When you walk into Target, all sales associates are wearing a red shirt and khaki pants, at Best Buy they are wearing blue shirts and khaki pants and Macy’s sales associates wear predominantly black clothing. Have you ever wondered why uniforms are important and how they impact customer satisfaction? According to recent research from Drexel University and the University of British Columbia customers feel like they are getting the best customer service when sales associates share an air of uniformity, by dressing and acting alike.
The research led by Chen Wang, PhD, assistant professor of marketing in Drexel’s LeBow College of Business, also found that this isn’t the case when the products being sold require some level of creativity. Those who work in an art gallery, for example, should dress differently and in a way that showcases their artistic expression in order to ensure the best customer experience.
Using four different studies, the researchers looked at how appearance entitativity cues and behavior entitativity cues can impact a sales team’s perceived service quality, which in turn influences customer satisfaction.
According to their analysis, retailers should consider these four key findings to enhance customer satisfaction:
1. Ask sales teams to dress alike: Their findings suggest what the sales team members wear is important. Unless the product being sold involves a high degree of creativity, wearing the same outfit can heighten the overall sales team’s image and lead to greater customer satisfaction and increase purchase likelihood. Even if a standard uniform is not feasible, retailers should consider encouraging the sales team members to wear similar clothing, according to Wang.
2. Train sales team members to act with the team in mind: Team members should be trained to coordinate sales activities in a way that communicates that customer service is a joint or team effort. Even if the sales team ended up serving the customer together, the customer might not have a heightened perspective that the team was actually coordinating in pursuit of a common service goal.
“An action as simple as informing customers that the sales people are working together to serve the customer can lead to improved perceptions of service,” said Wang.
3. Ensure that entitativity cues are consistent: The researchers also found that all entitativity cues need to be consistent. They found that in order to guarantee customer satisfaction a sales team must not only wear the same outfit but also display coordination.
“If one of them is off then whether one member of the team doesn’t dress like the others or isn’t coordinated then any positive effect can be undermined,” said Wang.
4. Entitativity should not be encouraged for industries involving creativity: The above proved to be less effective in environments where a sales associate is expected to have some level of creativity. In these situations, consumers may perceive members of highly entitative sales teams to be robotic, with no individuality and thus not fully able to represent the creativity of the product they are selling.
“In interior design places or those that sell artwork, sales managers should encourage sales associates to dress freely and express their own character,” said Wang. “A team of sales associates with diverse looks would signal that they embody creativity and are able to provide superior service in that regard.”
The paper, “The Impact of a Sales Team’s Perceived Entitativity on Customer Satisfaction” published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, is available at this link.