Service and Information

Thirst for information and top level service remains as strong as ever


In the time we’ve been involved with garden retail there are two important business success areas that haven’t changed.
The first is the high consumer expectation for top level service. The second is the consumer thirst for information.

There is still a constant flow of “excuse me”; “where are”; “have you got any”; “can you show me”. But what strikes us is how consumers have changed of the last 10 years.
They have become more self-assured and technology savvy and some are much more demanding, more impatient, less polite and less willing to compromise.

That aside, when they get the service they expect and deserve, they are invariably appreciative. They will even go so far as saying so to your face or post comments on social media and they often go away with full trolleys. If they are frustrated, it’s quite a different story. We know they will happily vent their frustration and tell their story on social media

On reflection it isn’t surprising people are seeking more information either.
Exposure to media has forced us all to become much more environmentally conscious. This has brought a huge number of people to our garden centres who have never been gardeners.
Due to a change of circumstance or shift in thinking they have either joined the ranks of beginner gardeners or have come to appreciate how nice it can be to shop for items at their local garden centre that have nothing to do with gardening and to socialise in the café.

These people cross all age-groups, but they all have one thing in common. When they need advice or information they want it immediately, as thoughts occur to them or an issue crops up.

If we get it right, this group of people present our management teams with many new opportunities to increase sales and build vibrancy in our centres that will draw more people

How do we get it right? 

  • Training and up-skilling staff. Have a policy of continuous improvement in customer service, basic selling techniques and product knowledge so they can answer with confidence the most frequently asked questions.
  • Staff information can be disseminated in many ways. At staff meetings; start of the day sessions; team emails; in employee handbooks of policies and procedures or as hand-outs or files to pop into personal folders containing handy reference material.

Information can be disseminated in many ways to customers too: 

  • Monthly “what to do in the garden” accessible online or as hand-outs.
  • “How to” brochures for a range of the most common topics, especially edible crops, seed sowing, feeding, pruning, safe pest and disease management.
  • A strong integrated in-house signage system including directional or category signs to tell customers where to find things; end use signs to help customers choose the right plant for the place they have in mind; product benefit signs and product information signs; customer service signs and store policy signs where they apply.
  • Websites can catalogue all manner of information for gardening including product information; updates about latest generation chemicals for garden use; outdoor living trends; garden planners; a calendar of events.
  • Social media is wonderful to instantly promote new product in store
  • In-store blackboards for highlighting ‘specials’ and information
  • Email newsletters for your garden club or loyalty programme members to tell them about product news, new products, garden tips; instore events, demonstrations, seminars, courses and excursions
  • Simple seasonal outdoor living flyers or ‘magazines’ are ideal as bag stuffers
Keep all information for customers brief, relevant, easily absorbed and accentuate benefits or a positive message. Immediate information on their phones or in store that’s easy to find and see is will be appreciated and drive W.O.M  and Likes recommendations.
- Joy Lamb