current customer. In other words, “I’m busy right now, but I see you.”
ーAh. That sounds pretty difficult.
Yamashita: another thing I focus on is not just saying greetings like “Welcome” and “Thank you” where there are no customers. When the shop gets busy and there are people coming and going, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of just saying these salutations and not directing them at anyone in particular. But that’s no good. I keep in mind that these are phrases meant to be said to specific customers as they enter and leave, so I face them directly. When you direct your voice at people, they often turn around. I think that communication is important.
Above all, I want to put a smile on people’s faces. Even if they laugh at me, I want them to smile.
ーHow do you serve customers who come to the shop and ask for you by name?
Yamashita: I try to serve everyone equally, of course. But when customers come looking for me in particular, of course I want to make them happy and put a smile on their faces. Even if they laugh at me, I want them to smile (laughs).
ーWhy this commitment to smiling?
Yamashita: A manual was once distributed to UA team members that said, “Customers’ happiness is our happiness.” That really resonated with me. Salespeople are there to make shoppers happy, so I feel that we have to be entertainers. By buying clothes, customers enhance their own appearance and lifestyle. And it’s our job to support that. While suggesting clothing to them is our job, the ultimate purpose of that is to make them happy, to make them smile. That’s why I want to get a smile out of them and always aim to serve customers until they break into a grin.
Today, too, Mr. Yamashita took lunch with one of his customers. They talk about their lives, interspersing talk of clothes. Was it a happy accident that they both wore vests?
ーWhat is your customer demographic like?
Yamashita: Many of them are older than me, and they all love clothes. One customer always calls before coming to the shop. Sometimes he spends up to an hour shopping and chatting with me, then we go to lunch, then we go back to the shop and collect the purchases from earlier. Surprisingly enough, that’s one way of shopping. This customer reads fashion magazines cover to cover and is, of course, very stylish. I try to visualize his wardrobe as we shop, including some new suggestions along the way, ordering items from partner shops, et cetera. Calling me an “advisor” would be overstating the case, but it’s that all-expansive approach that I use. When stylish customers buy products, sometimes I awaken to how cool they are, and I end up buying them myself (laughs).
Communication begins the instant the customer enters the shop.
ーChanging gears a bit, what are some things you keep in mind as you go about your work?
Yamashita: It’s not so far as to say that I switch between on and off, work and private — but I try to make time for myself. I like reading, listening to music, and surfing. Almost everything in my house is related to these three. I guess they all come down to having “me” time — like surfing, where you get to be alone and just watch the waves. That’s super important to me. When I’m in the store, I’m always surrounded by people. If you never make time for yourself, other people will start to rub off on you, and you’ll lose the central axis of what it means to be you. I think that focusing on something or spacing out by yourself is important, as it lets you strike a balance between your time and the time you spend with others.
ーWhat is your idea of good customer service and good communication?
Yamashita: Hmm…it’s about creating a comfortable mood and atmosphere. Of course, everyone has a different idea of what that means, but I think the key is that kind of customer service and communication where customers, even if they’ve just met you, will open up, and break into a smile. For example, let’s say there’s a customer who always visits the shop on weekends, but one day they come on a weekday. If you take notice of this change and ask, “Is this your day off?” then the customer has that little moment of happy surprise. I like to actively survey my surroundings and intentionally create those moments.
ーMakes sense. That’s a happy moment, to be approached like that.
Yamashita: You start with manners as a member of society. Then you have the conduct expected of a UA team member and the behavior and service expected. On top of that, I want to go beyond and create something unexpected and special that customers don’t get from other salespeople. Something unusual in the best sense of the word. People tend to think customer service begins when you first talk to a customer or when they approach you. I disagree. Communication begins the moment they enter the shop, and you can already begin serving them in many ways. Really getting customers to enjoy the shopping experience and walking away smiling requires that much of a salesperson.