Exceptional customer service is a powerful thing when running a retail business. It can set you apart from your fiercest competitors and help build a loyal and vocal client base that will go out of their way to sing your praises. As a manager or owner of a successful skateboard shop you know what it takes to provide exceptional customer service, but what about the rest of your staff? How well have they been trained, and more importantly, how are they empowered to meet your patrons’ needs? Don’t let the level of customer service in your shop be dictated by the presence of the owner or manager. When any employee in your store has the power to satisfy the consumer, everybody wins. Here are some ways you can empower your employees to provide the same outstanding customer service you would.

Having a workforce that is capable of providing exceptional customer service starts with having the right type of employees. A mature and experienced staff will be the first step in ensuring that your patrons are treated professionally and appropriately. Employees of this nature are better at handling complaints from customers without feeling intimidated or defensive, and will have better developed negotiation skills.

Greg Bayer, owner of Innovation Skates, a twenty-year-old skate shop in Arlington, Texas, advocates a seasoned and knowledgable staff and believes it’s the key factor in retaining his loyal customers. Bayer says, “I don’t have a big staff, and because of that it’s very important that the few employees I do have are mature and can maintain the same level of service I have provided my customers over the years.”

Even the most mature staff can fail to meet your clients’ expectations and needs if they’re not thoroughly trained in customer-service procedures. “Train don’t blame” is the mantra to repeat when developing a staff that will be empowered to render superior customer service. Formulate scripted responses to frequently asked questions and practice them with your staff so your salespeople will know exactly how to respond when your customer is in need of help. Scripted responses may seem awkward the first few times, but once they are internalized all of your employees will be able to correctly and consistently answer your clients’ questions in the same manner you set forth.

Warrantees and returns can often be one of the biggest frustrations for both your patrons and your staff. By developing standard warranty and return procedures that your workers are well trained in and must follow, you’ll take the guesswork out of handling these most crucial customer-employee interactions. Take the time to educate your staff on what constitutes a true deck warranty and how to handle the situation if and when a broken deck is not covered under warranty. Have a phone number and address list readily available so your staff can point the shopper in the right direction if the warranty cannot be handled directly through your shop. Post your return policy so customers can see it and make explaining it part of the sales cycle to reduce the chances of any misunderstandings after the sale. At World of Toys in Reno, Nevada, Owner Steve Hall confirms the need for warranty and return procedures. “Having defined procedures allows my employees to handle customer warrantees and returns without my help and frees me up to work on the business.” A well-defined warranty and return procedure will not only reduce the chance of your staff taking back or warranting something they should not have, it will also ensure that patrons are properly taken care of during what is often a bad experience.

Once you’re confident you have a staff that’s completely trained in your store’s policies, procedures, and interaction with clients, it will be time to trust your employees to do the right thing. You’ll be amazed at the improvement in customer service you’ll see when your workers know they’ve been empowered to satisfy thee customer and that you’re entrusting them to do so. Brian, a.k.a. “Bubba,” at The Joint, in Fairfield, California, clearly sets parameters for his employees and trusts them to make the right decisions when it comes to satisfying patrons. “I tell them to treat it as if it was their own business and like it was their money. They know I will back their decision on anything under 100 dollars, and anything over that, they know to call me.” When your salespeople clearly know the rules of the game in customer service they’ll play the game better, and at the level you set or above. You will not truly empower your employees until you trust their judgment and their decision-making.

Now that you have a well-trained staff that knows they’re empowered and entrusted to satisfy shoppers, the next step is to reward a job well done. Measuring customer service and rewarding the workers that excel in it will only do great things for your business. A good start is making comment cards available at the counter so customers can passively fill them out, but actively asking patrons to rate your shop’s service and shopping experience tells the client and your employees that you’re serious about providing superior service. Salespeople should encourage customers to fill out comment cards any time they think they may have done a good job helping a shopper. Customer feedback is imperative to having a shop that’s known for extraordinary service. Every returned comment card is a learning opportunity and a way to measure and reward your staff. Rewards can be as little as posting great comment cards for coworkers and clients to see. It could be the special parking spot, “lunch on me,” or even a paid skate day off. It’s not so much how you reward great customer service, but that you take the time to reward it.

Employees without the ability to satisfy the consumer are of little use to anybody who visits your shop. Think of how frustrating it is to ask for help or explain your problem, only to have to do it all over again because the individual doesn’t have the authority or knowledge to meet your needs. Thoroughly train all of your employees in your shop’s policies and procedures and give them the confidence that you’ll trust and reward them for doing the right thing. When you have empowered employees, you’ll see that it’s the most powerful thing you can do to satisfy, retain, and recruit customers for years to come.