June 3, 2014

Our parent company holds bimonthly sessions for all of its employees, called JM Sessions. For managers, there is a similar education session called Learning Leaders.

The topics discussed can range from “How to Recruit the Correct Candidate for the Job” to “Getting the Most Out of Your Social Media Accounts.” I would be lying if I didn’t say sometimes taking an hour or so out of the day to sit through one of these sessions can be daunting.

But afterward, I always walk away learning something and thinking it was worth the time.

Continuing education is an important part of staying competitive. Without it, how can you be at the top of your game if there are new tools, or in the example of let’s say a reptile retailer, new care tips, if you don’t know about them?

It is part of the reason we decided earlier this year to focus on the importance of education in this issue. The other part is because your employees are your best asset and, by investing in them, you have a better chance of running a successful business.

Let me give you this scenario. I am a customer and walk into your store. You sell products across all companion animal categories, plus fish and reptile livestock. First, I ask the employee about dental products for my dog because I am not sure if I should purchase chews, a water additive, or both, and I am looking for an expert opinion. They tell me they don’t know much about the products, but that customers seem to like them because they are always restocking them.

Then I walk over to the reptile section and ask about a red foot tortoise that I see you are running a special on. I ask how long the animal has been in the store, its gender, what type of food it eats and if it will get along with my Russian tortoise.

The employee tells me the tortoise has been in the store for only a week, they don’t know how to sex the tortoise and are not the sure the type of food it needs, They go on to tell me that the store sells books on tortoise care and I could find the answers in there, as well as if it will be a good friend for my Russian tortoise.

Hmmm. So none of the questions I needed answered to not only solve my problem, but provide me with the accurate information to decide whether or not I am going to purchase the product, were given to me.

You just lost over $200 in sales, if not more, depending on the price of the tortoise. And while I may come back to the store to buy items I already know and am familiar with, I am going to go someplace else when I have questions.

And you know what? That other store will likely also be selling the regular items I buy, like the daily treats I give to my dog, there too, so there is a good chance that I will be doing all my shopping at that other store.

Now you just lost a customer.

If you think this was a made-up scenario, it isn’t. I’ve actually listened to conversations just like these in pet stores.

That’s not saying that every retail employee needs to know about everything, but they should be well versed in the items they are selling if you want to keep customers coming back. Or, there should be someone in the store who they can ask to get those questions answered for the customer.


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