Report • 20.10.2010
Welcome to the service counter
Are sales counters with personal service experiencing a renaissance? If it’s true that greed is not good anymore, retailers can score with service and advice. In recent years in food retail the self-service areas were increasingly expanded at the expense of sales counters. Both have their place – this could now be the slogan. But a few more inches of service counters are not enough, because it also depends on great visual merchandizing and trained personnel. The following pointers deliver suggestions for your own ideas.
Sales psychologists know: customers like to make choices, but at a certain point they are overwhelmed by the abundance of available products. It’s important to remember this in visual merchandizing. Less is often more. Employee training almost always pays off. In other industry sectors it goes without saying to further educate employees. The topic of the training can also be psychology and presentation techniques. The staff is more motivated to participate, if the training course doesn’t seem like tutoring, but expresses appreciation. A workshop at a nice location might be a great incentive.
Many customers would rather be second or third in line to have more time to take a closer look at the available choices. Without the pressure of a long waiting line, the opportunity for a more intense consultation is available. The people responsible for the market place should observe their counters more often. What do customers do if just at that moment nobody can be seen behind the counter? You would notice that some seize the opportunity to look at the offered items when they are not being immediately addressed.
“What would you like?“ This is the wrong question to indecisive customers. It’s better to say: “Welcome. I am happy to see that you are checking out our sales offers. Take your time to look at everything. I am here for you if you need me.“ That way you can work behind the counter without the customer feeling like an intruder. Or: “Do you already know what you are going to cook today? I have a suggestion for you...“
Sampling and giving advice
The staff stands behind the counter. It needs to break down the distance over the food to get to the customer. This is especially difficult if nobody is standing in front of the counter. Then you could position an employee in front of the counter. A tray with small food samples piques people’s curiosity and interest. Yet the associate should not just offer small bites, but also start a consultation. The time spent waiting in line can also be shortened with sampling food.
“Would you smell this please?“ This invitation is also only possible at the counter and not at the shelf with the self-serve items. ”This pepperoni is from Spain and is spicier than this one from Italy. Try it.“ And already you have a conversation going. Of course this does not only require sales experience, but also knowledge about the merchandise. And if there is a line, the other customers in line are also at the same time indirectly being served.
Whether it’s “grassland cheese“, “Bavaria Blu“ or “sausage from Rügenwald“: many products are cheaper in the self-serving freezer than at the counter. Customers at the counter accept this, if they get an additional benefit. This additional value can be advice or the amount. A one person household does not need a 150 gram pack of something. Customers, who only want 50 grams of something, should not get the impression that they put the staff out. And why doesn’t the staff in downtimes prepare trays with cheese or sausage, totalling 150 or 200 grams perhaps and containing four or five different kinds. You can combine different kinds at the counter, which is not available at the self-serving counter.
Cross-Selling and Up-Selling
Even those who enter the store with a shopping list – on paper or memorized in their head – are perhaps open to other suggestions. Cross- or Up-Selling pays off for the retailer and increases the sales revenue at the counter. However, the staff needs to assess whether the individual customer happens to be in a hurry or not. Those who shop on their lunch break only have a small amount of time to pick up a few items, and it is a similar situation for mothers with small and whining children on their hand.
A classic in marketing of scale manufacturers is “the matching wine for your cheese“: Mettler-Toledo and Bizarba offer scales with colored customer displays, which indicate matching products for the present purchase. Such recommendations are based on intelligent software, which significantly expands the staff’s knowledge about the merchandise. But the recommended items really need to be listed at the store and available on the shelf. An interface to inventory control is necessary, especially if the price is also indicated.
It’s great if the matching wine can be sold right at the counter. However, there is rarely enough counter space available to do this. But the staff could print out a voucher that shows the exact spot where the wine is located. Whether the way ultimately actually leads to the wine rack is not guaranteed. One alternative: the wine is immediately added to the bill at the counter – with a price reduction compared to the price at the wine rack.
The service counter has a future if it is beneficial for retail and the customer. It does not sell itself. Good ideas are in great demand.
René Schellbach, EuroShop.de