Festive season is an opportunity for operators to attract new custom
THE festive period offers a unique opportunity for bars and pubs to attract new customers, say training firms.
But these customers will only become regulars if they receive the best service from well-trained staff.
Get it right and your one-off visitor will be back with all their friends; get it wrong and they are unlikely to return.
Frazer Grant, CEO at ABV Training, believes the festive season offers a fantastic chance for operators to win new business from customers who wouldn’t ordinarily visit premises.
Exceeding customers’ expectations and ensuring they have a great time is key to getting them to return.
He said: “Customer service training is essential at any time of year but if you think about it you are more likely to see customers that you have never seen before and may never see again at Christmas time so customer service training is a ‘must have’ before the festive period as it is an opportunity to turn occasional visitors into regulars.
“This is important as it costs a business less to keep regular customers happy than it does to attract new ones.”
He said well-trained staff will encourage people to linger longer and, in turn, spend more money.
But he argued that the licensed trade in general does not do enough to teach its staff to sell.
“In my view customer service and selling are inextricably linked, so if your staff are creating excellent customer experiences then people stay longer, buy more and visit more often,” said Grant.
“But how many retailers actually teach their staff to sell?
“We are in the retailing business and we are probably the only retail sector that doesn’t regularly teach staff how to sell.
“It is a simple equation: service plus selling equals less cost, more profit and a fun place to work.”
New staff, trainers say, can become “overawed” by the sheer increase in customer numbers and cost the operator money if they are inefficient.
But the increased footfall should still be looked upon as an opportunity, said Paul Chase, director of CPL Training.
He said: “Exceeding customers’ expectations and ensuring they have a great time – not just a good time – is key to getting them to return.
“Customer service training should also address how you can help customers make choices and ensure upsell and an increased dwell-time on the premises.
“Increased footfall over the festive period is an opportunity in itself, but to really capitalise on this staff need to be trained to maximise the spend of each and every one of those extra customers.”
He insisted that, although staff levels are “generally higher” over the festive season, it is important for new staff to quickly gain product knowledge and embrace the operator’s customer service ethos.
“Forward-looking operators know they must invest in their staff to keep them and to ensure the customer experience is great,” said Chase.
“Licensed retail is something that people used to end up doing – but now the sector can offer proper career paths for people.”
We are in the retailing business and are probably the only sector that doesn’t teach staff to sell.
Louise Ramsay of DG Training believes premises which go beyond the minimum requirement of two hours training will benefit in the long run.
She suggested offering training in cellar management to enable all staff to “share the load” over Christmas.
“I believe all permanent bar staff should have basic knowledge and skills to enable them to perform tasks such as changing kegs, gas cylinders and post-mix boxes,” said Ramsay.
“Obviously operators must ensure all bar staff have completed the mandatory two hour training before they begin work.
“I would also recommend having more staff who hold a personal licence than just the named premises manager.
“Food hygiene training is also important for all food handlers.”
And operators should keep training in mind beyond the festive season if they are to keep ahead of the competition, according to Mark Phillips of Highfield Awarding Body of Compliance, which provides a variety of courses including qualifications in customer service, licensing, food safety, conflict management, stewarding and security.
Phillips said: “To a certain extent, you should have one eye on what happens after the Christmas and New Year period is over.
“Customer service can be used as a competitive tool, so it’s an extremely useful method for winning over new customers and retaining their business even once the festive period is over.”