What do your associates do when a customer walks in five minutes before closing to browse around, or returns something the same day they purchased it? Rather than hoping for the best, provide your employees with written instructions on how to handle such situations.
Educating employees in customer service need not be a difficult task
During the years this writer was a store manager and owner, we experienced with our team members and customers, two types of situations which we would expect that every other store in the pool and spa industry has experienced. We believed the comments that were made in these situations, and how we reacted to them, could make the difference between our store trying to survive and our store thriving.
You have probably experienced the same occurrences. One situation occurs when a customer walks into the store, five minutes before closing, to look around, or brings in a container of water to be analyzed. The comment is something along the line of, “It figures. We’re ready to go home and these people come in.” While we would agree with our team members that we would prefer the customer to shop earlier, the customer could go to one of the chain or warehouse stores, of which some are open 24 hours a day.
Many years ago, we would let these comments go without any reply. However, in later years, particularly as the competition increased, we made more of an effort to remind our team members if that customer chose to shop elsewhere, we would perhaps have had fewer team members. The same response was given to a team member who registered their resistance to working nights or weekends. We had to be open when customers wanted to shop. The idea behind our comments was not to force our thinking on our team members, but was to constantly remind them that our business was, as are all businesses in this industry, consumer driven. We also made a point to say that the customer was the most important person in our store.
This first situation leads into the second. In every pool and spa store, employees have surely experienced an occasion when a customer has returned to the store with a product that was purchased earlier. The problem at hand is they are unable to install, operate, or use the product. In many situations, the employee has had to take the time to read the directions to the customer so that the transaction could be salvaged. In these occurrences, the customer has often thanked the employee and left with the closing words, “It’s just like learning to swim, you need instructions”. This simple statement is true with many things, especially operating a business in this industry. But, it has been our experience from visiting with dealers from around the country, that few use a set of written customer service directions in their stores, or with their service people.
Even though we were a small business, we found that by creating written material we were better able to improve our level of customer service. We wanted to have been able to copy the employee handbook that Nordstrom’s Department Stores used. It is printed on a five by eight inch card and mentions only one rule: “Use your good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager any question at any time.”
Our customer service policy had two three step instructions. These were the sales techniques and procedures which we practiced time and again. The first was how to greet customers. The first person to see a customer was only permitted to say hello to them. If the customer was in a hurry, they would tell us what they needed. If not, that friendly hello (not “Can I help you?”) was all the customer needed. In a few minutes, as the customer was looking about the store, another team member would walk by and simply acknowledge the customer’s presence.
It was the third person, again several minutes later, who would offer assistance with a product. Three people and three hello’s; never any pressure, but always letting the customer know we would help.
Our second three-step action would usually begin with the ending of the first. A team member would be helping a customer solve a problem with algae in his pool. The team member may sense the customer is not “buying” their explanation, or wasn’t sure they had all the answers. They would ask the customer to wait a moment as they brought into the discussion a second, perhaps more experienced, team member.
The first team member would repeat the discussion to the second, with the customer observing their entire discussion. If the first solution was correct, the customer witnessed a confirmation and would then be given the product. However, if the solution was not correct, or a different product would be better, the second team member would have asked the customer a couple of questions and then selected the better item. All of this was done without any embarrassment to the first team member. And, after the customer left, the two team members exchanged information to help each of them become better sales people. Customer service should be the cornerstone of your business.
From taking care of the customer who walks in just before you close, to the person who needs help with a product or service, it helps to have the instructions for you and your staff. Do you have your set of instructions?
- Employee education is crucial to the success of any business
- Employees can be shown to work together to assist customers
- Two employees working together can resolve a customer’s concerns and needs
Tom Shay provides proven management and promotional business building ideas through his Profits+Plus Seminars and books. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or at his web site:.