Knowledgeable & Trained Staff in Music Stores

I love the following statements that many dealers claim regarding their highly skilled staff:

* Our highly skilled and motivated staff are hear to help you
* Our knowledgeable and trained staff are on hand to help you
* We are committed to offering great customer service
* Our experienced and knowledgeable staff are the best in the business
* Demonstrations, help and advice from people who really care

There are loads of these claims from dealers in adverts, web sites and catalogues and yet when you give them a call or visit the store, why is it you always seem to get the pleb!!! – The young scruffy buffoon who can’t mumble a sentence let alone talk you through the finer details of the product you require information on – Or you might get the whizz kid, playing the guitar in the corner, who does not want to be disturbed from his sweep picking practice session, who thinks working in a shop would be great if it wasn’t for the customers – It gets worse, because if you want someone else to serve you or talk to you, what do you get ? – Buffoon 2, mate of buffoon or buffoon the supervisor – The chances of getting served by the ‘more senior member of staff’ who has some inkling of good customer relations and service is quite remote.

Now first of all I know we all have to start and learn some time – We are all capable of making errors, or indeed not having all the necessary information to hand all the time – But if you are polite, friendly, approachable and offer to help the customer, that is a more than a long way towards satisfying their requirements – I would also like to point out, that this rant and rave feature is certainly not applicable to all shops and staff, but it does apply to a lot – My belief and experience, is that in many smaller independent stores, certainly were the owner is on the premises, the polite, friendly and knowledgeable staff should be far more common – The problem can be far greater in the large stores and is a disease out of control in the chain stores.

Which is worse ? – The company who claims to train the staff, but clearly do not, or the buffoon who turns in late, can’t wait to go home and wishes you were not there???? – The problem and the cause of the problem clearly lies with the company who employs them – To many new members of staff, training starts on day one with a guided tour of the business premises, with emphasis on the coat peg, kettle and with a bit of luck how to use the till – Beyond that, very little training exists – The buffoon thinks this is great, and at 11.15 when the phone rings, he is straight into it, the fully trained, motivated and professional sales person with a great big future ahead of him – Unfortunately, you the customer, spoil all of this – You ring your local store, interested in spending your hard earned income on the latest goodies – Your phone call goes something like this:

Customer – “do you stock the new GT5 by XYZ” ?

Buffoon – “I dunno – I’ve only just started working here, let me ask a fellow buffoon” (at this stage a whole load of scenarios will or could happen – Who does he turn to for help, does he have a look to see if it is in stock, but where does he look, does he even know what it is or what it looks like ? – You could be waiting a while for him to gather the appropriate information and come back to the phone).

Buffoon finally reappears – ” Yes we’ve got em”.

Customer – “How much is it” ?

Buffoon – “I dunno – let me go and ask another buffoon”.

Buffoon then reappears – “it’s ¬£369”.

Customer – “does that price include the split differential output valve suppressor”?

Buffoon – Now with his favourite phrase – “I dunno – Let me go an ask buffoon the specialist”.

By now I am sure you’ve got the gist of this conversation, you’ve probably read the book and seen the movie – Unfortunately for all concerned, when you go to visit the store a little later that day, of all the staff who work there, who do you get to serve you????? – WRONG ANSWER – It looks and sounds like the same buffoon you spoke to on the phone earlier, but it is in fact buffoon 2, who started 3 months ago – Has received no additional training, whose wages and commission is so poor (surprise, surprise) that he is already thinking of jacking in the job – And he now comes to serve you.

Buffoon 2 – “yeah, what do ya want”?

Customer – “I rang up earlier about the GT5 by XYZ and I’ve come to buy one” (I now hope you’ve only come to buy it, because if you ask to try it or require information about some features it may possess, then God help all of us).

Buffoon 2 – “don’t think we’ve got any of them”.

Customer – “when I rang up earlier, your colleague stated that you had them in stock”

Buffoon 2 – “I dunno – who did you speak to you”?

Yes I know, this scenario can keep going for along while yet- The customer is clearly getting exasperated, you simply want to buy the GT5 – So lets simply move on a little bit, and see where the future is going for the buffoon.

After working for 3 months, with a bit of luck he might have moved on a little, read a couple of articles in a guitar magazine, spoken to a representative from one of the leading manufacturers and surprise  surprise, is going to go on a one day training course, but his induction, training and development from his employers has not even started РThere are now going to be 2 options Р1) he leaves, which you might think is best for all concerned РWRONG РLook who they have recruited to replace him Р2) He stays a little longer, and a few months go by, and WOW GUESS WHAT !!!! РBuffoon 2 has left and he has been offered promotion РBased solely on the fact that he is the only option available to the company.

I do genuinely feel sorry for the buffoon, after all it is not his fault that no training has been provided for product knowledge, or customer service, so he is clearly unaware of the companies marketing strategy and other policies, or indeed how to use the appropriate admin systems – What actually baffles me is many of these companies spend a small fortune on the business premises, with shop fitting and epos systems, as well as the stock inventory – Yet the investment they make towards the staff for training is less than the cash you have in your pocket right now – That is why I hate the claims “knowledgeable and trained staff” etc as detailed earlier.


This corporate claim starts right at the very top – In the senior management meeting, in the sales meeting, with the owner and manager discussing new policies – They start of with all good intentions – The desire to have a customer service program, coupled with staff training and induction manual, starts off with all good intentions – They post this new exciting claim to the web site, add it to the advert, and may even have a supplier representative to visit the store and provide a half hour talk – However the reality is far removed from the boardroom desire – The larger the company, the more distant the senior management, owner, MD or senior staff, are from the shop floor – If they do not work on the shop floor, they are totally unaware of the performance and inadequacies of the staff, as well as the poor customer service the company is providing – As a result any training is poor, insufficient and not appropriate – Worst is yet to come, as a few weeks down the line, other company problems arise, meaning the training goes to the bottom of the pile – They do not have the time to commit to it and do not wish to invest in additional resources to provide the required training program – As a result, you the customer are continually let down and are provided with inadequate service.

Sometimes I visit other music stores and on such a recent visit I arrived at 9.45, only to find the door still shut – Hanging on the door was a message “for your convenience we will not open today until 10am as we are providing staff training” – How can opening late today, be for my convenience – It is bloody inconvenient having to go away and then come back later – If you are going to do the training at those hours that is fine – But do not tell the customer it is for their convenience – I bet they find it very convenient hanging around in the cold, wet damp waiting for Buffoon to be given some informal training – Even this training that they receive is often not structured and certainly not part of a regular programmed course – More on the grounds of ‘let’s open late today and talk about a few issues that we need to address that we will not implement anyway”.

I am not concerned with how companies treat their staff or to what level of training they provide – That is their prerogative – I just detest these false corporate crap claims – The front line of the company is the shop floor or the phone – The level of service that is provided to you by the front line staff is a total reflection of what the company represents.

A few examples of common and poor customer service are: