Not all artisan chocolate stores are created equal. Personal style, different ambitions, financial possibilities, specific expertise and knowledge of the market are just a few of the variables that explain such a diversified and intriguing panorama in the artisan chocolate industry. This is why, whenever I visit a chocolatier to review, I never know what to expect and I am excited to see what’s in store for me.
If you are among my most loyal readers (Thank you, guys!), chances are you have read all my reviews of the chocolatiers in NYC, and are aware that during my visits I have encountered neglected ambiances, weird assortments, low quality products and much more. But if there is one thing that drives me crazy more than the above and still can’t wrap my mind around is a BAD STAFF. Why? An employee passing right in front of me while I am taking pictures, one that seems bored to hell, one that can’t answer my questions, or one that doesn’t even talk to me, is the result of owners so confident in their products to not even care about the people being hired. “As long as they don’t ask for more than the minimum wage and look clean, they are hired. My chocolate is so good and well made that it sells itself!”. No my dear, your chocolate doesn’t sell itself. No matter how good your chocolate is, the people that you hire for your store are the faces of your company, and if they screw up with customers you can kiss your sales goodbye.
Therefore, let me describe for you the kind of staff I would like to find in your artisan chocolate store to have a remarkable experience and be glad to return.
1) Welcoming and smiley – there is nothing better than stepping into a store and being welcomed right away with a genuine smile and kind words. When an employee says “Hi, welcome to our store” with a sincere happy face, what the customer perceives is “Oh, they are so happy I am here, they are going to take good care of me”. It can change the entire experience for customers. This first impression will most likely determine how much money the customers will spend in your store. A customer that feels welcomed and at ease is a customer more willing to keep his/her wallet open.
2) Able to give explanations – if welcoming the customers is the first must, the second one is to remind them that the staff is at their disposal for any questions or concerns. Especially in an artisan chocolate store, it is extremely important that the staff is able to give explanations about the products. In a world where chocolate consumers started only recently to care about the content of their sweet treats, you want to make sure that your employee is well prepared to answer any question regarding flavors, taste, production, raw materials and use. Educating your staff means educating your customers. If your customers understand why your chocolate is different from the one they could buy at Lindt or Godiva, they will be more willing to pay a higher price for quality products.
3) With good timing – after obtaining the answers to their questions, customers want to be left ALONE. They want to take their time to process all the info they received and be sure to make the right decisions. There is nothing worse than an employee that keeps staring at customers, hovering over them and asking repeatedly what they want to buy. Pressure doesn’t work well in chocolate specialty stores. A staff with good timing manages to find a balance between insistence and indifference.
4) Have tried the products and can give suggestions – how can your employees emphasize the greatness of your products if they have never tried them? You cannot even imagine the impact on the customers when an employee says something like “Oh yes, I have tried it. It is one of my favorite, and also my kids think it tastes so good”. The empathy they create with the customers is the most powerful sales tool of all. Think of when a waitress states her favorite dish on the menu. How likely are you to order that same dish? Therefore, make your staff try your products so they know exactly what they are talking about and can give suggestions to drive sales.
5) Conclude with a ‘call to action’ – once the purchase is made, your employee should always conclude the customer’s experience with a call to action to increase the chances of future purchases. Some ideas: “Thank you, have a nice day, and don’t forget to visit our website, we also make deliveries if you can’t come down to our store next time” or “Thank you, have a nice day and please email us your feedback so we can improve our business”. You might not think that the customers will remember your last words, but trust me they do.
Don’t be cheap when choosing your staff. Keep them motivated. Train them well and instill in them your same passion. Customers can forget about a messy store or a poor layout, but they will never forget the service they received.
What else do YOU require from your staff in your artisan chocolate store?
I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.