Promoting a Service Attitude

Good customer service is imperative to running a successful business.




A team with the right attitude and a service focus is critical to your store’s success. When sales associates sincerely believe that customers are the most important part of their job it shows in everything they do.


As an experienced pet store owner or manager, your service attitude is likely something you don’t even have to think about. But associates—particularly those who are new to retail—may need help understanding just how they can show they value your customers. Your challenge is to take a step back, so you can describe and model specific behaviors for your employees that demonstrate their service attitude.


At its heart, a service attitude is a personal commitment to exceeding customer expectations. When associates have a service focus, they help set the stage for a positive shopping experience that encourages shoppers to stay longer, buy more and return frequently.


Service-focused associates take pride in what they do. They are committed to making sure your store is clean and inviting, keeping a careful eye out for things that don’t fit the store’s image. They are also patient and respectful with other team members, helping when asked without complaint and volunteering to assist when they can.



Demonstrating a Service Attitude

What associates do and say demonstrates whether they have a service focus. As a manager, your job is helping employees understand how to communicate their service attitude:

Arrive ready to work—Encourage team members to leave their worries behind when they walk through the door. Employees with the right attitude show that they are ready to work by being energetic, enthusiastic and fully focused on your store’s customers.


Smile—Associates play an important role in welcoming shoppers to your store. A smile helps customers feel welcome and puts them at ease. In addition to greeting customers with a smile as they walk in the door, encourage team members to show their service attitude by smiling at every shopper they see throughout the store.


Focus on the customer—Associates who have a service focus are alert to customer needs and ready to help at all times. Coach team members to avoid doing things that may make shoppers feel like they aren’t valued, such as not making eye contact while listening, talking to a co worker while a customer waits or texting on the sales floor.


Listen—Help employees become better listeners by reminding them to take the time to listen to customers without rushing them, finishing their sentences or assuming that they already know what the shopper wants. Encourage associates to ask questions to confirm what they heard, clarify what a customer needs and probe for more information so they can do a better job of helping to solve the customer’s problems.


Communicate professionally—Remind store associates that their body language, tone of voice and facial expression all communicate what they are really thinking. Employees can show customers that they are eager to help by standing straight with uncrossed arms, talking in an upbeat tone and demonstrating their enthusiasm and energy with animated facial expressions.


Respect customers’ time—Customers hate to wait. When associates are busy helping other customers, simply acknowledging shoppers lets them know that team members respect their time and can help turn the hassle of waiting into a great service experience. Teach employees to acknowledge waiting customers by making eye contact, smiling and saying, “I’ll be right with you.”


Fulfill commitments—When your associates commit to doing something, they make a promise to the customer. Failing to fulfill their promises reflects badly on them and on your store. Whether they committed to call the customer with an answer to his question or to email her when an out-of-stock item arrives in the store, employees with a service attitude follow through by doing what they said they would.


Take pride in what they do—Be sure that employees understand that having a service attitude includes taking pride in how your store looks, watching for things that are out of place, keeping shelves neat and clean, and cleaning up pet accidents as soon as they happen. A service focus also includes tackling every project—even boring ones—with energy and a positive attitude.


Stepping Into the Customer’s SHOES

Working with customers is the most rewarding—and most frustrating—part of pet retail. Every customer is different, and each one has different expectations about how he wants to be treated by retail salespeople. How customers are treated in your store plays a big part in how they evaluate their overall shopping experience and whether they come back to buy more.


When associates treat two different customers the same way, one person may like what they’re doing, while the other may dislike it altogether. That’s because people have different expectations, which may change from shopping trip to shopping trip.


Encouraging employees to put themselves in your customers’ shoes will help them see other viewpoints and interact with shoppers in a way that makes them comfortable. The SHOES model of customer service includes five easy-to-remember steps:

1.    Slow down and think. How would the associate feel if she were in the customer’s situation?

2.    Hear what customers say. Team members must listen carefully to hear shoppers explain what they need or want before they can help customers find what they’re looking for.

3.    Overcome your biases. When associates make assumptions about people based on how they look, how they sound or how they do things, they are stereotyping. To deliver exceptional customer service, encourage employees to overcome their biases and treat every person who comes into the store as a valued customer. Use the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like them to treat you.

4.    Establish a connection. Associates should try to gain shoppers’ trust and confidence so that buyers feel that everyone is on the same wavelength. This approach is particularly important when working with customers who are different from the associate in some way. Team members should be reminded that they must always offer help because customers may not be comfortable asking for it.

5.    Set the stage to sell. Once customers feel comfortable, associates can determine how to help solve their pet-related problems.


Customers don’t like to feel like they are being a bother. They chose your store and took the time to come in. If associates don’t show that they appreciate their business, shoppers may choose to buy their pet products somewhere else next time.


Every day, associates will confront a variety of situations where their actions can win your store a customer for life or lose one forever. Applying the SHOES model will help associates develop a service attitude and treat customers with respect.  PB


Stephanie A. Kaplan is the director of online education for the Pet Industry Distributors Association. She manages PIDA’s free online training program, Pet Store Pro. Since it was first launched in 2008, over 6,000 retailers have turned to Pet Store Pro for brand-neutral training on critical skills for associates, managers and owners. Pet Store Pro is free to qualified retailers; visit to register and begin using the program.


This article was adapted from “Pet Retail Basics,” one of 29 chapters available as part of Pet Store Pro’s online training. Lessons cover how dress code and personal grooming affect customer impressions, why store policies matter to customers and co-workers, demonstrating a service attitude, working with customers and understanding profit. The chapter also includes a downloadable activity workbook to help associates apply what they’ve learned to their own job.


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