Well trained staff


Be a part of "TeaRetailer" history in the making.

Well trained staff

Postby Charles » Jan 6th, '10, 14:03

I've posted a piece on my theory of tea consultant training (http://www.tearetailer.com/article_27.html), and another on how employees in a tea shop can bring tea to life (http://www.tearetailer.com/article_59.html). I'm interested in hearing more about your experiences - good and bad - being served in tea shops or even working as an employee in tea shops.
User avatar
Charles
 
Posts: 188
Joined: Oct 12th, '
Location: Chicago, IL

Re: Well trained staff

Postby teabunnie » Jan 6th, '10, 18:19

Good article, Charles. I wish more of my former employers followed the same philosophy.

Keeping with what you've said in the article, it's important to remember that consultants, like tea and customers, will also come in varieties. Some will really latch onto the history, some will be all about the eccentricities of tea, and some will consult based on their senses. (Me? I take the same approach to tea as I do in cooking: I follow my nose, and then taste the result to find the holes in the flavor.) In training your staff, you should recognize each employee's strengths, allow those strengths to evolve into specialties, but encourage further development of their weak points. In every retail job I've had, we all knew who was the best person to go to for different aspect of the job, be it video games, jazz music, or paper products. Whether you mean for it to happen or not, you will notice the same thing in your own store. I'm just saying you should take advantage of the occurrence.
User avatar
teabunnie
 
Posts: 11
Joined: Jan 3rd, '1
Location: Wichita Falls, TX

Re: Well trained staff

Postby Charles » Jan 6th, '10, 18:26

100% true, and well said. One of the strategies we employed in the tea shop I personally managed was that we would often hand-off customers to the resident expert in whatever the topic was. So, for example, if someone was interested in Rooibos, we would call over a young woman who's parents were missionaries in Africa and who played in the Rooibos fields as a child. She didn't necessarily know more or care more about Rooibos, but the act of calling in an expert signals that we value the customer and are trying to give them the best service possible.

While in that example the move was more about creating experience, we often would call over our resident "scientist" to discuss the chemical composition of the health benefits of tea or our "herbalist" to have a conversation on the traditional uses of various herbs. It's a lot of fun for the staff to be able to work on and in their own areas of expertise, and it makes us look like a company comprised of professionals rather than a ragtag crew of college kids hawking tea! :) It was AMAZING the level of intelligence and skill that was attracted to our shop once the culture of valuing our employees and customers was established and word got out.
User avatar
Charles
 
Posts: 188
Joined: Oct 12th, '
Location: Chicago, IL

Re: Well trained staff

Postby cls46 » Jan 6th, '10, 23:48

I loved the article. I wish that employees at tea shops would always be like that. I think the most important thing is to find employees who are excited about tea and who are friendly. Just a few days ago I was at a teavana in my local mall. I was looking for help finding a replacment tea strainer that would fit my teapot which I got at teavana and the woman was completely rude to me the entire time. My boyfriend was with me and was looking around the store while I was with the sales associate looking for a strainer and as I was checking out he starting talking to the same woman I was with asking her questions about some tea and she was rude and dismissive to him as well. The point of the story is that I have spent lots of money at teavana over the years and influenced MANY people to buy tea and tea products there but I was really upset by this woman and now I feel like I will be less likely in the future to go to teavana. Personally I think good products will sell themselves just fine as long as your staff is just nice to people. That simple.
User avatar
cls46
 
Posts: 62
Joined: Nov 12th, '

Re: Well trained staff

Postby LauraW » Jan 7th, '10, 10:26

Sign me up! Downside is I don't live anywhere near IL...

That being said, I didn't read anything in your article with which I disagree.
cls46 wrote: think the most important thing is to find employees who are excited about tea and who are friendly.

This is absolutely true, these people will undoubtedly want to learn more and share their experiences with the customer, which (in my service industry experience) near always leads to a better customer understanding of the product and enjoyment of the experience. Most notably for me, has been teaching people about sushi - which can be difficult for some people ("You mean this is raw?!" "Ew, I won't eat that!" just to name two examples).

