The Grapevine

Wine Shop Customer Experience – Staff & Training

September 23rd, 2014

Last week, we discussed in general terms the importance of customer experience and how even great marketing can’t overcome a poor customer experience. So how do you create a great customer experience? We’ll look at a number of different ways over the next few weeks. First up: staff and training. [level-members]

Nothing will have a bigger impact on customer experience than the interaction they have with your staff. This is true whether you run a “bespoke” shop where every sale is a “hand sale,” or a much larger shop with mass market wines where many customers might interact only with a cashier at checkout.

Your staff has to develop the ability to read people well enough to be friendly and helpful without being pushy or annoying. Different people like different kinds of attention. Even more importantly, no-one likes to be made to feel stupid and at the same time no-one likes to be spoken to like they know less than they do. It’s a tough balance.

Before you even begin training, think first about your hiring practices. Do you hire at minimum wage because, after all, they’re just shop clerks? Or are you willing to pay a bit more for someone with a greater level of experience or perhaps maturity? And attitude is even more important; it’s something you can’t teach. You, or whoever does your hiring, needs to develop the ability to assess a potential hire’s people skills. Only people who truly like people are going to put your shop’s best foot forward.

Of course, that attitude is only the foundation. Proper training, even if relatively informal, has to be a part of every new hire’s on-boarding experience. (Though we’re not in favor of being so informal that there’s no form of employee handbook.) Make it clear that there are right ways and wrong ways to behave in the shop. Customer phone calls end as quickly as possible when another customer walks in the door. Personal phone calls end as soon as a customer’s hand hits the doorknob! No texting, social media or selfies while customers are in the shop. And no customer ever gets more than 5 feet into the shop without being greeted. (A really good retail employee can make that new customer feel welcome even while waiting on another customer – without making the existing customer feel ignored.)

There’s real work in getting your staff to put their best foot forward and create the kind of customer experience that has ‘em coming back for more, but the rewards are worth it. More to the point, the pain that poor customer experience causes is too damaging to risk.

Next week: setting your shop up as an enjoyable place to visit and linger.