Impress the Parents
Pet Store Pro’s new courses help retail associates build rewarding customer relationships.
Pet parents are profitable customers who consider their animals to be part of their family. Like most parents, these customers are protective—maybe even overprotective—and they won’t take advice from just anyone. That puts independent retailers in a prime position to earn their trust by providing service that shows your team cares about pets as much as your customers do.
When it comes to service, smaller pet retailers have a huge advantage over big-box stores and mass merchandisers, where shoppers often have to search for items and can only find indifferent stock people to ask for help when they have questions. The size and specialized focus of independents provide real opportunities for your associates to interact with customers on a personal level and satisfy their specific needs.
These skills don’t come naturally to everyone—especially those who are new to retail. To make sure their associates know how to win pet parents over, storeowners like Phil Ray and Melissa Sturm use Pet Store Pro. The free online program provides consistent, reliable employee skills training to help stores like yours gain a competitive edge.
“The only way an independent can compete is at a service level. No one at a dotcom asks: ‘How is your dog doing?’” says Ray, who owns two Best 4K9 pet stores in Greensboro and Oak Ridge, N.C. “Our biggest asset is our knowledgeable staff and the relationships they develop with our customers.”
“Meeting the needs of our customers is far more important than processing a sales ticket,” says Sturm, owner of two Agri Feed Pet Supply locations in Knoxville, Tenn. “Pet Store Pro lets me know I’m giving my people the tools they need to provide outstanding customer service.”
Here at Global Pet Expo, Pet Store Pro is debuting two new courses to help everyone who works for you learn how to turn pet parents into loyal customers. Used alone or to supplement the program’s full-length customer service and sales courses, these “micro” chapters are designed for associates to complete in 15 minutes and put the skills they learn to work right away.
Pet parents are willing and able to spend—and often, splurge—on high-quality food, products and services to keep their animal companions happy and healthy. Exceptional service is all about making genuine connections with these customers, which happens when your employees demonstrate a sincere interest in their wants and needs. Engaged customers are more loyal to your store, shop there more often and buy more each time they do. They are also more likely to speak highly of your shop to other potential customers and on social media.
Pet Store Pro’s new Engaging Customers micro chapter teaches associates how to engage customers in conversations that reveal the reasons for their visit and how they make buying decisions. The course is designed to help your team deliver personalized service to every customer by getting to know them on a personal level and making relevant recommendations that showcase your employees’ expertise.
The chapter covers simple techniques your employees can use to establish an initial connection, get customers talking and encourage them to take a closer look at store products and displays. Associates will learn how to recognize and make the most of opportunities to engage customers in different locations throughout your store.
Opportunities to Connect
Every area of your store provides a natural setting for your associates to bond with customers. Pet Store Pro’s Engaging Customers chapter includes activities that let them practice how to approach shoppers and strike up conversations in various locations. For instance:
- At the entrance, ask customers if it’s their first time at your store. If they answer yes, tell them what your store’s specialty is. If they say no, welcome them back and let them know you appreciate the repeat business.
- In the aisle, bring customers a shopping basket and mention any sales. Walk them to what they’re looking for, then offer additional help by explaining the item’s features and benefits.
- At checkout, ask customers if this is a repeat purchase and what they liked about it. Tell them how to find coupons and information, such as pet care tips, on your store’s website.
Customers are satisfied when their expectations have been met, and pet parents have very high standards. Expectations may be different for different people (for instance, Baby Boomers vs. Millennials, who together make up the largest part of the market) or even for the same person on different visits. Some will tell you if they’re not happy; others simply won’t come back.
Even little things that at first went unnoticed or unresolved may cause customers to shop around the next time they need something. For certain, continued dissatisfaction leads to a loss of trust, and ultimately, lost business.
Pet Store Pro’s new Customer Satisfaction micro chapter is designed to help your employees understand their role in providing the four elements of customer satisfaction—perfect products, friendly service, timely delivery and support systems to resolve issues. Associates will learn how to recognize when a customer is frustrated or confused—for instance, by noticing facial expressions, body language and other signals—so they can take the necessary steps to find a solution.
Although your store probably has written rules and guidelines for how to address common potential problems, some situations require a more personal touch. Pet Store Pro’s Customer Satisfaction chapter lets team members think about and practice how to handle tricky issues in ways that leave customers satisfied. For instance:
- If a customer makes a purchase and later discovers it is damaged or doesn’t work, go the extra mile to make up for the inconvenience by offering to have an acceptable replacement delivered to the customer’s home.
- When waiting is unavoidable, acknowledge the situation by making eye contact with customers, apologizing for the wait, thanking them for their patience and letting them know that they’ll be taken care of as soon as possible.
- If a customer expects to pay the sale price for an item that was mistakenly in the wrong display, know your store’s procedure to override the price at checkout or give the customer a discount to compensate for the error. Check products and displays frequently to prevent the problem from happening again in the future.
Wow With Service
A staff that can demonstrate their understanding of pet parents’ wants and needs and provide them with solutions that meet them is the best way to win customers who value quality and expertise over low prices. As Sturm explains, “It’s a real advantage to provide professional training that conveys that our people are knowledgeable and skilled.”
Need more proof? This comment on Phil Ray’s Facebook page says it all: “What a wealth of knowledge these folks are, and they don’t mind sharing it. I was wishing I had a better option, and I found it!”
Since its launch in 2008, more than 28,000 pet store owners, managers and sales associates from more than 5,700 stores have used Pet Store Pro.