As I mentioned in another post, a friend of mine once took me to a quaint little tea shop - the first experience I had with looseleaf tea - where I discovered that there's more than one variety of green tea (via their extensive list of teas - broken down by region, which I really like), among other lessons. I met the owner who was knowledgable and got the sense that he wasn't necessarily in it for the money, but to give everyone (rookies to experts) a unique and inspiring tea experience by using some traditional methods and teaching more of the history as well. The 2nd time I went in, I ordered a Chinese tea that came out with a pot of water, a small teapot, a tall, thin cup, and a small, shallower cup, as well as a small tray of the tea. I was confused at first, but with no hesitation or condescension, he proceeded to explain to me what it was, how to use it, and why he served this particular tea this way. It was a great experience that really made me want to go back - and ask many more questions!
User avatar
LauraW
 
Posts: 606
Joined: Jan 6th, '1
Location: SC

Re: Well trained staff

Postby RachelC » Jan 7th, '10, 21:07

Let me know where you will be building and perhaps I will ask you for a job. That's if you'll have me. :D
User avatar
RachelC
 
Posts: 253
Joined: Jul 27th, '
Location: Chicago

Re: Well trained staff

Postby Teaexaminer » Jan 7th, '10, 23:08

What always concerns me most about the staff almost everywhere I do these days is that they seem to be so busy socializing with one another that they even talk to each other when they are helping customers.
The also discuss both personal business, other people's personal business, and complaints about their job in front of customers. This can be very unpleasant.

Socializing amongst the staff belongs in the break room. Nowhere else. Or before and after work somewhere away from the job. Complaints about the job should be addressed to their supervisors and never spoken in the presence of customers.

These are things that must be made clear to staff even before you teach them the specifics of being a good tea seller. Behavior in the workplace is a huge factor in how your establishment is perceived. If your staff is in appropriate or unruly, you will lose customers before they even have a chance to buy the tea.

I know that you probably realize this, but it's unbelievable how many businesses don't seem to know how badly this affects their sales and how many employees think they're being paid to goof off and play around instead of being focused on the job at hand. Sometimes the employees that seem great in interviews because of their friendly, outgoing manner can be the worst employees when it comes to just plain goofing off.
Margaret Studer
Tea Examiner
Examiner.com
Teaexaminer
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Jan 7th, '1
Location: Long Beach, CA

Re: Well trained staff

Postby Janine » Jan 8th, '10, 01:54

I think I'd generally agree with Tea Examiner to a point. A lot of people get very friendly in the tea business - especially with regular customers. So, I think that's a good thing about tea - the personal level.

That said, it's important to distinguish between friendly familiarity and politeness. Politeness has to do with putting yourself in someone else's shoes and being polite to a customer, no matter how familiar. That means professional behavior, and I think this -- in the same words Tea Examiner uses - is indispensable; but unfortunately, as she also points out, it's amazing how many people enter into business without being aware of this.

"Do unto others" works in business; it's also expected in retail service. Sometimes it's easy to train a relatively inexperienced staff in a few simple phrases that are surprisingly handy and also surprisingly often need to be taught: "I'm sorry." "I'll be right with you." "What can I do for you?" Everybody's not born articulate; I'm a believer in specific training.
User avatar
Janine
 
Posts: 535
Joined: Nov 3rd, '0

Re: Well trained staff

Postby Charles » Jan 11th, '10, 10:20

Teaexaminer wrote:What always concerns me most about the staff almost everywhere I do these days is that they seem to be so busy socializing with one another that they even talk to each other when they are helping customers... Complaints about the job should be addressed to their supervisors and never spoken in the presence of customers.

Agreed Margaret!

I think a lot of this depends on the tone set by the manager. For as critical as the retail environment is in the success or failure of a business, I am continually amazed by the caliber of people that sometimes end up in retail management roles. That's not to disparage retail managers by any means. But there is no question that I've observed young, untrained, irresponsible managers act inappropriately in front of customers and complain about the company or regional management in front of staff and customers. Culture comes from the top and is the MOST important element of creating a great shopping experience.

Employees who care about the success of the business may not start out knowing exactly how to act, but they will be paying attention and looking for opportunities for improvement. All the training in the world is lost on an employee that doesn't care. And they won't care unless you care about them!
User avatar
Charles
 
Posts: 188
Joined: Oct 12th, '
Location: Chicago, IL


Instant Messenger

Permissions
You cannot post new topics
You cannot reply to topics
You cannot edit your posts
You cannot delete your posts
You cannot post attachments
Navigation