Uniqlo’s Six Phrases for Advisers

Discussion
Jun 28, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

At every Uniqlo worldwide, store associates are trained to repeat
six phrases they are expected to use while on the selling floor. And every
morning before each store opens, associates — called “advisers” –
practice the phrases.

According to a profile of the Japanese apparel chain in New
York
Magazine,
advisers at its New York Soho store were told one morning to pair off and repeat
these six phrases after a store manager:


  • “Hello, my name is Uniqlo, how are you today?”
  • “Did you find everything you were looking for?”
  • “Let me know if you need anything. My name is Uniqlo.”
  • “Thank you for waiting.”
  • “Did you find everything you were looking for?”
  • “Good-bye, we hope to see you again soon.”

Each customer is expected to hear at least four of these phrases while shopping
at the location. (Associates substitute their own name for ‘Uniqlo.’) The second
and fifth are repeated because they are required both on the floor and at checkout.

Associates
are also urged to return charge cards to customers “Japanese
style” — two hands and full eye contact. And the act of smiling is particularly
stressed. Said Lauren Venatucci, a manager in the Soho store’s women’s department,
to New York Magazine. “We tell advisers that you have to smile
until you feel like you’re crazy.”

The article explored the secrets
behind Uniqlo’s success worldwide that included a 30 percent comparable-store
gain last year by its parent, Fast Retailing. The Soho loacation, opened in
2006, is its most profitable store worldwide and its only in North America.
More U.S. expansion is promised.

Offering stylish basics at affordable prices was seen as the cornerstone
of its success. But much of the credit was given to its motivated sales staff.
Advisers are continually pushed to exceed goals for sales volume posted in
the employee break room and called out at those inspirational morning meetings.

Advisors are
also given strict limits for how long it takes to fold clothes and complete
transactions at the cash register, as well as rigid guidelines on how to fold
clothes.

But a large part of the article focused on the quirky, largely-immeasurable “Behaviors,” or
the ways associates are trained to interact with shoppers epitomized by the “six
phrases.”

“All companies have rules and guidebooks,” said general manager
Kristi Brink, the store’s general manager who used to manage at Home Depot
and Sports Authority. “But Uniqlo is on another level entirely. There’s
just a sense of urgency about everything in this place.”

Discussion Questions: What do you think of Uniqlo’s store associate training
techniques and the “six phrases?” Can and should other stores replicate
such motivational training techniques and morning sessions?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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22 Comments on "Uniqlo’s Six Phrases for Advisers"


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Joan Treistman
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

It’s a great selling tool for staff to interact with customers…I mean “engage.” There is a difference in spouting off a list of memorized words versus truly being there for the shopper. I think that Uniqlo has the right idea to encourage their employees to connect with the customer, even if it’s for that moment at the end of the transaction when the credit card is returned.

I remember my first visit to Japan and how I felt during that intersection of the purchase. When your card is placed in your hand by two hands outstretched you feel that your transaction has made a difference and your patronage appreciated.

I am consistently amazed by the speed with which some store staff rattle off “Didjufineverythingyouwerelookingfor?” Did you ever wonder if that same person could actually help you find something you were looking for?

Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

The “six phrases” may strike readers as robotic, but they show a disciplined approach to customer service that many other retailers would be wise to imitate. Uniqlo seems committed to courtesy as part of its brand position, extending to the process of handing back a credit card with both hands. I hope that Uniqlo’s management is training its sales associates to be problem-solvers, not just question-posers…when somebody answers, “No, I couldn’t find what I was looking for,” are they trained to respond?

Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

There’s a difference between training and educating as I said in a recent blog post.

I’ve been to the SOHO store and heard one of their morning meetings which was not inspirational as much as barked out orders. I’d be curious what their employee turnover rate is.

I applaud their sales numbers but doubt it is a result of parroting the most tired phrases ever heard in retail as much as only one in the USA in a dynamic neighborhood.

You build sales by building relationships, not automatons.

Marge Laney
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Pre-shift pep rallies and training a few simple selling behaviors are essential to making the store experience pleasant and productive for both the sales associates and their customers. Sales associates who are knowledgeable about their product and have been equipped with successful strategies for servicing and selling are better and happier employees.

How many times have you been in a store where the associates either gave you that “Who cares!” attitude, or that “Can’t you see I’m busy!” look? Uniglo is smart to continue to promote friendly, well-trained service which has increased sales and profitability especially while their competitors are cutting payroll and moving to self service in an ill conceived effort to do the same.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 10 months ago

While it seems contrived, I think it’s simply the mark of a brand that understands very clearly the path to purchase they are creating for their customers. They have very clear experiential architecture as it were.

