Reader Survey Results
Time for a Profitable Change
In the last issue of Art Materials Retailer, sales consultant Jeff Morrow discussed the need for a cultural change among AM retailers. By concentrating too much on day-to-day tasks such as stocking the shelves, working the cash register and answering customer questions, store owners today have missed the point: “The number-one goal of their sales associates should be to generate sales,” says Jeff.
The readers who responded to our last survey, “How Do You Train Your Staff?” do not agree – 45 percent of them told us that “establishing rapport” is the primary goal of their employees when they wait on customers. “Generate sales” as a goal came in a dismal third, chosen by only 9 percent of the respondents. Here are their other responses.
1. What is the primary goal of your employees when they wait on customers?
Establish rapport – 45%
Answer questions – 36%
Generate sales – 9%
Other – 10%
For “other” goals retailers said, “We make the customer feel welcome and show them we are very happy they took the time to come into our store. Then, we figure out what they’re looking for and if we don’t have what they want, we get on the phone and find it for them.”
“Establishing rapport is a major goal, which could include answering questions, too. From there, generating sales will take care of itself.”
2. What do you think is the most important skill for associates to learn?
Customer Service – 56%
Running the register – 13%
Selling – 6%
Display and presentation – 6%
Stocking the shelves – 6%
Other – 13%
Retailers named “making customers feel that we really care about their needs,” “product knowledge” and “attitude, smile and eye contact” as important employee skills.
3. What types of rewards or incentives do you offer sales associates?
In-store discount – 61%
Money – 13%
Product – 0%
Time off – 0%
Other (please describe) – 13%
Do not offer rewards – 13%
“I have a small workforce and sell materials to my employees at cost. Their reward for working here is that they get to work here. I’ve been lucky over the years to have had great employees. I pay them to do a job, if they don’t want the job or the pay they can leave. I believe pay is the only reward they should receive, but I’ll give raises based on their effort. If I’m paying a particular salary for a specific job, then a raise is not deserved until the employee has shown me that they can do more than the job that they are already doing. Why should I pay more for the same job that they are getting paid to do?”
4. How important do you feel staff training is for art material stores, as compared to other types of retailers?
More important – 90%
Less important – 0%
As important – 10%
“Staff training is always important. How do employees know what you expect of them if you don’t tell them?”
5. How often do you hold employee training sessions?
Every week – 22%
Every month – 11%
Every few months – 57%
Once a year – 5%
Never – 5%
“We almost never have formal training sessions, which is a complete shame and something we are working on improving.”
“My store is a college bookstore, so I try to always hire art students. They work with and know most of the art products. I like to train employees when I hire them and I ask them to read labels to get more information. If they have questions, they can go onto vendor websites or ask me to go over things with them on an as-needed basis.”
6. What types of things do you cover in those sessions?
Customer service – 17%
Product knowledge – 50%
Sales – 8%
Store policies – 17%
Other – 8%
“Our training is a project in constant progress. Most training starts with giving all employees basic instructions on how I want a customer welcomed and treated. Never, never, never say ‘May I help you?” The customer will always respond with a ‘no.’ I tell employees to say, ‘If you need any assistance, let someone know and we will be happy to help.’ I also like to explain what each employee’s primary duty is and what other projects he or she will be expected to help with from time to time. Each new employee is expected to clear the store, dust, straighten, vacuum, read labels and put things where they belong. That way they learn about the entire store and where products are located.”
“I don’t have training sessions. Our training is more informational and you learn as you work. When an employee grasps a new concept, then I take them a step further.”
“Product knowledge is most important. All other topics are part of initial store training. We have a checklist covering all procedures, such as how to answer the phones and deal with sales, charges, special orders and requests.”
7. Do you have a printed employee training manual?
Yes – 45%
No – 55%
“We have a store procedures book, which includes some art-related material on data entry. Nothing too detailed.”
8. Do you review associates’ sales numbers with them?
Yes – 50%
No – 50%
“My employees are here only to assist and are not involved with the sales. If a customer is looking for a particular product that I realize they do not need, then I’ll tell them that, even if it means we lose that sale.”
“My way of doing business is somewhat different than other places. Selling a product is a final goal, but it is not the primary one. If a customer goes to the trouble to walk into my store, then they deserve the very best service we can offer. Service is the only thing I can give that they will not get anywhere else. We try to find out what the customer’s needs are and sometimes it is someone merely to talk to, while other times it is a particular type of glue. We will offer both to the best of our ability.”
“Although customer service and rapport are top priorities, it is important to have sales to support a store. Training is very much related to what types of products are being sold.”