How They Do It
Gold Medal Winning Retailers Share Tips on How to Deliver Outstanding Customer Service in Today’s Ever-Evolving Marketplace.
1. Be A Good Listener
“We train our employees to never ask, ‘Can I help you?’ but instead engage the customer in a conversation that will lead to gaining more knowledge about what the customer really needs. We find that our customers often know what their issue or need is, but they don’t have much of an idea of how to resolve it because they don’t know our inventory or product the way we do.” — Adam Griggs, Soft Shoe
“I like our team to ask the right questions that will get the customers to really communicate what they need. Also, it’s really important to set the right tone as the customers enter the store. We have to manage a lot of foot traffic, so we use a floor coordinator who drives the sales floor and connects the customer with the right salesperson. They use an iPad and the app Waitlist to create a queue for customers to be helped when busy.” — Troy Dempsey, The Heel Shoe Fitters
“We talk to our staff about leading with curiosity, asking thoughtful questions and listening closely to the customer’s responses to help get the product/fit right. We define our customer service by paying close attention to the details. It’s trying to do all of the little things right that help create a great overall experience. The concept of customer service is ever-changing, its a fluid concept that you should always be striving to improve upon.” — Dillon Dardano, Dardano’s
“We greet our customers with a smile and ask, ‘What can we help you find? And what are your footcare needs?’ We always listen to the customer and hear what their needs are first. We found that our Pedorthic education has helped during the pandemic. We educate people on proper footwear and support devices to aid in their ability to walk more, work longer, and improve their overall health and wellbeing.” — Giuseppe Lombardo, Lombardo Comfort Shoes
2. Build Relationships
“Our goal is to make a friend with every customer that comes into the store. We push relationships, not sales. Naturally through getting to know someone you better understand what they need and look forward to them coming back and asking about their trip, grandkids, surgery, et cetera.” — Julie Pierce, Valley Sole
“For us, it is about developing relationships and helping our customers and patients find what they need. Our staff all know the importance of what customer service means to our business and we regularly discuss ways to improve. If anything, the last two years have shown us that when hardships come, good customer service is more important than ever.” — Brett Boger, Boger’s Shoes
“Customers come into our stores because they not only want to find great products but they want to be helped by friendly and competent staff. Our staff acknowledges that people want to do business with people that they enjoy spending time with. Instead of pushing sales we want to build relationships. Especially over the past year where most people have been stuck inside, a welcoming concern on how their overall wellbeing is goes a long way.” — Steven Rueda, Sole Provisions
“We look at the shoes we sell as simply the byproduct of the experience and knowledge we provide. We make it a priority to get to know our customers, their families, and truly try our best to make their experience one they’ll never forget. Over the past year or two, it has [been challenging] to deliver world class service. State and local mandates have made us an easy target for people to get frustrated with... While the disruption has created challenges, simply smiling and remaining kind and friendly to everyone who enters our store, still remains our top priority.” — Ted McGreer, Ted’s Shoe & Sport
“The shoe fitting experience extends beyond what happens in the store — measuring both feet, actively listening to the needs of the customer, analyzing the customer’s gait, thoughtfully suggesting appropriate footwear, insoles and shoe care products best suited to that person’s individual needs. It extends to how the customer will use and enjoy these products in real life. For us, customer service is about treating every customer like family.
Since the pandemic, personalized customer service has become more valuable than ever. To combat the ease and convenience of internet shopping, we make sure that individualized relationships with our customer base are just as notable as the services and products we provide. Amazon and Zappos will never ask how the shoes you purchased worked for that vacation or special event the next time you’re there to make a purchase.” — Perry Calhoun, The Shoe Market
“We always strive to ‘Make A Friend,’ like our founder, Stan Sajdak always said. Our customer service experience in-store and online remain the same. It continues to be our mission to solve their footwear needs with great product, delivery, education, style tips, in a welcoming environment… Over the last two years, we have had to pivot and find new ways to continue our excellence in customer service. We recently added curbside pick-up, strengthened our online chat, and continued our exceptional online customer service experience to support our brick-and-mortar operation.” — Jim Sajdak, Stan’s Fit For Your Feet
These nine stores have been a model of consistency — earning Footwear Insight’s Gold Medal Service Award for Customer Service every single year that we have held the awards since the program launched in 2015.
Comfort One Shoes
Orland Park, IL
West Roseville, MN
Stan’s Fit For Your Feet
The Foot Spot
Tops For Shoes
Turnpike Comfort Footwear
Fresh Meadows, NY
3. Don’t Forget the Basics
“We sit and measure the feet, we carry a good array of sizes and our staff gives their full attention to the customers, or guests, in our store. COVID has impacted the amount of hours we are open, and now we offer a little bit of curbside fitting. We are located in the small downtown of Quakertown (PA) and business is good. Many of the customers grew up getting their shoes from Moyer’s Shoes and [we] know customers by name and shoe size. I want everyone who walks in here to feel good.” — Ralph Moyer, Moyer’s Shoes
“Keep it simple. Do the things you expect others to do for you when you patronize their establishments. Have professionally trained staff. Consumers want to deal with staff that knows their products and how it benefits the specific customer. Myself as a consumer, I don’t want to research everything I need to buy. I want to go where they can tell me what I need and why. That’s the reason for brick-and-mortar.
Also, consumers want to be addressed immediately after entering your store. A simple ‘Hello. How are you?’ There is nothing is worse than entering an establishment and no one welcomes you or addresses you.
