What your maintenance area says about your service
By Linda Cahan
It would be so nice if your customers came into your store regularly to check out the new spas and accessories. In real life, they may visit somewhat regularly to pick up chemicals, and probably not as often to your service area.
When they do visit your service area, however, it’s usually important to them, which makes it important to you. When someone lays out the money for a spa, they hope it’s life enhancing. The reasonable expectation is if it stops working well for any reason, your store will stand behind the spa and help them out.
They are coming to your store with a problem they can’t solve — and the expectation is you will be there for them.
First, do you have a dedicated service area? If not, why? Perhaps you always send someone to your customers’ homes. If customers walk in with water they want tested or a failing spa part, however, are your sales associates qualified to take care of these issues — or do they talk to your service specialist?
It goes without saying that it’s vital to have someone in the store who can help out with parts and service. Having a dedicated area makes the service experience feel more professional. If you only have one person working at a time, have them walk with the customer to the service area so the customer feels they are in good hands. Perception is (almost) everything. Of course, handling the problem professionally is even more important.
A dedicated service area doesn’t have to take up a lot of space. It helps if it’s located in a back area of the store with easy access to the stockroom and bathroom. A small desk that matches your cash-wrap area will suffice. Running water often comes in handy, too.
Whatever desk you install, have stools or chairs available so waiting customers can be comfortable. Having an office-height desk allows older customers to sit on regular-height chairs, which are often far more comfortable than stools. If you want a bar-height desk and stools, make sure the stools have backs and foot rests for comfort and stability. You never know who will be coming in and who absolutely needs to be able to sit down.
Many years ago, my very active and fit mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was still able to walk but got tired very quickly. When we went shopping, she would often need to sit down. Looking at her, no one would guess she was exhausted, but appearances are deceiving. Giving customers a place to relax is a gift.
Make sure the chairs are a regular height (18 inches from the floor) and are easy to get in and out of. Arms on the chairs are a must. Buy matching chairs that work with your décor. Forget about a couch: Strangers will rarely, if ever, sit next to one another on a couch unless it’s large enough for an empty space between them. Even then, they’ll feel uncomfortably close. Couches are a waste of your space and money.
Use the same font for your service-area signs that you’ve used throughout the store. Consistency of signage is important for your store to look professional. Make sure the service-area sign is visible from the front door. That means a minimum of eight-inch letters. Run the name for your service area by your customers, friends, family and staff before ordering the sign. You need to make sure whatever you call the area is easily understood. Creativity can sometimes be overrated.
The service-area desk is also a great place for a video with examples of your best work. If a customer is waiting, a video can be entertaining, compelling and educational. If you prefer not to have a monitor on the wall, consider a tablet attached to the desk.
There are two trains of thought about offering beverages to customers. A good friend and colleague of mine, Anne Marie Luthro of AMLinsights.com, is an expert in customer behavior and how people shop. Her take on offering liquids is very simple: When someone picks up a cup of liquid, they lose a shopping hand. But in your stores, no one is carrying home a spa, so a beverage is a great way to make them feel welcome and cared for as you solve their problem. If they walk around the store with the cup, relax and remember that the majority of your merchandise is spill-resistant. If they spill on your floor or carpet, take care of it immediately so a coffee or cider stain doesn’t set in. If you don’t have time, pour water on it and throw a towel over the stain to absorb the liquids.
Neatness counts! A messy service desk can unconsciously undermine your professionalism in your customers’ minds. It looks disorganized even when you and your staff know where everything is. If a customer is sitting or standing, they are also looking at the area behind your desk. If they are looking into a service area or stockroom, make sure what they see is neat and clean. Consider a panel to block visibility into a working area if it’s
impossible to keep it neat. The panel could be printed with all the services you provide or, have an attractive photo (or several photos) printed on the front. Of course, you can keep the stock/service room door shut, but once you open it to go through, your customer will see whatever you’re hiding. It shouldn’t be a shocking experience. The back rooms should be as nice as the showroom floor — just not as fancy.
Last but not least, add attractive desk lights to your service area, either hanging down over the desk or on the surface. Either way, add two fixtures separate from your general overhead fluorescents or floodlights. The bulbs can be warm compact fluorescents or LEDs if you don’t want to use incandescent bulbs. You’ll want to leave these lights on all day, and old-fashioned incandescents will burn out far more quickly over time.
A service area is where you create ongoing loyalty with your customers. It’s where they discover how committed you are to them and their needs. By making this a dedicated area and keeping it neat, clean, attractive and comfortable, you are adding immeasurably to your customers’ perception of your store being their store.