FOCUS: Secrets of the shop floor

Mococo has opened its new, larger-sized Liverpool store in the city's Metquarter today, featuring brands Chlobo, Shaun Leane, Thomas Sabo, Pandora, Swarovski, Diamonfire and Nomination. The new store, located on the ground floor of the shopping centre, replaces the much smaller Mococo shop, which opened in Metquarter in 2009. The improved store also features a champagne and coffee bar. Mococo managing director Lee Hooson said: "We are so excited about our brand new store in Liverpool's Metquarter. The city's customers have been so loyal to us, they deserve to have even more of the world's most exciting jewellery brands at their fingertips."

Retail service at Mococo, Astley Clarke, Mallory and Chisholm Hunter.

In this era of brands, ethics and price comparison, customers are entering jewellery shops with a burgeoning knowledge and expectations of service. Four of the UK’s leading jewellery retailers share their secrets of customer service success with Professional Jeweller.

Jewellery retailers are continually told to grow their online business and develop their digital presence and services – but how are they advancing the customer experience in their bricks-and-mortar stores?

In an age where all eyes are on the internet, it is imperative that the home of your business – the shop front with your company name above the door – upholds the best customer service, be it through staff training, getting to know customers’ tastes or simply offering them a cup of tea. Professional Jeweller spoke with four of the UK’s leading jewellery retailers to discover how they create memorable experiences in store.

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BASIC TRAINING
The internet has become the first port of call for many customers when researching jewellery products, brands, precious metals and gemstones, meaning that when they visit retail shops, they are often armed with a foundation of knowledge about the subject in question. This, however, is not always the right knowledge, and so bricks-and-mortar retailers are encouraged to train their staff to be ready to answer queries. Says Mallory of Bath managing director Robert Vander Woerd: “The jewellery customer has an ever-increasing desire for knowledge about the products they are purchasing. The key to satisfying the jewellery customer’s quest for knowledge is to have staff that are well trained – the basic knowledge offered by National Association of Goldsmiths’ JET courses is essential, and other qualifications such as the FGA and diamond grading courses are important.”

Vander Woerd also states that staff should impart what they believe is a standard of quality and craftsmanship to customers on the shop floor, something that should carry over to having goldsmiths and designers on site, as well as website that encourages shoppers to visit in person.

Tracey Brown of UK-wide retailer Chisholm Hunter reports that its online presence has improved to better serve customers in store. “Due to customers’ use of the internet as a research tool, we use our website as a platform to provide as much information to assist our customers as possible, so we meet their demands at the very earliest stage,” Brown explains. When customers then visit the stores, staff are trained to answer all type of query. “There is a greater interest in the provenience of products, particularly when it comes to precious stones,” Brown notes. “Customers want to know about where the stones have come from, whether our gold is ethically sourced and so on, meaning – again – our staff are fully trained to handle any and all enquiries.”

At fashion-forward retailer Mococo, which operates five stores in Wales and the north west, staff training is a daily occurrence. Lee Hooson, co-director of Mococo, says that it will be working with an external training agency in 2014 to help it achieve the “perfect customer experience in our stores”.

Hooson hopes the resulting store experience will bring customer loyalty. “I’ve always said that the money in a customer’s pocket is theirs to spend where they like. If you’re not up to speed as a retailer, don’t expect them to just walk in out of loyalty. You have to go out of your way to make their experience a memorable one, regardless of the amount of money they are spending.”

As a result, Mococo has found that the same customers spending time and again gradually increase the amount they spend each time, as they gain confidence with the shop. This also ties in to the company keeping a record of customers’ purchases. “We contact them to wish them a happy birthday, share new collections, promotions and events, and sometimes we let their partners know of something in the store that they’ve had their eye on from previous visits,” Hooson adds. “The ePos system we use allows us to do this — it’s a very important piece of kit in our world.”

At Chisholm Hunter, capturing customer data through store events, VIP evenings, social media and market research enables it to better target customers with information and new product launches that are relevant to their tastes.

THE RETAIL EXPERIENCE
It is clear that a jewellery shop cannot survive on having beautiful jewellery and watch collections alone. Whether it’s the store interior, interactive points of sale or simply a shop that smells good, the entire experience a customer receives from the moment they set foot in your shop will be reflective of the pride you have in your company.

“We regularly provide additional in-store services such as lavish and luxurious gift wrapping as standard, jewellery cleaning, and polishing cloths,” says Hooson, when considering the little add-ons provided to each customer. This has also led to it introducing interest-free credit on purchases above £325, as well as informing customers of free gifts with certain purchases. This is mirrored at Chisholm Hunter, where customers seeking flexibility with purchasing options are able to pay in instalments, whether buying in store or online.

