Whether you grew up in a big city, small town, or somewhere in between, you probably knew the people who kept your neighborhood running smoothly – postal workers, doctors, librarians, even mayors, depending on the size of your community.
You also knew, on a first-name basis, the small business owners who assisted you regularly. And most likely they knew your family and anticipated your needs when you entered their establishment.
While lifestyles have changed over the years, the need for personalized service has not. It is part of the fabric that makes and keeps a small business strong. Learning what customers need and providing appropriate service and products on a timely basis creates a good repertoire and leads to long-term success.
But in a world where multi-tasking is at a premium, service sometimes falls by the wayside, especially in big box stores. Fortunately, that was not the situation when I recently visited a family-run pharmacy/gift shop. As I looked around, I noticed an older woman searching for just the right decorative vase for a wedding gift. As she walked through the store, examining the selection closely, a young sales assistant patiently answered her questions, inquiring about the upcoming event and, in the process, making the customer feel special.
This small business realized that teaching its staff to be attentive to its customers’ needs is essential to keeping and growing its business. While training employees about the basics of client etiquette may take some planning, it doesn’t have to be tedious. Set some ground rules, set aside a few hours with your staff (or rotate if you have a larger staff), and educate/reeducate them about the niceties of conversation.
Topics to discuss can include listening skills, making eye contact, the art of asking the right questions and, especially popular in today’s world, cell phone usage. Throw in some role-playing, and you will be on your way to serving happy customers who always feel understood and appreciated.
P.S. The pharmacy made the sale and inside the gift-wrapped vase was the store’s business card.
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