Too many companies are nebulous in their expectations of sales associates and leave it to them to deliver “friendly customer service.” The result is often disappointing.

If you look at any successful experiential retailer, you’ll find the same programmed, tribal phrases and behaviors.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
10 years 10 months ago

The six phrases are a differentiator. Why? Because it is a discipline that is mandated and inspired. Training of associates whereever they are is so very important and is so very often overlooked. Some companies have training programs, bang we’re done never to address retraining or reinforcing the training again. They don’t get it! You can spend a fortune on technology, automation, etc, but if you don’t train your most important asset (your people) you still fail.

Ian Percy
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

There’s a ‘mechanistic’ level for customer contact. There’s also an ‘energetic’ level for customer engagement. To maximize purchasing behavior and profitability both need to be strong and aligned.

In my opinion, 98% of retail is stuck on the mechanistic level–the mindless, soul-less robotic repetition of words and behaviors. Actually many retail shops don’t even have that. A small percentage also exude the magnetic ‘energy’ or spirit that makes those mechanistic phrases actually live and feel meaningful in the ears and hearts of the customer. These are the stores that make you actually want to buy something. How often do you feel that?

I’ve yet to see mechanistic procedures lead to energetic or spiritual engagement. On the other hand if the energy is there, procedures and phrases come naturally and effortlessly.

Ian Percy
Guest
10 years 10 months ago
Something was bothering me about those six phrases but it didn’t come to me while composing my previous comment. But I’ve got it now. 1. “Hello, my name is Uniqlo, how are you today?” The first half of the question is cute but an untruth a great way to start the relationship. The second part has only one answer: the mindless “Fine.” The salesperson does not want to hear: “Thank you for asking because I’m really worried about the results of my blood test…” 2. “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Asked twice. Any good sales person knows you don’t ask questions that can be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’. “What else can I show you today?” would be better or “I’d love you to see our new golf shirts. There’s a new color that will look amazing on you.” 3. “Let me know if you need anything. My name is Uniqlo.” Of course they need or want something that’s why they’re in the store. Mostly they’ll buy because of a ‘want’. And again… Read more »
Jeff Hall
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

What factors have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction? A consistent and intentional experience aligned to the brand promise, leading to brand authenticity. Provided Uniqlo’s “six phrases” are delivered in such a manner that customer’s feel some type of engagement with the sales associate, the approach will help drive that consistent, intentional experience, and become a point of differentiation.

Chuck Palmer
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

I have to assume the six phrases are a shortcut that reinforces a broader training. If those are backed up by really meaning what is implied by those questions, then it should work.

For those of us who have worked and managed sales floors, we know that turnover is always an issue in presenting a consistent shopping experience.

At one point perhaps there was not a reason to codify customer service like this–it was just common sense. That’s not the case today; with the diversity of backgrounds of staff attracted to retail, we don’t get the most service oriented people. They need to be taught the basics and on top of that, the attitudes and actions that set a brand apart, the two-handed-hand-back for example.

That simple gesture at a value-priced retailer has great effect.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 10 months ago
Giving your sales floor team phrases to ask customers is an excellent idea. Why not give them conversation starters that allow the sales person to move to the next step, showing the customer to the articles and areas they prefer! This is my specialty so it reminds me of many stories both positive and negative. Last week my wife needed a new pair of walking shoes. We visited a national chain in a mall because we saw what we thought she wanted at an acceptable price. That’s the good part. The sales rep had been there “over a year.” He knew nothing about the shoe, could not answer our questions; and seemed more concerned with the texts he was receiving. We left after telling the manager why we decided to try another store. The other store: another national chain. The sales person greeted us, asked what we were looking for, was professional, was able to answer her questions and will receive the commission on our purchase which turned out to be more than a single… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

As I’ve opined many times in this forum and others: In customer service it’s not the training that counts so much as the practices that are enabled.

Saying “thanks for waiting” may seem to reflect good training, but it excuses a baaaaad practice. Ditto for asking the shopper if she found everything after queuing at the checkout.

Contrary to the bill of goods sold by some so-called service experts, you can’t train your way out of a poor business system. The retailer that establishes customer-friendly policies, store ambiance, and convenience and provides its employees with the tools and authority to deliver on the promise will always stand out. This is as true for a $2.99 fast food sale as it is for a $29,999 automobile sale.

So Uniqlo’s six phrases sound kinda nice, but does it have the service system and business culture to back up its shopper advisers and make them successful in the eyes of the shopper? That’s the truest and toughest test.

Richard Cooper
Guest
Richard Cooper
10 years 10 months ago

I tend to agree with Susan Rider. Why not simply introduce robotic sales associates?

