“What does it taste like?” “Cinnamon Toast Crunch milk! Right?!” “How do you think they make it? Do you think they just soak some Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in milk and then strain off the cereal?” Mike was delighted that the iced chai tea he ordered tasted like milk leftover in the bowl after eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. I, on the other hand, thought it was gross. Mike loves sweet cereal milk, I do not.
As a business owner, there’s not really a perfect way to predict your individual customers’ tastes well. However, you have a resource that can personally talk with your customers to further explain your product. I’d never expect an iced chai tea to taste like Cinnamon Toast Crunch milk. But I do regularly ask what an employee would suggest or if certain menu items are sweet, spicy, etc. I worked at a cafe for a short time and hadn’t tried at least 98% of the menu. I would have had to buy it on my own dime to try it and even though it was half-price, I certainly wasn’t making enough to buy lunch everyday. Customers would ask all the time how things tasted and I would have to ask others around me or simply tell them the ingredients but confess that I had never tried it.
It’s obvious that your customers are individuals with unique tastes and preferences. You can’t address each one, but you can equip each employee to communicate well with customers. It’s paramount that employees know the product well so that they can serve customers excellently in finding a great fit for them. We were in a local hardware store yesterday and I was thankful for the knowledge the sales associate shared. In this day of a plethora of conflicting online reviews, I really appreciate when an employee speaks honestly about their preferences from their point of intimate product knowledge.
A small investment in your employees’ product knowledge could pay off greatly in return customers. I am more likely to frequent a business when I know that I can get a reliable, honest product description before I buy it. If I’m thinking of ordering a chai tea, I want to know if it is sweet like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal or not. If it doesn’t seem like they know personally, I am likely going to order something else and take a chance on that. However, if they can address my concerns honestly, I’m going to feel better about going back because I know that I will get an honest description about what I’m getting for my money.
Invest in your business by equipping your employees to serve your customers well with their product knowledge. Don’t make it the employee’s responsibility to buy your products to try them. They may not make that investment on their own. If you invest in equipping them well, they may recognize your investment and realize that you are expecting them to be there long-term. I recognized investments employers made in me and saw each as a vote of confidence in my ability and hope that I’d be there long term. Also, your investment in equipping them to serve customers well will be appreciated. I’ve never heard anyone complain because they have all the tools they need to do their job well.
Obviously, it takes time for an employee to learn products well and their knowledge will grow as they gain more experience in their work. However, it is helpful to invest in a base foundation of product knowledge for new employees so they don’t feel like they are flying blind. The quicker they are brought into the knowledge of the business, the sooner they are going to feel like they belong. Every small step you take to help employees understand a product better is good for both your employee and your customers. Every little thing matters, don’t despair if you don’t have the budget for it.
Do what you can with what you have today.
If you’re looking for low-budget ways to invest in your employees’ product knowledge, contact me so we can discuss the best ways for your specific business.
For more on how product knowledge matters for your business:
Providing the Full Value of a Purchase by Lisa D. Jenkins (Successful Blog)