Updated April 16, 2021.
As restrictions ease in many states and as more shops open up to in-store shopping, it becomes more and more important that shopowners consider the small things they can do to improve the customer service they offer. I visit needlepoint shops wherever I go and my experience has been varied, to say the least. I’m not the only stitcher who does this. My experiences, both good and bad, have made me realize that there are so many small things shopowners can do to make things great for the people who come in, especially if they are visitors to the area.
And, let’s face it, people will be coming to your shop this summer from other areas, even if you don’t live in a tourist “trap.”
Directions Do you have a sheet of paper with clear, understandable directions, laminated and near the phone? Many people, give poor directions. Get ones, write them down, put them by the phone. Even if you use Google Maps for them. Ask everyone at the shop to use them. Do not rely only on those little thumbnail maps that you can add from Google, they are useless to anyone who is not very familiar with the area. Include written directions as well as helpful hints )such as “We are the green building behind the Chinese restaurant.”).
I was visiting a shop while on vacation but the directions I was given over the phone were so bad that even though I knew the town I could not find the place initially. Even when I got to the shopping center where the shop was located, the directions were bad. It sounded as if the name of the shopping center was prominent — it wasn’t. It sounded as if there was a two-story building in front of it — there wasn’t.
Dining This may sound dumb, but do you have a list of area restaurants at the cash register. No matter where you are, people may want to eat after visiting your shop. Can everyone in your shop tell them where to go? These days you should add to this list information about dining options and days open. Knowing this is so helpful to visitors, even if they are locals. If there are plenty of restaurants around ask your staff to list their favorites.
Canvases Like most stitchers I know I like to get small canvases to remind me of the place I visit. I like them to have a theme that will remind me of the place. Most places have something like this, some more than others. Do you have some, are they always in stock? A unique item characteristic of your area will attract sales from visitors.
I went into a shop while on vacation I was looking for this kind of canvas. I can think of at least five canvases with the theme for the area off the top of my head, and I know there are more than this. The shop had none of them and seemed surprised by the request. This was in spite of the fact that it was the biggest tourist week of the year and that this is an annual occurrence. Just a bit of forethought on the shopowner’s part could have brought these items in. Packaged as a kit for this week would get repeat customers from the visitors.
I went in planning to buy a project for the plane and I wanted to buy it kitted so I could work on it on the plane. I finally found something that kind of works, but even then the owner and the employee were of no help. I could easily have walked out and a sale would have been lost.
Yes, this casual customer isn’t the heart of your business, but it’s an easy sale to make. I won’t be going back there again, even though I will be in that town again. I also will not recommend it to others.
Threads Your stock of threads may be large or small, but you and all your employees should know the basics. This employee didn’t know where to find black Anchor floss and there was not a color card. She looked through all the drawers. I can do that myself. I ask for help because I want someone who knows more than me. There is absolutely no excuse for shop staff not to know where basic inventory can be found. I was not looking for either an obscure thread or an uncommon color. That is why I was so taken aback by the employee’s lack of knowledge.
The only one of these items that ties up any inventory dollars is the canvases. Every other item is one that uses items and knowledge the shopowner has or can get easily. But had they been present an unpleasant experience would have been good and I would go back the next time I was in town.
I realize in many ways I’m spoiled. My LNS, Needle in a Haystack, is outstanding in every way, and does all of these things. They even go so far as to warn you, well in advance, when parking will be bad.
BUT this isn’t rocket science, this is good basic customer service.
Wouldn’t we buy more and wouldn’t we be happier if shops paid attention to these things? With the lockdowns of the past year + we have gotten used to shopping online and using our stashes. This makes doing these small things to enhance the in-person experience even more important. If I can shop online, in my PJs and get good customer service — why should I come into your shop to have a bad experience?
About Janet M Perry
Janet Perry is the Internet's leading authority on needlepoint. She designs, teaches and writes, getting raves from her fans for her innovative techniques, extensive knowledge and generous teaching style. A leading writer of stitch guides, she blogs here and lives on an island in the northeast corner of the SF Bay with her family
Hi Janet, Well I don’t really dare speak my mind on this topic, but I’m sure you’ll get plenty feedback which will reflect many of my own experiences only told with more eloquence.
Not ever having owned a shop, but happily having enabled others to do so, I am always disappointed when I find customer service lacking. With the endless options online nowadays, shop owners, even if they are the only game in town, need to provide superior customer service.
Sure it’s disappointing if the stock is low, but in today’s economy it’s understandable. What isn’t acceptable at all to me is unhelpful, or worse, indifferent sales help. Shop owners like this are just resting on their laurels and we all know this standard will not sustain them in the long run. I have had such good experiences around the country with various shops, some better than others, I find it no longer necessary to put up with any business that does not show their appreciation that I have chosen to lay down my money in their shop. Competent, friendly service will always out weigh shop content for me. Thanks for the use of the soapbox. 🙂
Barbara Green says
This post is right on the money! Whenever I know I’m going to travel, I always look online to find the nearest LNS, and I build in time to visit it, if there is one (or two). All your ideas are no-brainers and would result in more sales (and repeat sales), and every shopowner should adopt them, if they haven’t already! True story: there were two LNSs in one town, walking distance apart. A couple of tourists went into the first one and were treated rudely by the staff. They browsed, but left without making a purchase and went to the other LNS where they received a warm welcome and ended up making a purchase totaling several THOUSAND dollars. (Turned out the tourists were from a foreign country that didn’t have a good LNS, and they were buying enough canvasses, fibers, and supplies to last them a couple of years.)
Wendy TC says
NIAH is my LNS too, and I love the place. I’ve been a customer since it opened in 1998. My daughter started needle working while in college and is now also a customer. Just today, my daughter and I were there for my daughter to reserve an item that hadn’t come out yet. She was told by Debbie, the store manager, that the store owner Cathe doesn’t plan to stock it, but Cathe would check with her needlework shop owning friends to try to get the item. Customer service!