By: OyetolaIsola,Co-Founder of Samis Online
Excellent customer service is always at the heart of any service-led business, if the customer has a good experience, they will not only buy a product but it’s likely they will return.
Our motto at Samis has always been “Our customers are our employers because we serve at their pleasure and our doors open and close because of them.”
During the pandemic a lot of businesses suffered, we were in and out of lockdowns and dealing with tight restrictions. As a food retailer we were permitted to stay open and this proved to help so many people in our communities, as more often than not, we became their only point of social interaction during the day. Our customers became our friends and Samis became a social hub of support. Families would come to the store with their children, there was no rushing around or sense of urgency. It made us realise how Samis had become more than a retail outlet, it wasan open, friendly place for so many of our customers within the community. A place that provides friendly faces and conversation, where people can meet up, talk while they shop, and spend a lot of their time.
When running an Afro-Caribbean food business, there are other elements to consider when it comes to the customer. Typically, our customers are from countries in Africa or from the Caribbean, and culturally very proud of their heritage and quite often adverse to culture changes, particularly when it comes to the foods they like to buy and eat. Understanding this enables us to meet their needs and deliver a seamless service to ensure they leave the premises happy. It also means, we have to focus a lot of our efforts on ensuring we are delivering the products they want. As the majority of our produce is imported from West Africa, it allows our customers to enjoy foods they may have eaten back home, that were not available to buy in the UK before. This cultural connection with our customer’s roots is so important, it creates a ‘home-from-home’ atmosphere in our stores, and it builds a level of trust with our customers. Working hard on the operational and distribution side of the business contributes massively to building that customer service, as essentially if things aren’t running smoothly, the person most affected will be the customer.
To deliver that first-class customer service, we believe there are six things that should be priority:
- Be that friendly face that greets the customer when they enter the store and be well-presented
It’s so important to make each customer feel important, so take the time to meet and greet them, smile, make eye contact and let them know you’re there if they need you
- Be available to offer help as and when the customer needs it
The worst thing for any customer is when they need help, but nobody is around, and they must trawl through the aisles to find a member of staff. Always be available to your customer.
- Know your products and stock inside out
This is such an important one, product knowledge is key. You will certainly lose customers if they ask questions about a specific product and you have zero knowledge. It can appear as though you do not care about your own business, so why should they shop with you?
- Keep it positive – no negative vibes
We all have bad days, but it is imperative not to bring that negativity into the store and around the customer. As mentioned, our business became a social hub for our customers, so they expect a positive environment when they visit.
- If something looks wrong, fix it
Something we pride ourselves on at Samis is attention to detail. Scanning shelves and the shopfloor regularly throughout the day enables us to spot anything that looks out of place or wrong. It’s so important the store is pleasing on the eye, as this will ultimately result in people buying from us or not.
- Make each customer feel special
This one certainly rings true for our older African and Caribbean customers, many of them living alone and without much social interaction. They like to talk and share, it is our job to make sure we remember that information, so the next time they visit our store, we can strike up conversation about what they have shared before. This alone makes them feel special and part of something beyond a retail store.
Ultimately, the most important aspect of dealing with each customer is probably good manners.
Treat everyone with the same courtesy and respect, no matter what they look like or how they behave. Even if a customer is being rude to you, being rude back will only add fuel to the fire.