The most important resource that you have in your cookshop business is your people.
Now, I know that this once used to be something of a cliché, but in our ultra-competitive environment it’s really true. Increasingly, we sell products that are specialist, technical and need clear customer explanation.
When you go into a department store or branch of a large multiple, will you find a member of staff who has: great product knowledge, superb customer service skills and is really enthusiastic about what they do?
You most likely will not be fortunate enough to find such a person – but the odds are increasing that you will! Slowly but surely, the best-operated department store groups and multiples are learning that good staff, with good customer service skills, really do improve business performance.
For this reason, independent small retailers need to keep one step ahead and ensure that their staff are better than the competition. So how can you do this?
I believe the answer lies in selecting staff not just on their skills but also on their ability to really live your company values. This means that the whole process of staff selection just became more complicated – but the payoff should be that you get people who are truly engaged with your business ethos. People who will make a genuinely positive contribution to build your business brand and performance.
So, what changes will you need to make to your staff selection process?
When you interview people don’t just ask candidates to tell you how they identify with your business ethos – let them show you. Create scenarios where the candidate can demonstrate how they can relate to a customer in the way your business needs them to. This could mean helping a customer to buy rather than selling to a customer – there is a subtle difference.
Make sure you’re being crystal clear about your business values
Provide the candidate with clear information on how you do business before they undergo the job interview. There’s no point wasting anyone’s time in setting them up to fail. Give clear guidance on just how you want customers to be approached and served or how you’d like a certain customer care scenario handled. And be sure to remain consistent on how your over-arching business values are shaping each event. Clarity in communication is vital.
Values are more important than skills
Both values and skills may be learned. The trouble is that values take much longer to learn! Even the youngest of job applicants who applies to you for a position is already a young adult. They’ve had, say, 18 years of learning values. They may have learned them at school or college as well as at home. Their values have been embedded over 18 years. That’s a lot of material to unlearn, if that’s what’s required. It’s probably not a task that a busy cookshop owner would choose to take on.
Skills, however, are less ingrained: they may be more readily learned. Even if an applicant has already gained some employment and retail sales experience, this may be more readily moulded. Previous experience can be useful. If the person concerned is open to new ways of learning and working, then good and reasonably relevant experience may provide a good platform on which to build.
In a nutshell, we should be recruiting for a person’s attitude, first and foremost. Do this and the rest should follow.