There are many benefits of engaging with customers at your pet retail store, especially if you display a genuine interest in learning more about their pet. People LOVE talking about their pets! Often, throughout the course of a conversation, a customer may reveal information about their pet that provides an opportunity for you to either educate the customer or recommend some products that would solve their needs. Customers are also more likely to return to a store over and over again if they perceive it to be a warm and friendly environment.
Be Warm and Friendly!
Always greet the customer with a friendly smile and enthusiastic greeting. Wait until the customer makes eye contact with you, so that you can face them when saying “hi” - rather than greeting their back.
If possible, stop what you’re doing so that the customer can see that you’re giving them your full attention. Even if you are busy doing inventory or stocking the shelves, take a moment to stand up, smile and greet your customer. Return to your task only after offering them your assistance.
While you should greet every single customer that walks through the door, occasionally you may get ignored or a customer may respond coldly. Rather than muttering under your breath, “Well, that was rude…” just cheerfully tell him, “I’ll be up by the registers if you have any questions or need any help!”
A common mistake when greeting the customer is being overly pushy from the very beginning. A greeting such as, “Hi! Can I grab anything for you?” makes the customer feel rushed, like you’re trying to get them out of the store as soon as possible.
Get to know the regulars!
Your regulars will become your advocates and top supporters - these are the people who will be leaving positive Yelp reviews and recommending your store to all of their friends and family. If you recognize a customer, say, “Hi! Good to see you again!” and if you remember their pet’s name, ask them how they’re doing! Customers will be extremely impressed if you demonstrate that your previous interaction was important enough to remember. Get to know your customer and their pets, as well as their buying habits. Your customers will be very flattered if you can give them a product recommendation based on their past purchases - think of it as a personalized “We think you may be interested in this…” suggestion as seen on e-commerce sites like Amazon.
Be mindful of your Body Language
It’s important to be very self-aware when you work in retail. Don’t let customers watch you texting on your mobile phone, don’t slouch and appear bored. When you read negative reviews about a store on Yelp or Google Reviews, the negative comments are almost always regarding a store employee’s bad attitude.
Strike up a conversation, but put in a little more effort than asking, “How you doing?”
If the customer walks in with a pet, be sure to ask about them! Comments such as, “Wow, what kind of dog is that? Very handsome!” “So cute! I love your dog’s collar/markings/ears/fluffy tail/etc!” “Your dog looks so athletic! Do you ever play Frisbee with her?” are all appropriate and invites the customer to engage in conversation.
It's also fairly easy to start a conversation based on the store environment. For example, if your store does kitten adoptions, ask a customer, “Have you seen our new kittens up for adoption? Aren’t they adorable? I really wish I could adopt one!” If you notice a customer saying “hi” to one of the store dogs, ask them, “That’s Max, he’s really friendly! Want to see him do a cool trick and maybe give him a treat?”
- When a customer asks for a specific product, rather than pointing to the direction of the item, walk with them! This may be a good opportunity to show off some of your product knowledge. If you think a different product may be a better fit for the customer, don’t be afraid to show it to them!
- Customers are often at a pet supply store to buy a large bag of food or feed. If possible, offer to carry the bag out to a customer’s car, or, at the very least, run to grab the door for them.
Asking your customers questions demonstrates that you care about making sure that the customer gets the product that’s right for them! If a customer tells you that they’re looking for a dog bed, don’t just point in its general direction, walk with them to the section. Ask them, “Do you know what kind of bed you’re looking for? What’s your dog’s favorite sleeping position? I could help you find a bed that will match your dog’s preference!” Here are some other good questions for common inquiries from customers!
- “I’m looking for a dog toy.” “Okay! What kind of toy do you need? Are you looking for an interactive toy so that you can play with your dog? Or are you looking for a toy where he’ll kinda just entertain himself?”
- “I need dog shampoo.” “Sure thing, they’re right here! Are you looking for something that smells good, or something that’s more natural and hypoallergenic?”
- “I need nail clippers for my dog.” “Cool, we have them in this guillotine style, as well as a scissors style. Is your dog pretty wiggly when you try to trim his nails?” “If so, I’d go with the scissors style, sometimes with the guillotine clippers, it’s hard to see where you’re cutting. By the way, have you ever tried giving your dog treats while you trim his nails? It may help him be more accepting of the nail trims!”
While some people are naturals at engaging with customers (who are often complete strangers), other people may need a bit more training and practice. The good news is that anyone can learn amazing customer service skills! Big box pet stores often do not invest much time in teaching their employees how to make a connection with their customers. When your employees go out of their way to show your customers that they care, it will leave a lasting and positive impression on your customer, and they will be back for more!