All Mallorys, repairs and insurance has become a popular add-on service, though Vander Woerd is careful that customers are not aggressively sold its services. “We try to undertake repairs free-of-charge and where we service a watch ourselves we offer a two-year guarantee,” he explains. “As a matter of course, we would offer complimentary insurance but not as an active selling tool, more as a sensible and practical offering. The customer is always told that they can bring their item in for cleaning and checking at any time, and they are also offered this on the annual renewal of their insurance policy.”

Many retailers have realised that a great store experience stems from something simple, but often overlooked: the offer of a drink and something to nibble. Sitting a customer down with a cup of tea or glass of something stronger can instantly relax them, make them feel valued and in turn creates an unhurried atmosphere where decisions can be made in the customers’ own time. “We have a coffee and champagne bar where we invite our customers celebrating a birthday, anniversary, upcoming wedding or special event to sit down, relax and enjoy a glass of bubbly or cup of freshly brewed coffee,” explains Hooson. “We also have Mococo branded chocolate treats.”

Some go a step further, and ensure that customers leaving the store with a special purchase also take home a little something else. “By way of a thank you we offer a bottle of Mallory champagne and diamond-shaped chocolates in a beautifully fitted case,” reveals Mallory’s Vander Woerd.

THAT EXTRA MILE
“We have two permanent courier vehicles that travel between stores and our website HQ,” says Hooson. “This ensures we avoid missing a sale and in the event that one location is out of stock we can than alert one of the drivers to collect the required item from elsewhere and deliver it to the customer within a two hour period.”

One example of Mococo exploiting its courier service came a few years ago, when a customer visiting its Liverpool store was on a flight to Ireland the same day, but wanted to take home a gold bracelet for his wife. “Unfortunately, the Liverpool store didn’t have the right size of bracelet, so I quickly jumped in the car from North Wales, collected the correct size from our Chester store and drove it over to him,” says Hooson. “Needless to say, timing was tight but as soon as the sale was complete I then drove him straight to the airport. The pleasure, as they say, was all mine.”

Good customer service can also be about turnaround, and similarly for Mallorys and Chisholm Hunter, going the extra mile has involved quite literally travelling miles, with staff going on personal endeavours across countries to collect items from one location and take them directly to customers elsewhere.

“We had a client order an extra-long diamond bracelet for an anniversary but he had left it late,” says Vander Woerd. “The bracelet was manufactured in three days ready for the event on the Friday. We sent a member of staff to Germany early in the morning who returned in the afternoon with the bracelet so the customer could present it to his wife on Friday evening.”

While many of the experiences and standards mentioned here might already be underway at your store, the old adage that there is always more to be done continues to ring true. Retailers should always ask themselves what more they could do and what they personally would want – and expect – when making a special purchase. Of course, there is no harm in looking to other industries for ideas on improving customer service. In the menswear industry, for example, a growing number of suit makers are offering customers a taxi to or from their boutiques — something that could translate wonderfully for couples that have just purchased diamond jewellery or an expensive timepiece.

Leaving a few words of wisdom, Vander Woerd says: “One should endeavour to think of one’s business as a complete destination, an oasis of experiences and choice, and do whatever is necessary to achieve this ambition. Purchasing jewellery is about making a dream come true from the moment they step into the shop, and your ambition should be to keep this dream alive forever.”

FOCUS: HOW ASTLEY CLARKE STRIVES FOR CUSTOMER SERVICE PERFECTION
Astley Clarke has become one of the UK’s leading online jewellery retailers, offering its own-label fine jewellery collections and an edited selection of global jewellery designers. It operates a showroom in central London and recently expanded into wholesale. Astley Clarke managing director Scott Thomson (below) discusses online and offline customer service: “When selling fine jewellery it is absolutely crucial to create confidence, something we have a proven track record in. Our customer service, combined with great web content, means that customers are asking fewer questions now than five years ago. Our team of personal shoppers stay in touch with our customers and we offer an aftersales service that includes a complimentary cleaning service.” As part of the company’s expansion into wholesale, it has taken time to ensure all of its retail partners are trained, with Astley Clarke founder Bec Astley Clarke flying to the US to personally train five teams of Saks staff. When it comes to going the extra mile, however, Thomson has his own favourite story. “One of our personal shoppers had minutes to get to London St Pancras station with an engagement ring for a client. She got there just before he boarded the Eurostar with his unsuspecting girlfriend.” Another time, Astley Clarke couriered a diamond ring from London to Monaco the same day, to ensure it was there for a client who had an evening event.

This feature was taken from the May 2014 issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. To read the issue in full online, click here.
 

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