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From gourmet braai to kidney pie – customer service matters

Choosing the right staff and managing them well is key to retail success.

It doesn’t matter if you sell fillet for a gourmet braai or the filling for a kidney pie – service is crucial in retaining retail customers across the income spectrum. 

“You have to respect your customers and recognise that they are valuable,” says Lina de Sousa, MD of Roots Butchery in Pinetown. “They pay your salary. Our customers know that they are not just a number here.”

The butchery sells meat products and other foodstuffs, and caters to customers from lower- to middle-income segments. De Sousa and her husband joined the Roots Group, a retail and wholesale butchery, in 2016 when they opened Roots Pinetown. They were experienced in the retail sector after owning a supermarket in Johannesburg, which they sold so they could move to the coast.

“We joined the Roots Group because we are passionate about retail and passionate about the brand. We believe that quality products and excellent service is what keeps our customers coming back.”

Despite its target market, the butchery has attracted enough shoppers from higher-income groups to now open a second store, Roots Pinecrest, to focus on this market segment.

“We opened the second store based on demand from some of our customers for a more upmarket offering in an area that is more conveniently located for them. Higher-end customers know exactly what they want. They are more brand conscious and want greater variety.”

But De Sousa says customers from lower-income market segments are just as discerning. “Shoppers in this segment may be less brand conscious but they are still very focused on quality and value. They are willing to buy lesser-known brands, but only if it is good quality.”

With two butcheries to manage, it’s tricky to pin De Sousa down for an interview. She warns that hours in the retail sector are long. Passion and dedication are important prerequisites for anyone who wants to succeed.

“If you want to start your own business, you need to be strong and must be a good leader. It is important to have a good relationship with your staff and treat them with respect. You have to set clear boundaries and sometimes you have to be tough, or people will walk all over you.”

She dismisses the idea that running a business or being a strong leader is more difficult for women entrepreneurs than their male counterparts. “I don’t think it is any more difficult to run a business as woman. In today’s world, women can achieve anything men can. If I speak to my staff, I know they will listen to me because they respect me.”

She says hiring the right people – and managing them well – is important to maintain the right level of customer service.

“One of the biggest challenges any business owner faces is finding the right people with the right attitude and work ethic. If our staff don’t treat our customers well, they won’t come back. I was extremely proud when instead of complaining, a customer had used HelloPeter to give us a five-star rating for customer service and quality.”

De Sousa say another important aspect of running a business – especially in a tough economic environment – is managing its finances well.

“If you don’t manage the financial aspects of the business well, you will not succeed and you can get into trouble very quickly. For example, if you don’t pay your suppliers on time you won’t be able to continue getting credit from them.”

She says tougher economic times mean customers are more focused on price and value for money than ever before. “The current environment is challenging for all businesses, but you just have to keep going. You have to be creative and find new ways to keep your customers coming back. As a retailer, you also have to be more careful about where you buy from so you can give your savings back to the customer.”

The greater buying power and increased ability to negotiate with suppliers, that comes with being a part of a franchise network, becomes a key advantage, says De Sousa.

The training the Roots Group offers franchisee staff is another benefit, and access to a support network of other franchisees is just as valuable.

“The people in the group are more like family,” she says. “We meet every month as a group of franchisees to share ideas and put our heads together on how we can improve. Everyone is always there for each other.”

Brought to you by Nedbank Franchising.

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