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Customer service is a major influence on a customer’s decision to return to or abandon a store. Get it right, with knowledgeable, friendly staff and a host of additional services, and you secure customer loyalty. Get it wrong, the word will spread, and your competition could end up soaking up your lost sales.
At Ascot Londis, retailer Roli Ranger’s store, customer service lies at the heart of the business, and good staff training and a list of additional services have earned him the loyalty of local shoppers. JTI’s communications manager, Melanie Mills, took a trip to the store with the Independent Achievers Academy to discuss how to perfect customer service.
Use trade magazines, manufacturer websites and reps to ensure staff and store are fully up to date on the latest products and trends
Make sure staff know what you stock and where it is so they can guide customers around the store
Train staff to treat customers as you would like to be treated yourself, offering a personal and friendly service
Listen to your customers to find out how you can adapt your store and offer additional services tailored to your area
Invest in staff training to ensure loyalty to you and excellent service to your customers
1 Train staff to be friendly and welcoming to all customers
Roli explains that his staff training programme is a mix of formal training and leading by example.
“I go through formal staff training, teaching them that the customer is king, to greet customers and always make eye contact. They help customers shop, going round the shop with disabled customers, for example,” he says.
“I also lead by example. The last thing a customer wants is to get attitude from staff.”
Melanie agrees that it is important to treat customers as you want to be treated yourself and says that investing in development and training drives loyalty.
Roli believes that rewarding staff is vital. The previous week, four members of staff completed NVQs and Roli treated them to a meal as a reward. “It’s their business as well. They are employees but they’re more like family,” he says.
2 Show you and your staff have good local knowledge of all your products and your local area
Melanie says that local knowledge is vital for creating a point of difference for the store. Roli’s staff live locally so when new people move in and ask about the area, staff are in the perfect position to help, he says.
To get new staff up to speed with products and the store, Roli explains that training begins with a store-walk, and that staff take turns doing deliveries to get to know products and store layout.
“They have to look for products so they know where things are when customers want to buy them,” he says.
Melanie suggests trade magazines could be used as a way of updating staff. “They are a good way to find out about ranges, new products and trends,” she says.
Roli says he keeps back issues, especially articles on legislation and age-related products. “I cut them out and staff have to read and sign them,” he says.
The store benefits from strong support from Londis, and also recently adopted a Cadbury layout and saw a 10% uplift in sales, says Roli. It also benefited from advice from a JTI rep who introduced pricemarked packs of Sterling.
“Working with suppliers is important. The days of suppliers with no interaction are gone now,” he says.
Melanie also encourages Roli to make use of reps as a source of information, and suggests that his staff try out the training module on www.tobaccoretailing.com to enhance their knowledge.
3 Offer a range of services that goes beyond the expected standard product range
One of the first things customers will notice when they enter the store is a range of large cakes in many flavours bought from a local supplier. Six months in and sales are booming, says Roli, who agreed to stock the range in order to offer something a little different.
Roli explains that one of his customers does business on eBay and, as a result, gets “sack loads” of parcels. The store helps him by holding a float from which accounts are settled and sorts his parcels during quiet times to offer a speedier and reliable service.
The Post Office service is popular with customers. “We get people saying they can’t park on the high street, so we offer various services through the Post Office and an extension of these outside Post Office hours, such as cashback.”
Melanie asks about Roli’s service to the large number of pensioners who use the store, and Roli explains that, with one member of his staff living in sheltered accommodation nearby, the residents use her to send in shopping lists and spread the word about the shop.
“Pensioners are core. They tell their friends and so many come because of word of mouth,” says Roli.
The in-store music is changed at various points of the day, so pensioners are treated to panpipes and classical music at the times they most frequently shop. And, to reward their loyal custom, Roli even takes them out for the occasional meal.