One of the most unique things about Community Farm Store in Duncan, B.C. is it holds its management meetings in the soothing waters of the nearby Cowichan River.
Yes, you can teach empathy, rapport and authenticity to your staff. Even those who join your staff with a high degree of these “soft skills” can still improve them through training.
Brittany Baird is my colleague at CDS Consulting Co-op whose area of expertise lies in linking financial success to the everyday decisions we make on the sales floor of a natural foods business.
CC: How do you go beyond standard customer service training?
BB: Every business wants to ensure good customer service. All your competitors are teaching customer service. But you likely have a mission that goes beyond selling products.
CC: Yes, a quick visit to mission statements on websites of stores featured on recent covers of CNHR reveals values such as wellness of community and planet, ecological consciousness, supporting local and organic family farms, and empowering people to lead healthy lives.
BB: Then your staff may be inviting customers to come to events, try new products or donate to a cause. Teaching them soft skills can promote all your goals. Also, the longest conversations take place in the supplements aisle. Customers there need guidance far more than in other departments. These skills are even more essential when supplements are your primary product.
CC: So how do you teach empathy, authenticity and rapport?
BB: The three skills needed are mirroring, reflecting and active listening. With mirroring, you consciously match someone’s tone and body language to create rapport. Say someone is new to town and comes into the store with enthusiasm, wanting to be engaged. If staff doesn’t mirror this customer, it’s poor customer service.
If a person is upset, you can draw them back down by reflecting rather than mirroring. For a disgruntled customer with confrontational body language and hand gestures, you can cool that energy down with, “Okay, let’s talk,” while keeping body language and gestures restrained.
Active listening involves making a conscious effort to hear not only the words but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated. When a customer says, “I drove from far away to get here. This is the second time you’ve been out of this product. I want to support you guys but you make it so hard,” good customer service would be, “Okay, we’ll fix it,” however, great customer service – using active listening – would hear the desire to support the store and the frustration, and find out what the customer needs to “make it right.”
CC: What are the most effective ways to train for these three skills?
BB: Role-plays with different scenarios are the best way, and they’re fun. Scenarios can be a bit silly to set a tone that’s not overly serious. Give the trainees the right amount of structure to these scenarios, with some room to play with. When I lead training workshops with my CDS CC colleague Rebecca Torpie, every single person in the room speaks in the role-plays and practices the skills, though not everyone performs for the whole group. A few may be uncomfortable at first but they get a lot out of the experience. We switch partners frequently so people can see how different partners process the assignments. We do “failed versions,” too – wrong way versus right way.
I understand it’s hard for small stores to do structured training, but you can still teach active listening, mirroring and reflecting. Owners usually model the best customer service. When they’re not there, they need a cornerstone person on staff who will model for the rest of the team members.
Soft skills training for staff can help propel customer service from good to great, differentiate your store from your competition and create loyal shoppers for life.
The giant Quebec-based natural health retailer opened its newest – and largest – location on June 6 in Laval, QC. One of the most amazing features of this 44,000 sq. ft. store is an indoor farm. The CultiGo automated vertical farming platform is a technology developed in Quebec by Inno-3B and it will allow Avril Laval to grow organic microgreens on-site year-round. Revolutionary and ecological, this farming technique reduces greenhouse gas emissions, eliminates pesticides and encourages local farming for incomparable freshness. Several varieties and blends of microgreens will be grown at the Laval store, and then be distributed to Avril’s other stores. Avril is the first retailer to use the CultiGo platform.
The Laval location – which the company says via press release is the largest health food store in Quebec – represents a $10M investment for Avril, which was founded in 1995 by Sylvie Senay and Rolland Tanguay. The opening of this new store has created 200 new jobs, bringing the total number of employees to nearly 1,000, working at one of the stores, at the logistics and distribution center or at the head office in Granby.
Adapting to its customer’s needs and lifestyle, Avril Laval offers even more choice, based on three main principles: flavour, freshness and simplicity. Customers can now purchase fresh fish, homemade pizza, organic roasted chicken, bread and pastries, gelatos and grab-and-go meals.
The gelatos are prepared in the traditional Italian style. The pizzas are made from the finest organic ingredients, including San Marzano tomatoes, and are baked on stone in a state-of-the-art oven. The fish comes from sustainable fishing practices and most are Ocean Wise certified.