Consumers also don’t want to be sold. I instruct my staff to ‘assess the needs, fill the needs.’ Add-ons are as simple as suggesting to fill a need the consumer was not aware of. Never push products on the consumer.” — Steven Rueda, Turnpike Comfort Footwear
“The basics of carrying sizes and widths are still essential to provide superior customer service. Our staff is continually retrained on the importance of measuring feet, asking open-ended questions and bringing out a four-pair minimum.” — Tony Miroballi, Miroballi Shoes
“Our definition of customer service is being able to solve footwear problems for our patients and customers. We realize that our clients have particular footwear challenges that the typical shoe store can’t address. No one comes here because their feet feel great. As our company name says, we specialize in providing solutions to our customer’s problems. We feel strongly that it’s better to not sell a shoe instead of selling the wrong shoe that won’t address the customer’s needs.” — Bill Smith and Althea Schlumpf, Althea’s Footwear Solutions
4. Make it an Experience
“Step one for us is offering a comfortable, easy shopping experience in which people are encouraged to stay, learn, and have some fun with our team. Upon entering one of our locations a person can expect to be greeted by one of our team members, given a tour of the store, and be offered a beverage the same as we would welcome someone into our home. Blending the new age technology with the tried and true traditional fitting methods allows our knowledgeable team to create a personalized experience that will exceed the customers expectations.” — Adam Beck, Beck’s Shoes
“We like to pamper our customers. My theory is the longer they stay, the more money they spend. I welcome my sales people to spend as much time as they can with each individual customer. In order to do this, I have to keep enough people on the sales floor.
After a customer is greeted and the schmoozing is done, we invite customers to get their feet analyzed and scanned on our 3D foot scanner. It gives us information on instep height, width, length, pressure points, pronation, and arch height. It also recommends orthotics. We then use this information to find the best fit for their feet. Customers can also relax and get their feet massaged and munch on fresh popcorn. We have treadmills to test the product right in the store.
When you leave our store you have had an experience that you will never get online or in most stores. Customer service has not changed. We still stick to the basic principles of what our store was founded on — sit-and-fit.” — Bruce T. Wesley, Wesley Shoes
“We simply treat our customers/friends just as we would want to be treated. That means we put down the red carpet every day. Customer service starts with communication. When a customer arrives in our store, we greet them with a smile and a warm heart. We discuss their wants and needs, we measure their feet (if they let us - some people still don’t want us to), put them on our foot analysis scanner (which also gives a foot size) and we bring them everything we have to meet their specific needs. It’s that simple.
Another aspect of customer service is that we’re always available to make special appointments with customers that can’t get out to the store. We’ve gone to their homes or the nursing facilities as necessary. During the height of COVID, we added curbside pickup and made special appointments in the store for those that requested such. We even made contactless deliveries upon request.” — Brenda Felger, Felger’s Footwear
This year, 16 stores have been named Gold Medal Service Award winners for the first time. Congratulations to the honorees!
Althea’s Footwear Solutions
A Proper Fit
Daytona Beach, FL
Fit My Feet
Sioux Falls, SD
Lombardo Comfort Shoes
Orleans Shoe Co.
New Orleans, LA
Fort Wayne, IN
North Myrtle Beach, SC
Sound Feet Shoes
Powells Point, NC
The Shoe Market
5. Study Up & Set Goals
“It’s not about the transaction, it’s about developing trust and confidence between our staff and our customers. We coach our staff at monthly meetings, which focus on the best practices we have used year over year. This includes the initial greet, seat and measure the feet. Then, listening to the customer to learn of their wants and needs. We are also a Pedorthic facility so we see many customers with common foot problems and may be hard to fit. Our staff are trained to understand these problems so that they can make recommendations accordingly. Additionally, we develop our staff to be product knowledge experts to further enhance their ability to fully service the customer.” —Terry Trentini, Terry’s Shoes
“At Comfort One Shoes we take training very seriously. We use a proprietary training system built around our very own Ten Step Selling program. We have a training department with a full time Director of Corporate Training that does basically nothing else other than training. We have always required a high level of outstanding customer service. We follow up in a multitude of ways. We have a contract by an outside third party for hundreds of secret shops annually.
Staff in every store knows what their goals are for every day. They report actual performance vs. goals nightly through our computer system — things like their sales per hour, inner-sole attachment rates, multi-pairs sold, and accessory/sundries percentages vs. the goals for each of these areas. The system automatically tabulates each day’s progress to create weekly results. This allows the store managers to easily review weekly performance by individual sales associate.
We sell very expensive product at the higher end of the channel. Knowledgeable sales associates are paramount to our success. Over the years, I have made it a practice to walk briskly into our stores and examine the demonstration being conducted by each sales associate. I’m looking for a couple of things. First, a big demonstration (4-10 pairs), then I am looking for multiple classifications of footwear. For example, if the customer comes in for sandals, we address that need first, but also probe the needs of the customer and present other categories of footwear such as walking shoes and athletic shoes, in addition to the sandals the customer came in for.” — Maurice Breton, Comfort One Shoes
“Our goal is for the customer to get home with all of the products — no more and no less — that they will be happy with. Our salesperson’s goals are to suggest second (and third) pairs as well as accessory items such as insoles, socks, handbags, shoecare, hats, et cetera. We give our staff average benchmarks to meet so that we can monitor what is going on at the fitting stool. Our staff is commissioned to maximize the sale.”
—Alan Miklofsky, Alan’s Shoes