Playing the name game

16 May, 2008

Q I would like to get to know my customers better and create a friendlier environment in the store where staff and customers can address each other by name. I'm not sure about how to get people to divulge their names - or how to remember them. Advice appreciated.

A Getting on first-name terms with customers can be a great thing, but bear in mind some people can be made to feel a little uncomfortable if you go beyond the usual buyer-seller conventions. Wine retailers, in particular, should be careful about invading the personal space of their customers, many of whom may harbour a secret fear that they do not know as much as they'd like about what they're buying from you.

But equally, there are customers who love the personal touch

and indeed for many of them that's why they shop with you and not a supermarket. Your task is to identify which customers belong to which group.

It sounds corny, but name badges for you and your staff - particularly if they don't look too pompous - can be an ice-breaker. Hand written ones can help create the air of informality that you're after. When approaching a customer, a friendly "I'm Andy - do you need any help today?" is probably better than: "Can you find what you're looking for?"

Some customers may well find this a little, shall we say, American - so don't feel you have to greet everyone in such a personal manner.

When customers pay by card, simply reading their name and responding with a "thanks, Mr Hargreaves" is courteous - and by saying the name out loud, you have more chance of remembering it. Look for simple associations to help the name lodge in your brain - the footballer Owen Hargreaves might be one. If the customer is particularly jovial, "ha ha" might stick in your mind. If they seem a bit grumpy, think "grieves". The possibilities are endless, and frequently bizarre.

Perhaps ask the customer to sign up to a mailing list - another good way to get them to volunteer their name. And when you answer the phone, start off by telling the caller who they're talking to, and include your first name in all marketing material.

Q I've been playing with my new EPoS system and was delighted to learn that the average transaction value in my shop is £11.25. But is this higher or lower than the average? I can't track down any data that will put my performance into context.

A It all depends, of course, on what sort of shop you're running. If you're a specialist Champagne retailer you would be pretty disappointed with an average sale of £11.25, but it would be respectable enough if your big thing was ­Piesporter. We'll assume for now that neither of these scenarios is correct, and that you operate an everyday, mainstream, traditional off-licence.

In which case you're doing OK. According to the most recent SOLTrack survey (which monitors Bargain Booze, Thresher and Wine Cellar), the average spend in a British offie is £9.21. That's for an average of just over two items, a figure which includes tobacco.

OLN's survey of independent wine merchants earlier this year found that the average price spent per bottle in that rarefied end of the market is £8.25.

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