The new store has a 130-seat food court and a 48-seat terrace. Two menus are offered: one bistro-style and a vegan alternative.
Avril Laval has a large natural cosmetics department, designed to display iconic natural and organic cosmetic brands from here and abroad. Customers can also benefit from personalized recommendations from beauty advisors and receive skin care treatments in private treatment rooms.
“The opening of our eighth store in Laval is another step towards achieving our ultimate mission of making natural and organic products accessible to all,” says Sylvie.
When the Pakosz family was planning a new building to move their health food store to, they all had the same word at the top of their wish list: wow.
After years of continually outgrowing the space at a strip mall, the owners of Healthyway Natural Foods in Campbell River. B.C. – Donna and Will, and Will’s parents Kay and Bill – made up their minds to create something big enough for now and for the future, and they wanted it to be special. “We aimed to create a ‘wow’ factor when customers walked through the door,” says Will. “We wanted our merchandising and store layout to have an intelligent plan.”
It was serious business! My brothers and I were neck deep in it. We were digging to China when we were interrupted by the sound of our mother calling us for dinner.
Digging holes is something that boys do. As kids, we would dig holes for forts, holes for adventures, and holes in search of gold. At the age of three, my son dug a hole to trap bears.
In business however, when we dig holes – unless we are in the construction business – they are usually not good. I have dug myself some holes as a businessman over the years. The biggest hole that I dug was hundreds of thousands of dollars deep. These types of holes don’t happen overnight: they take lots of planning and many hours of making mistakes, and sometimes years to get out of.
The most common holes in business are profit holes. Profit holes are those costs that build up over time and eat away at the owner’s profits. According to the National Federation of Independent Business in the USA, 60 per cent of small businesses are either not profitable or are only marginally profitable. To be clear, the profit in a business is what is left over after paying all of your expenses. In a small business, there are many expenses: the cost of goods, labour, insurance, supplies, utilities, computer equipment, etc. The list is almost endless it seems. Unless we are careful operators of our business, we may find ourselves among the 60 per cent of businesses where the owners receive very little to speak of in terms of money at the end of the day.
One of my clients, we will call him Paul for the sake of this story, owned a health food store that he ran for several decades. As he was thinking of selling the business, he realized that new owners would probably like a business that was a little more profitable. Paul started examining his income and expense statement with a fine-tooth comb. He discovered several areas in which some of his costs had crept up over the year. In one case, he found that he had originally employed a cleaning company on a contract for a small job for $50 per week. Over time, they had gradually raised their prices to $100 per week. He consulted his employees concerning this job, and was told that they thought that they had time to do the contractor’s work as he was only spending 15 minutes a week in the building. Profit hole filled = $5,200!!!
Paul kept digging. One day he got a call from a service provider for debit machines. They told him that he would save $400 per month if he switched over. Paul didn’t switch, but he used that call to ask his current provider to match their rates. When they agreed, Paul saved an additional $4,800 being lost through a profit hole.
When Paul plugged these two profit holes, he saved himself $10,000 per year. For a small business owner, $10,000 a year can be very significant. Not only did Paul enjoy that money immediately, but he increased the value of his business at the same time. Potential buyers always want a profitable business!
When we are looking for ways to reduce our expenses and plug profit holes, we need to look through each and every area of the business. We must ask ourselves how we can reduce our costs in this area. In my book Profit Yourself Healthy, I identified 107 different ways that small business owners can reduce their expenses. These include reducing costs in areas such as labour, energy, consulting fees, insurance, travel expenses, maintenance, and more. Sometimes we can eliminate an expense. Often times by putting the product or service out for tender again, we can lower our costs. The trick is to look at the largest expense areas first, and figure out ways that we can create efficiencies.
The longer we have been in business, the more profit holes we can find. Like Paul, we let little expenses build up over time and the result is an erosion of our profits. It’s easy to dig holes but sometimes it’s much easier to fill them.
James Morrell has over 25 years experience in natural foods retail management. Over those years he’s done a lot of hiring. I’ve written about hiring in this column before, but for a fresh perspective, I turned to James, now a consultant in fresh category management.
