SIRXPDK001 Advise on Products and Services

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SIRXPDK001 Advise on Products and Services

In this unit you will learn how to;

  1. Develop product and service knowledge
  2. Respond to customer requests
  3. Enhance information provided


Customers are the mainstay of any business; without them there would be no reason for the business to exist. A large component of an organisation’s success, then, comes from dealing with its customers effectively and not only providing them with the products or services they require but doing so in a way that ensures they come back time after time. So every employee of an organisation is, in part, responsible for ensuring that the organisation is successful; by listening to customers and doing your best to provide them with what they want you establish a trusting relationship with them that can last for years.

This means;

  • knowing what products or services your organisation offers
  • providing accurate, detailed and honest advice
  • understanding the characteristics of your products or services
  • maximising every opportunity to promote products effectively
  • listening to customer feedback for ways to improve products and services

Interacting with customers in accordance with store policies and legislative requirements

Dealing with customer enquires can be very simple; they will come in to your store or office, browse for a while, choose a product and then pay for it. Sometimes the customer may need to either ask questions about a product or service they are interested in, or require a demonstration of how it works. This is where solid product knowledge comes in to its own; you should be able to confidently answer questions and show the customer how the products can be used.

In doing this, however, you need to keep not only organisational policies about interacting with customers in mind, but also bear in mind any legislative issues or obligations. These policies and procedures might, for example, involve such things as;

  • dictating the manner in which you should greet customers
  • guidelines on how much time you are allowed to spend with any one customer. Spending a long time with a customer who ends up not buying anything, or something of minor value when other customers are waiting is an inefficient use of time and the company may well have a policy to guide you on this.
  • offering preferred products over others (dealt with later in the unit).
  • getting customer contact details for marketing purposes
  • levels of authority for negotiating deals with customers. Not everyone within the organization may be allowed to negotiate discounts or deal with specific customer requirements, so you will need to know who you can turn to for assistance should a customer request a special deal or something outside of the norm.
  • distribution of duties and responsibilities to staff for specific areas of service. Depending on the industry you are in, the organization may have specialist staff to deal with certain products or services or may have specific staff to look after certain customer requests.
  • Policies on pricing of products and services such as discounting, credit arrangements and so on.

An organisations policies on interacting with customers, and providing them with information, will almost certainly also include the need to be aware of, and observe, any legislative requirements associated with the industry you are in. These include (but are not limited to);

  • Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL provides Australian consumers with a set of guarantees on the products or services they buy. One of these guarantees is that the goods be on an “acceptable quality”; that they will be safe to use, that they will work and do what they are meant to and that they will be reasonably durable. It also guarantees that if a product or service fails to meet these guarantees then the consumer has a right to repair, replacement or refund. See also; Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (previously known as the Trade Practices Act 1974)
  • Industry codes of practice. Most industries have an association, or governing body, that provides advice and guidelines on legal issues of that industry, best practice policies and procedures, guidelines for dealing with human resource or customer related issues. In some cases, they may have specific requirements for licensing or registration purposes. These must be kept in mind when dealing with customer requests.
  • Product or service specific legislation. Some industries will also have specific legal obligations that must be met. For example;
  • Hospitality businesses, dealing in the preparation and sale of food, must meet with very strict hygiene regulations as set out in the Food Standards Australia New Zealand.
  • Stores that sell tobacco products are subject to the smoking and tobacco laws.
  • Venues and businesses that serve and sell alcoholic beverages are subject to State alcohol laws.

A professional person is one who not only takes the time to learn about the products and services their organisation offers but keeps in touch with new and emerging trends and offers the best possible advice to their customers

Developing product and service knowledge.

Product knowledge is a key element in business success. In order to effectively advise customers on products and services you must first have a sound understanding and knowledge of them.

Why is this important? It is important because;

  • the success of any business depends on making sales
  • customers spend their hard earned money with you and deserve to receive value for their money
  • keeping customers happy ensures that they come back again (and tell their friends about you) thereby building a solid and loyal customer base.
  • it avoids complaints (or returned goods) about products or services that do not perform as the customer expected
  • it fulfils your duty of care towards the customer – giving them the best and most professional advice possible.

Identifying and accessing sources of information

Your knowledge about the products offered by your organisation or, indeed, industry will build up over time. As you gain more experience in your job and in your industry you will know where to look for product or service information. Where you find this information will vary from industry to industry but there are a few avenues that are consistent across most.

When researching information about products and services something to bear in mind is that customers will be relying on you to provide them with up to date and accurate information. It is, therefore, very important that you use authoritative sources; those sources that have genuine expertise or knowledge of that subject. Simply using the internet, at large, could lead to incorrect information as anyone can post to the net without actually having authority or knowledge on the required subject.

