9 Ways to Treat Your Customers Right

We all can sell the same merchandise, for the most part. With profitability being the goal, selling for a lower price should not be the way we want our store to compete. 

The message at the Beverage Alcohol Retailers Conference last summer was that customers make a choice using a combination of these factors: Our store has to be in a convenient location, open at the right hours; stock the items most relevant to our location; have a great shopping environment; and our store must be an active part of the community. We also want to earn referral business, which comes from the most overriding advantage we have — how we treat the customer.

Accordingly, we taught our staff to take these nine steps.

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Allow the customer to get into the store. Do not chase them down at the front door and don’t holler “hello” from behind the cash register or across the store. Greet customers with an open conversation. (“Hello. How are you?” or “Hi. Glad to see you.”) Never use, “can I help you?” or other questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

Always check the store for other customers. While “just looking” is the defensive way of blowing off a salesperson, we all know the customer is shopping. There likely comes a time when they could use an answer, or suggestion. We teach our employees that they should never go more than four minutes without stopping to check for customers.

The second person to talk with the customer should use a different approach. This can be done easily by walking past the customer. Perhaps the customer is in the bourbon area, and you could show them a new whiskey that recently arrived.

In approaching the customer, another employee could ask questions such as, “What kind of wine can we offer a sample taste of?” By using the words “we” and “our,” the employee shows interest in the customer.  

In helping the customer, ask questions about the intended purchase. If the customer is trying to decide what kind of wine to buy, ask, “What have you enjoyed before?” “What are you serving with the wine?” or “What type of restraints do we want to consider?” Maybe the customer is restrained by money, or a guest who only drinks white wines.

Offer directions, shortcuts, personal experiences or other customer testimonials. Be certain that you end this part of the conversation with words of encouragement.

After making the selection, it is time to make the additional sale. In our store, we stocked add-on items in each department. The task is to get the add-on sale into the customer’s hands. The customer is 14% more likely to purchase an item if it is in their hand. The customer is 19% more likely to purchase a second item if the employee simply says, “Is one enough, or would two be better?”

Hand the customer a copy of your current sales circular or newspaper ad. Something more than just a receipt. If they have not been a member of your loyalty program and have just joined, you should have a flyer that describes the benefits.

The final step in making the sale came after the customer said “thank you” to the employee. We made a special point of thanking our customer. We remind our employees that we have many competitors, and the customer chose to shop in our store. That shopping helps pay for our salaries.

Tom Shay is a lifelong small-business owner and manager. He has authored 12 books on small business management; a college textbook on small business financial management and co-authored a book on retailer/vendor relations. Watch his latest webinar at beveragedynamics.com/insider/

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