This month, I made a return trip to Hy-Vee to visit the chain’s updated bakery concept. It won Modern Baking’s In-store Bakery of Year in May, so no, you aren’t imagining things, you did read about the company before. But enough has changed in the bakery to warrant a trip back.
One of the major changes the company made was an emphasis on customer service. Many of the products have returned to service cases, requiring a lot of interaction between customers and sales staff, which in turn requires a lot of sales training.
Dave Kelderman, bakery manager of the Urbandale, Iowa, location, made the point that many of his sales staffers are young adults who have been told all of their lives not to talk to strangers, and now he’s asking them to interact with strangers constantly. It’s an ongoing process, Kelderman said. “Teaching people how to sell, that’s hard. It’s not just about standing there and looking pretty,” he added.
Very true, but your sales staff is your company, according to Renee Rouwhorst, co-owner of Ryke’s Bakery in Muskegon, Mich. Rouwhorst gave a presentation at the recent All Things Baking tradeshow called “Making Your Customer Service Training Stick!” Ryke’s Bakery also won Modern Baking’s 2012 Leadership Award in Training, so she knows what she’s talking about.
Rouwhorst stressed that “tellin’ ain’t trainin’” and you have to involve employees in the process. If you simply tell them what you want them to do, they will forget. If you show them what to do, they will remember but if you involve them, they will understand, she said in the session.
She added that you also should relate whatever you want them to do back to how it affects them. Emphasize how your bottom line impacts their bottom line by the amount of money available for raises and bonuses. What it boils down to is, “they care about themselves,” she said.
One of the most important things to remember during the ongoing training that is required for customer service is that employees need feedback all the time, Rouwhorst said. They want to know when they do things correctly and when they don’t. But make sure you don’t fall into the trap of only commenting when they do something wrong; notice and praise the things they are doing right.
After I concluded my interviews at Hy-Vee, I decided to purchase a few items from the service case. I hadn’t been introduced to the sales staff when I arrived, but as I had spent the last couple hours in front of the bakery talking to “the bosses,” the sales staff might have noticed me. However, I don’t think that affected the service. The woman who waited on me (I wish I could remember her name) was extremely helpful with the pecan blossom I had selected.
“Do you know how to heat them?” she asked me. At my blank stare, she continued, “You put them in the microwave for just a few seconds, not very long at all, and it melts the filling a little so they become like the best pecan pie you’ve ever tasted.”
And she was right, but she took the initiative to tell me that. Remember, your sales staff is the first and last impression of your bakery. Train them well.