Even at this time of high unemployment, employees (also “human beings”) have an in-built intolerance of what they may perceive as being “mindless repetition” of mandatory phrases.

Culturally, Americans (and Westerners) are not well disposed to homogeneous mindsets which are reminiscent of Chairman Mao!

YES… employee sales training IS essential and general guidelines as to the treatment of customers has to be established but, for Heaven’s Sake, allow for employee personalities to be fully developed.

CURRENT EXAMPLE: Walk into any Food Lion supermarket and you will be greeted with the recently mandated “WELCOME TO FOOD LION” uttered in “robotic” manner by on-duty cashiers. It’s sheer stupidity and I have now given to a “beat them to it” utterance “I AM WELCOME AT FOOD LION!” which invariably causes laughter from both the cashiers and from their customers in the check out line.

Consumers visiting retail stores deserve PERSONALIZED RECOGNITION, not subjected to some Chairman Mao edict!

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

It is ironic that in a time when customer service is ever more important in retailing that the trend continues the other way. There are few things that a retail store can offer that a customer can’t find online. One of them is a pleasant interaction with a human being.

Uniglo seems to be aware of that importance. And while their process may sound mechanical and trite, the fact is it generates interaction between the sales associate and the customer. That unlimitedly is what generates additional sales.

Certainly, sincerity and enthusiasm should be part of the sales associate’s shtick, but that is hard to train. At least this process is a starting point.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

A number of interesting comments on this rather simple approach to customer service training. Whether good or bad, these 6 phrase are better than what a lot of retail sales people come up with on their own.

To me, the two most import parts of the article are:
1. What Uniglo calls their retail clerks. “Advisers” is a much better term than what most companies call their clerks, associates, team members, etc.

2. Customer service at the retail level is simple and Uniqlo has it covered in their 6 phrases.
– Welcome when they come
– Offer them something extra while they are there.
– Thank them for coming and invite them back.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
10 years 10 months ago

Building a memorable customer experience requires sincerity and a genuine concern for customers. The engagement must be true. Canned lines may be easy to train, but they’re not the same as genuine engagement. Customers are far too savvy, and anything canned is far too easy to see right through.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
10 years 10 months ago

These 6 phrases work for me. Obviously, we’re talking about delivering good customer service, and Uniqlo has created training system that works for the brand. I don’t think other brands should try to replicate this approach. Rather, other brands need to create training systems that work for their individual businesses and core customers.

As for the seemingly mechanical nature of these phrases, that doesn’t bother me. Again, while this approach works for Uniqlo, it probably wouldn’t work for another retail brand. In Uniqlo’s case, the sales associate is delivering a fairly consistent interaction inside a shopping experience where interacting with the sales associate is less a shopper concern vs. nabbing the goods the shopper seeks.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
10 years 10 months ago

Is there a more tired phrase in retailing than “Did you find everything you were looking for?” I guess asking it twice may be marginally better than asking it once but perhaps it would be better to ask “How was your shopping experience?” or better yet to train quality people to interact with customers on a real one to one basis.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Several years ago, the Disney Institute put out a little book called, “Be our Guest, Perfecting the art of customer service.” Some of those same techniques and philosophies were written about then and Uniglo smartly adopted the same techniques. Good going!

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Much has been written above about the commonality of the six phases and the possibility of their being delivered in a robotic manner. I remember reading Tom Peters stating in his original book “In Search of Excellence” that it may be easier to “act people into thinking, than think them into action.” I believe that is one of the tenants of repealing the six phases that may have been lost in the discussion.

Edward Eng
Guest
Edward Eng
10 years 10 months ago

I think it is important to train employees in a rigorous way like Uniqlo. However, I think it is more important to find employees that are truly behind what you believe in and what your company is about. I haven’t been to many REIs but the one I went to had great customer service. They truly know what they are talking about and truly helpful. The person who helped me even introduced me to products sold elsewhere just to make sure I got what I needed. Yes, REI is a business but they are real people helping other real people.

Cynthia Overgaag
Guest
3 years 11 months ago
“Did you find everything you were looking for?” in food stores, drives me nuts. Asked at checkout, most commenters will agree it’s pretty useless. Another HAND rote phrase. Some have had experiences where they say they didn’t find something, were rung up and then escorted to customer service where someone went to see if the item was available and that pleased them. Others, like me are pro active. If it is a regular item, I will seek out an associate, or go to manager and ask if it might be in the back. If I need it that day, for a recipe it really doesn’t help to tell the cashier, ” No, I didn’t find everything, now I have to go to another store.” What is the cashier going to do? If food stores want to know what to bring in, an item they never had, but might get if a customer asks about it that question could be useful. However when do you see a cashier write it down? I will say a great… Read more »
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