Customers are browned off with nurseries

CUSTOMERS are getting browned off with the poor service at their local nurseries, according to a recent survey.

The survey, conducted by mystery shopper provider Service Audits & Market Research, found a “counter-hugging” culture was costing nurseries dearly.

However, the validity of the survey has been questioned because it was held between May and July – one of the garden centre industry’s slowest periods.

SAMR project manager Carole Walker said the survey had been held during the traditional peak trading periods, such as weekends.

However, Nursery and Garden Centre Industry of WA garden centre development officer James Robilliard said that, during those months, the staffing levels at garden centres were usually low.

The survey found customer satisfaction with the level of service offered in nurseries was below average.

It also found that, in 70 per cent of cases, the customer had to initiate contact with the garden centre staff to request assistance and product information. In the majority of cases this occurred only at the cash register, usually located close to the exits.

The survey also found that: 65 per cent of the nursery service staff omitted to offer customers a greeting; just under half actively asked what the customer wanted; 94 per cent missed the chance to build on a sale; and 36 per cent failed to conclude the purchase with a ‘thank you’.

However, 80 per cent of the staff surveyed demonstrated a positive tone of voice and 70 per cent showed a positive attitude.

Ms Walker said nursery staff were missing chances to enhance sales because they were not striking up conversations with customers.

Mr Robilliard said his industry was aware of the need to be customer focused.

“I would be very surprised to find that too many centres had staff ‘hovering’ around the cash register,” he said. “For one thing, most garden centres have their staffing down to a level where they haven’t got time to hang around the counter.”

Customer service management consultant Jillian Mercer said there were two simple rules to customer service – courtesy and helpfulness.

“When someone comes into your shop you should welcome them like you would a guest to your own home. That’s the courtesy part,” she said.

“Then be helpful because that’s where you make your sales.

“When I go to a nursery I need a good 10 minutes of someone’s time because I’m a classic black thumb. Then I usually leave with a boot full of stuff.”

The survey was sparked by an interest in how the garden centre industry would survive with the threat of further water restrictions this summer.

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