Sources of information could include;

  • Authorised suppliers – of all the sources of information, this source is perhaps the most reliable as it comes directly from the supplier or manufacturer of that product and be trusted to be accurate.
  • Internet – A great deal of information is available via the internet. Most companies will have a website, and products supplied by them will generally have a web address printed on them. It is a good idea to browse the websites of main suppliers on a regular basis as these sites will provide you with the most up to date information about that particular product or service. It is also fairly simple to find information here via search engines.

As mentioned, however, when using the internet for research, you should always be careful to make sure the information you download is from an ‘authorised’ or expert site. This means an official website that has been developed by the product or service principle or wholesaler or other official source (government, industry body and so on).

Anyone can upload or post information on any subject they choose. They don’t need to be an expert on the subject or know anything about the it at all. For every opinion you find on a subject you will find just as many opposing ones, so the information on such a site may not be accurate or even true. Be sure to verify any information before passing it on to customers or colleagues.

  • Relevant staff members – Asking other staff members about a product or service is an excellent way of learning about it. Other staff often:
    • have first hand experience of using the product
    • have sold the product before
    • are product specialists
  • Organisational or supplier product manuals – Depending on the complexity of the product or service, there may be manuals available which will give full details of the product characteristics.
  • Product labels – will often give a description of its selling features, its ingredients, care and handling instructions and so on.
  • Taking a tour – taking a good look at what your store or office has available, and where items are located, allows you to answer customer questions quickly and efficiently. There is nothing more unprofessional than not knowing if your organisation offers a particular item, or not knowing where to find it.
  • Government or council websites. These provide up to date information about legal and legislative issues that all organisations and their staff should be aware of. They are also a source of formal, legal application forms such as liquor licenses for the hospitality industry, Blue Card application forms for the childcare industry, grant applications and many others.
  • Lifestyle programs. Lifestyle programs on television can provide in-depth information about countless industries, products and services. Whole programs are devoted to such interest areas as:
    • fashion
    • technology
    • home improvement
    • arts and crafts
    • health & fitness
    • and many other industries.

These sources can also keep you up to date on the latest trends and emerging technologies.

  • Trade Magazines. There are a variety of trade or special interest magazines such as “Retail World” or Hospitality Magazine, that are filled with articles about their industry. Trade magazines are an important source of information about future trends, innovations and competitors, and can also be used effectively when recommending products to customers. A useful website on what sort of magazines are available is:

  • General media – In addition to the trade magazines mentioned, there are a great variety of off the shelf magazines devoted to certain interest groups that can provide good information relating to your industry for example magazines about:
  • information Technology
    • gardening
    • home improvement
    • fashion
    • photography
    • arts and crafts

 Referring to articles published in reputable magazines can help with establishing credibility, especially if you can actually show the customer an article outlining the product or service you are offering them.

  • Trade Associations and / or industry bodies. These organisations will provide up to date information about new innovations within that industry, information about new government legislation, information on insurance and human resource issues and much more. Examples of just some of the associations / industry bodies in Australia are:

… more on sources of information in the learner guide…

Interpreting information about availability, features and benefits of products and services.

Developing product knowledge means learning all about not only what products and services your organisation offers but also, to a degree, how it works, its various uses, whether it can be adapted to suit specific needs and so on. Product knowledge, then, includes in-depth knowledge about the characteristics of a product or service;

  • what the product is used for
  • how many different functions it can perform?
  • whether it comes in different sizes (or colours)
  • how long the product or service will last
  • care and handling; under what conditions it must be used
  • whether there are any special handling and storage requirements
  • if there a use by date that customers should be made aware of
  • if the item currently available – or whether you have to order it. If so, what is the expected delivery time?
  • what the products safety features are
  • storage requirements, shelf life and use by date
  • whether the product includes a warranty which guarantees its quality and outlines the conditions under which it can be returned, repaired or replaced by the manufacturer.
  • ingredients or materials contained in product. This is important information as some people have allergic reactions to certain substances and they need to be made aware of any potential issues.

You should also be aware of, and be able to answer questions on;

  • pricing issues, such as the basic cost of the item, whether there are any optional extras and if so, how much they cost as well as payment options such as;
  • cash payment
  • EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale)
  • Credit card
  • Online payments such as PayPal
  • Payment plans such as Afterpay
  • competition – how does your product compare to your competitors on price, service, features of the products offered, brands.
  • sales trends – What are people buying from you? How often are they buying and how much are they paying etc.?
  • problems with products – are there any inherent issues with particular products that you need to be aware of – for example if the product does not respond well to heat or other climatic conditions you need to advise the customer of this.
  • innovations – is new emerging technology or are new trends influencing the products you offer?
  • complementary products and services (covered a little later in the unit)
  • features and benefits of a product or service

Understanding features and benefits

… continued in the learner guide … 

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