CNHR is welcoming back one of its original (and most popular) business writers, Alain Roy. Alain brings a great deal of industry experience, having worked in all facets of our industry over the years, including retail, distribution, manufacturing and consulting. Currently, he is president of Veeva and Natural Business Partners.
Alain will be focusing his efforts into a series of continuing articles on the benefits of strong partnerships between retailers and suppliers. He will be asking industry leaders to share their greatest partnership success stories. “During my career, I have seen and been part of different partnership attitudes. Like personal relationships, working in true partnership means understanding each other’s needs. This new series will focus on understanding the needs of vendors and retailers alike, so we can all continue thriving.” Alain’s first article will appear in the September-October issue. Welcome back, Alain!
Raji Kalra has co-founded a new company called Peopletail. Its purpose is to make it easy for people to include their own links to e-commerce retailers in their articles, photos and videos - making their content into shoppable recommendations for other consumers to buy through. “The user-generated content from everyday people will help increase traffic to e-commerce stores of health food retailers,” explained Raji.
Peopletail (the name combines “people” and “retail”) rewards people for creating content for products they love. “In the natural health channel, people really listen to other people’s recommendation to learn about what products are good and what products work,” said Raji. “This will be a chance for people to get rewarded by sharing their product knowledge and experiences with others. This can be for products they love or believe in.”
Raji, who has been producing content for brands for nearly nine years, feels we are shifting into an era where brands won’t actually have to produce their own content as much in the future. “We envision a future where brands will be able to focus their efforts on rewarding people for their content, especially when certain content generates with retailers.” Peopletail – which will be in testing phase starting June 2018 – will be collaborating with leading brands, magazine publishers and retailers in the natural health industry. Raji is the former head of Alive Studios, a digital division he sold to Alive Publishing Group in 2014. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. •
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Traditionally made, this is a pure, easy to mix, “on the go" Bone Broth Protein Powder that’s as nutritious as ever. High in collagen, calcium and potassium and free of all antibiotics and added hormones, this cage-free chicken bone broth is simmered to ensure the maximum amount of nutrients. organika.ca
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Apitherapy is the medicinal use of honeybee products for health and healing. Canadian owned and operated, Natural Immix is thrilled to introduce their BEE Line of products including; Bee Propolis Spray, Bee Propolis + Echinacea Spray, Bee Pollen Complex, Green Bee Propolis and Royal Jelly. For more information on new products, check us out at www.naturalimmix.com or to order, contact us at 855/314-3411 or email email@example.com
EMUAID® First Aid Ointment is a modern homeopathic medicine. Available in regular and maximum strength formulations, EMUAID® is made from the highest quality, natural, medical-grade ingredients available without a prescription. Our proprietary formula combines Argentum Metallicum, organic Tea Tree Oil, probiotic Bacillus Ferment and amino acid L-Lysine HCl in a base of over 60% refined Emu oil that’s ethically sourced. Making these natural first aid ointments the safest, most effective on the market for OVER 100 difficult-to-treat and resistant skin conditions. www.emuaid.com
GABA Ease - Fast-acting ingredients relieve occasional nervous tension and anxiety. Contains a therapeutic dose of GABA withl-Theanine and calming botanicals: passionflower, skullcap and hops. Use GABA Ease before the traffic commute, to help ease travel anxiety and hormonal irritability. Can be used as needed or ongoing as desired.
For a complete product list and pricing for Vitanica products available in Canada, visit ecotrend.ca For detailed product information visit vitanica.com
The Natural Product Advisor course is designed to help you become more knowledgeable about the natural health industry in Canada. You will have a strong understanding of product sales and regulations to specific topics and health concerns that shoppers often ask about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Now available - ZEN Sports Spray. Formulated for use before and after sporting activities as needed. Contains arnica for relief of minor injuries, bruises and muscle aches. Addition of Chinese herbs helps promote blood circulation and relieve inflammation and swelling. www.martinandpleasance.ca
Rhodiola is a versatile herb supporting several body systems, especially endocrine and central nervous system and cognitive functions. Vitanica’s Rhodiola includes the standardized extract of Rhodiola rosea root, the most researched species, plus the whole root of the same species, offering a synergistic blend of the compounds in this tonic herb. For a complete product list and pricing for Vitanica products available in Canada, visit ecotrend.ca For detailed product information visit vitanica.com
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