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Heather Chisholm

Heather Chisholm

Train Your Staff to Keep Customers Coming Back

In the age of online retail, it is more important than ever to have a reliable customer base. When you have the same consumers repeatedly return to your store for expert advice and products that they can only receive from you and your staff, this creates a bond of respect, trust, and cash flow for your business. The goal is to be continually assisting and educating the customer on their journey with their pet. In terms of pet health, there is always something to be focusing on that you (the local pet expert) have solutions for.

Why do employees neglect to make recommendations? There tends to be three main reasons: Lack of time, inadequate education of the products, and a communication disconnect between them and the customer. The most basic way to overcome these hazards would be training. The more comfortable the staff feels on a topic, the more likely they are going to be able to consult your customers confidently and correctly.

Training Your Staff to Love What They Sell

Developing a program to train your employees will ensure that they all have a similar skills and knowledge to pass down to your customers.  Customers don't want to feel like they are being "sold to", they are searching for trusted guidance by someone who believes in a product and knows what they are doing. Your floor staff feels the same. If they are told they need to sell something just to make an add on, they may not be overly enthusiastic. If they believe in the product, have used it, seen its good end result on another pet, then they bring a new energy into the sales conversation with your customer. That confidence in the product (and themselves) will be seen in your stores sales.

Did you know that employees who are engaged in their work actually receive 2.5x more revenue than employees who are not? Properly training your staff to sell, and giving them goals to strive for not only helps your business, but gives them a purpose and an avenue to be successful.

Once you have decided on a store focus, have a meeting with employees rolling out the new program. Start by picking monthly goals to focus on. Then you just need to create a way to track your goals and every month and verify the results. It could be as easy as sales dollars, brand growth, category growth, or an increase in repeat customer purchases. As the months go on create new goals and track those results.

  • Create a handbook for employees with basic scripts/talking-points for customer interactions for the main topic(s) you want to focus on. For example, you can provide them with a set of foods or treatments they can recommend for each circumstance.
  • Establish incentives for your staff. Whatever the monthly focus may be, foster some healthy competition from it. If they see the reward, they are more likely to focus on that goal. Talk to your Pet Food Experts Rep to help you come up with ideas! That’s what we are here for!

There are so many topics to choose from in this area, and you may not be sure where to begin. Below are a few example topics you can implement in your store including weight management, flea and tick treatment, and dental health. With these ideas you can help build customer loyalty and boost your sales.

Confidence in How You Feed Your Pet

Studies show that over 50 percent of cats and dogs in the US are overweight. Just like humans, obesity has various adverse effects on a pet’s life. Many pet parents do not realize their pets are overweight, or understand the dangers associated with it. Educating your customers how to help their pet lose weight or how to maintain an ideal weight is a very important basic first step.

Developing proper feeding habits from when your pet is a puppy and into adulthood can keep pets from becoming overweight. Through recommendations made by your employees, you can help set pet parents up to better manage their pets' weight and ensure that they keep coming to your store for the products necessary. Here are a few ideas to help focus your staff on weight management.

  • Set up a training session with employees so they are ready to help customers find the perfect weight solution for their pet. Explain the unit of measurement of a “Cup”.  Hang body condition charts in your store to educate pet parents while they shop. Visuals will help employees and customers better diagnose a problem.

Dog Obesity Guide This is a great example of a body condition chart you can hang in your store for your staff and customers to easily reference as they shop.

  • Get a pet scale so you can offer weekly or monthly weigh-ins to keep track of each pet’s weight. Then create a reminder email to come in for weigh-ins. Make it a "Biggest Loser" contest! Post pictures of your contestants on your wall. Let your Pet Food Experts Rep know and they can help you find a healthy and weight conscience prize for the winner.
  • Be sure to keep in contact with customers you help transition to a new diet. After someone starts a new food, reach out in three to four days and see how they are doing with the transition, ask them to share their success.
  • Don't forget to mention treats! Customers don't always consider treats as affecting their pets weight/allergies. When in fact, most of the same nutrition rules apply.

Fighting the Seasonal Myth

Many people believe that fleas and ticks are only a seasonal concern for their pets but this is a very common misconception. Even if your pet is an indoor pet or if you live somewhere with cold winter months your pet is still susceptible to flea infestations year-round.

As a retailer it can be difficult to sell 12 months of flea and tick preventative to customers due to this myth. Setting a goal to ensure that every customer coming in for flea and tick preventative leaves with 12 months’ worth is great way to ensure that you won’t lose sales to someone else and that pets in your community will be protected year round. There are a few things you can do to help keep the focus on flea and tick prevention.

  • Create a price reference sheet for Bayer with 6 vs 12 months. There should be a cost savings in buying 12 months instead of 6. You can also break down how much a years’ worth will cost them per day and compare it to other expenses they may be already accruing.
Break Down the Cost of Flea & Tick

Help keep your customers informed about the cost of year round pest treatment for their pet with this free infographic. Hang up in your store today!

Download Now
  • Use online resources like the interactive map provided by the Companion Animal Parasite Council. There you can print out the county/state you live in and show how many dogs/cats have been tested and diagnosed with various parasites from both tick and flea infestations.

Lyme Map
The interactive map allows you to select the state and even county you live in to see the number of cases of various flea and tick diseases for that year. You can even print the map, as seen above to display in your store.

  • Remind owners that they should be treating ALL the pets in the same household, not just the ones that go outdoors. Fleas can be carried into a home on clothing and shoes and spread to pets in the home.

Preach Good Dental Health Habits

Just like humans our pets need their teeth brushed and cleaned often. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will develop some form of oral disease by age three. Dental health is a great topic to focus on in your store to make sure that pet parents are taking consistent care of their pet's teeth.

  • The dental section in your store should have a color photo showing grades 1-4 dental disease and other educational resources. It's not pretty, but sometimes visuals are the only way to get customers to understand the severity of the problem.
  • Partner and host a vet in store to do dental grading events every few months. This can help pet parents keep track of whether or not their dental routine is effective. If you can find a good collaborating vet that can be a great mutual benefiting referral program for you both.
A dental grading like the one done here at Bentley's Pet Stuff in Overland Park, KS is a great way to help determine what products to recommend for each individual pet's dental needs.
  • Make a big deal about National Pet Dental Health month which takes place every February. Tailored promotions, displays, and events are the perfect way to remind all pet parents about the importance of dental health.

Moving Forward

These are just a few basic topics you can focus on in your store, but there are so many more you could choose from. Think about what questions customers repeatedly request or the most common issue you see and find a way to highlight the solution monthly in your store. Doing research with vendors and training your staff to be ready to educate pet parents are the best ways you can guarantee a solid relationship with your customers and keep them coming back while ensuring future sales.

What topic would you focus on in your store? Comment below!

About Heather Chisholm

Heather has been passionate about pets her entire life. She began her career in the pet industry working for a local pet store when she was 17 and then became a Vet Tech after college. In 2005, She moved into sales within the veterinary industry before joining Pet Food Experts. She has been with PFX for 5 years working as a territory manager in their Mid-Atlantic region. In her free time she loves to go to concerts and spend time with her friends, husband and two children. In addition, she leads her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop, and is a pet mom to her families' cat Mocha, their two doodles Doc and Wyatt, their tree frog Lucio, and Puff the Bearded Dragon.