Trained to Serve

Great customer service doesn't happen by accident, but it can be quickly and easily achieved with some planning and training.


Let’s ask 50 owners within the pet industry if they believe their businesses offer great customer service. Most likely, all 50 are going to say that they give great customer service, and they believe that service is what sets them apart from the competition.

The next question we have to ask is, how are these owners training their staff to give great customer service? Experience has shown that very few owners can say they have a format for teaching customer service.

Finally, the answer to the second question raises another: If you believe your staff gives great customer service but you do not have a format for teaching your staff how to deliver this service, are we to believe your great customer service happens naturally?

While we all wait for that applicant with a degree and a lot of experience in delivering great customer service to walk in the door, allow this writer to suggest that in the interim you consider creating your own school. The challenge is simple: if you want your staff to offer superior customer service, you have to commit to teaching them how.

Training your staff will cost time and money. It is going to take time to develop a plan for the meetings you will have, and the meetings themselves will take time. As your staff is going to be attending these meetings, it is going to cost you payroll—and perhaps some snacks—to hold these events.

However, much like going to the trade show, it is an expense only if you have not found a way to make it pay dividends for you. The trade show is an expense only if you do not find great deals that allow you to extend your margins. This increased profit should be far more than the expense of attending the show.

Similarly, the expense of staff meetings should offset by the rewards generated by the staff training. For example, retailers should train staff to pick up an item the customer is looking at and hand it to the customer. The customer is more likely to purchase the item when they have held it.

Once the customer decides to buy a product, a good salesperson may ask, “Is one enough or would two be better?” Again the customer is more likely to take the second item because they have been asked.

It will be nearly impossible to implement these sales techniques by simply explaining them to your staff one morning. The staff needs to have the opportunity to practice the technique with their fellow salespeople.

As you plan your staff meetings you will develop a list of things you want your staff to learn. The list will include various sales skills, how to answer the telephone, as well as increasing their product knowledge so they can answer your customer’s questions.

Measure of Success

You can measure your success by watching a few measuring points from your cash register. Take the total revenue dollars for a week and divide that amount by the number of transactions during the week. The resulting number is your average sale. Is the number increasing? If so, your staff is suggesting more items to your customers, they are selling a more expensive item/service than what the customer initially asked for, or they are doing a combination of the two. Either way, you win with increased sales.

Another way to measure results is to take the total number of items/services sold during a week and divide that by the number of transaction during the week. The resulting number is your average line count. This tells you how many items/services your staff sold to each customer. If the answer is one, this indicates your staff only rang up what the customer asked for. As the number increases, it indicates that  the staff is engaging the customers, generating more sales. Again, you win with increased sales.

To cut training costs and your time investment, consider using Pet Store Pro (, a free training program developed by the Pet Industry Distributors Association. Basic and advanced customer service and sales courses will teach your employees how to engage customers, close sales and upsell. Use Pet Store Pro’s online courses or downloadable study guides to teach employees the fundamentals. Then focus your time and energy on reinforcing these lessons, role-playing typical scenarios, and reviewing the features and the benefits of the brands and products sold in your store.

While retailing is often said to be simple but not easy, teaching your staff to become great salespeople is both simple and easy. It just requires a small amount of time for some education and practice. You will surely ask yourself why you did not try this years ago.

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