11 February 2020, 09:18 AM
  • The key to getting repeat business is to consistently provide a special experience for shoppers
How to excel at customer service

As a specialist retailer visitors to your shop will be coming in with the intention to buy, but however wonderful the produce you sell is, that alone is not always enough to swing a sale. Customer service is key to running a successful business, and as a cheesemonger it’s an opportunity to showcase your passion for the produce and to encourage shoppers to return time and time again.

It’s essential to ensure that the basics are covered when it comes to customer service and that they are performed to the highest possible standards. Staff need to be fully trained and up-to-speed on the latest information when it comes to the products and able to answer any question that a customer may ask regarding storage, cutting, background and pairings for the whole range of different cheeses.

Jen Grimstone-Jones, cheesemonger at Cheese Etc, The Pangbourne Cheese Shop, says that there are three things that they do as standard as a business to provide a quality service, the first of which is training. Jen says, “All of our staff know all of our products. We make sure that our staff can talk to a customer about everything that we sell, we all know the provenance of our goods and we only sell things in the shop that we would buy ourselves. People come to us for our knowledge and expertise so it is crucial that our staff live up to expectations.”

According to Jen, recognition is also key. She says, “Our customers love the fact that we know most of them by name and we know the sort of things they like to buy. This means we can suggest alternative products that we know they will like. We chat to our customers and treat them like friends. You have to give a bit of yourself in order to get people to open up to you but people come back to the shop time and time again because they feel valued. We sometimes bump into customers outside of the shop and they are always appreciative when we take the time to stop and say hello. Invariably they will pop into the shop the next day and talk about whatever mutual activity we were doing.”

Third is awareness: “We always stop and say hello to customers when they come into the shop. Even if we’re serving someone else just taking a second to acknowledge someone has come in and letting them know you’ll be with them soon makes it a lot less likely that people leave without buying anything.”

Presenting produce in a professional way is also a sure-fire way to have your business stand out. The Cheese Lady’s Svetlana Kukharchuk says, “Our customers can be sure to expect a personalised and professional service. We are experts in helping people find the right cheeses for their palate, drink of choice and occasion. We also pay particular attention to how we retail our fine cheeses. They are always cut from the wheel and never vacuum-packed. Cut-to-order wedges are expertly wrapped in specialised cheese paper which plays a crucial role in keeping cheeses fresher for longer.”

When cutting and wrapping cheeses for customers why not talk them through what you are doing and why in order to keep them involved in the process from start to finish? It’s a great way to provide a more interactive service. Making each individual customer feel well looked after and catered for is one part of the equation, but there are also extra ways to go above and beyond. For Svetlana it’s the additional advice they offer which makes the experience of shopping there so positive for each customer that walks through the door; “We do try to make each interaction unique and tailored to the customer’s needs and desires. And of course, we always aim to go the extra mile. We always offer extra tastes, beverage and condiment recommendations, as well as tips on composing cheese boards and cooking with cheese.”

For Jen at The Pangbourne Cheese Shop, customer service goes beyond just what’s happening in-store, and what makes the business different is the commitment to the community around them. She explains, “We have recently launched our local shopping service for our less mobile customers. If someone lives in the village (or just over the river in Whitchurch) we will pick up small amounts of shopping from the village shops and deliver it, along with their cheese, at no extra cost. It is a level of service that we are proud to be able to offer and it means that local people can still patronise the local shops even if they struggle to get here. We also offer a free local delivery service within a 20 mile radius of the shop which has no minimum order value. We try and make shopping here as accessible to all as we can.”

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