Imagine 100 female employees under the age of 25 and put them into a clothing consignment retail environment for the same age bracket, and you'll get a sense of Grady Farmer's training and marketing challenges.
Grady Farmer is a second-generation owner of several Plato's Closet franchise outlets in North Carolina's Piedmont region.
Plato's Closet pays cash on-the-spot for fashionable clothes from teens and twenty-somethings and resells the items for up to 70 percent off retail prices. "It's a popular recycle concept, and good for those who can't afford the name brands," says Grady Farmer.
Training his buying staff is critical.
Buyers for Plato's Closet need the skill to quickly determine if the clothing item is a good fit for the store and ability to clearly explain what the store will and will not purchase, without offending anyone. The clothing sellers are also often their best customers.
"Secret shops have been invaluable to training our buyers," notes Farmer. "We conduct at least two shops per month, and it's well worth the cost. It keeps my employees on their toes, and the feedback makes for excellent training resources."
Times have changed, but basic customer services standards have not. Grady Farmer still requires a warm greeting for each customer and assistance to all with a smile.
"Like most retail, our customers are the number one priority. We need everyone treated with the best service. As the owner, I can only be in one store at a time," says Farmer.
Plato's Closet uses Mystery Shops in a three-step fashion
- Regular testing to ensure core company values are demonstrated in the stores
- All shop feedback is funneled into training tools that exhibit what they teach about customer service
- Those doing well are praised and rewarded with bonuses and gift cards.Those not doing so well are helped with additional training and mentoring
Communication, communication, communication
Farmer finds that he really can't communicate too much with his employees about what's expected and how to manage those real-life experiences with customers.
"We know the training works because we test it out with secret shop customers," says Farmer.
Social media has made the training and secret shops more important because a good experience might only reach a few, while a bad experience can quickly go viral. "We've got to be exceptional all the time," he notes.
Secret shop data can help target marketing spends
The outlets for advertising keep multiplying. How much to spend and where to spend is complex.
Farmer utilized surveys to identify how his customer base was accessing music and their preferred method for communication, e.g. email or text.
Mystery Shopper Services offers a variety of survey options that quickly gather data to help businesses focus limited advertising and marketing dollars.
Don't let the changes associated with each generation and the many marketing platforms overwhelm your business or budget. The principles stay the same. Mystery Shopper Services can help you pick the right tools to reach your unique audience.