September 6-8, 2013
Orange County Convention Center
Staff training and customer service at retail.
By Coco Tihanyi, Co-Owner & Buyer of Surf Diva Boutique
As more and more retailers consolidate and close doors it’s important to see how to bring customers (and their dollars) back to your store, eager to engage with your staff. Our goal at Surf Diva is to show the customer what’s hot and what’s trending in the surf world without ever making them feel out of place.
Now celebrating our sweet sixteen in business as the pioneer in women’s surf instruction, Surf Diva officially opened our retail location eight years ago. Throughout the years we’ve learned some valuable lessons that I’d like to share. After all, my twin sister and business partner Izzy lives by our motto, “What we do together we do better.”
Giving customers that memorable experience is what we strive to do―both in and out of the water. It also helps to have a reason for a customer to come back to the shop. For us, we invite surf school students to return for their Surfing Diploma and to take advantage of a twenty percent in-store discount on the day of their lesson.
We have fun titles for our office and shop staff: Shop Diva, Office Diva, Beach Diva, or Roadie Crew and that comes across when they meet customers.
Selecting The Right Sales Staff
Job applicants have to have the right stuff for your shop; they need to have the desire to work in your shop. If someone says they are “Just looking for a job,” don’t hire them. That type of attitude will come across to the customer. When selecting applicants, sometimes the ones with little or no experience are the best because they are malleable and can be trained to be your type of sales person.
I go off of a list of questions during the interview, always asking the same questions and write every answer down. I look for passion to work at Surf Diva. I look for enthusiasm. I look for math skills. The rest is training and that’s the challenge of scouting out the best team possible.
To start, I wrote a Shop Diva Training Manual with things that are important to me. Keep it concise with bullet points, updating it yearly with new policies and procedures. Have a quiz at the end seeing if the candidate understands what’s important to you and the shop personnel. I’ve included a sample of a quiz we give.
The Team Is Assembled. What’s Next?Company history and product knowledge is the first thing to do when training a sales person. Debriefing them on when the shop was opened, who are the owners, what was their intention, locations, and sharing any press coverage received. This is important because it shows the staff person and the customer that there is a “story” behind the shop and that’s what ultimately a return shopper likes to know about.
Make sure the new person knows the brands that the shop carries. I have included a quiz that I give to our staff several times a year.
Walk The Walk, Talk The Talk, Shop The Shop
Have something that identifies the staff from other customers, whether it’s a uniform or a name badge. I found a company that makes magnetic name badges so that clothing isn’t damaged by a pin and/or a cute outfit hidden by huge lanyards. Our badge is clean and simple with our company logo on the left hand side, first name of staff and “ask me about surf lessons” under the name. Have fun with this, it’s the first impression a customer will have! On her first day, the new Shop Diva is allowed to choose three to five free Surf Diva branded tops. As she’s choosing the tops, she’s learning the various styles, colors, and is obligated to look for sizes and see what’s missing on the floor. And, yes, if you are wondering, we do hire guys and they pick from a selection of tees for men with “Surf Diva Cabana Boy” or La Jolla Shores.
Turn A Conversation Into A Sale
Our shop, certainly like many others, is located in a highly seasonal area so when the customers come they are very valuable. We need to turn the “visitor” into a “customer” so that challenge is greater.
Recently we discussed what pet peeves each one of us has when shopping. Included in this discussion were our three international interns studying business in the U.S. After spending some time explaining the definition and origin of the meaning of pet peeve, we all agreed on the three top ones that scare us out of a shop:
We had a ton of others, but these were the ones that were common amongst the Divas. So I try to teach our staff to treat each and every customer as if their best friend, sister, mother, aunt, grandfather, or niece is the customer.
We have such a wide demographic that it’s extremely important to convey the message of “This is your shop and you are welcome to ask us about surfing or surf fashion and we are here to help.” Our shop staff is armed with the product knowledge and etiquette to turn a conversation into a sale simply by:
Bring ’Em Back!
We are, by nature, creatures of habit. When we go every day back to the same restaurant for lunch (like I do) it’s because the people are nice and they appreciate my patronage and the food is consistent and good. For a shop, it might be perceived as being harder to create that loyalty, but it’s really not hard at all―as long as you have the sales people who care and remember names.
When you have staff returning every summer to work, that too says a lot about your shop. They wouldn’t be coming back for more if they didn’t like your style, your shop or the vibe. Every day remember why you opened your shop and why we are in this industry. People on the outside think we are lucky to be doing what we are doing. Let them think that and who cares if it’s hard work. It’s worth it in the end. We are all living the dream; helping each other succeed along the way.
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