Lloyd: Deli, Bakery Depts. Should Improve Service

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Harold Lloyd's seminar at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's 2009 Seminar & Expo this week will focus on how to make the most of a sales transaction, but Lloyd told SN he may to have to revise his plan and start with basics. The consultant, and former retailer and restaurateur, said he had planned, for instance, to suggest sales boosters like scheduling short demos

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Harold Lloyd's seminar at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's 2009 Seminar & Expo this week will focus on how to make the most of a sales transaction, but Lloyd told SN he may to have to revise his plan and start with basics.

The consultant, and former retailer and restaurateur, said he had planned, for instance, to suggest sales boosters like scheduling short demos into every shift to give customers a taste of what's offered in the bakery.

“I was going to recommend that every four hours, an associate walk around for a few minutes with a tray of cookies, but I've changed my mind. My preliminary research was so discouraging,” Lloyd said.

“I'm shocked. Not just surprised, but shocked. Out of 80 visits to bakeries and delis, my researchers found most associates just barely acknowledged them, and 10% ignored them completely.”

Lloyd said he found remedial work is badly needed. Never mind the demos, he said. Not one associate observed did any better than saying, “May I help you?”

As he has done in the past, Lloyd drafted his family to do some observing in the Virginia Beach area, where such retailers as Harris Teeter, Farm Fresh, Food Lion, Bloom, Fresh Market and Wal-Mart have stores.

“We had a range of ages represented. Three generations. My daughters, my wife and my mother-in-law were to visit deli, bakery and dairy departments at different stores at different times of the day for a total of 100 visits to see how long it took to be waited on,” Lloyd told SN.

“Remember, three generations were represented and they all look pretty good. But they all got the same response.

Eight out of 80 completely ignored them.”

“That's 10%. Sometimes the associate looked up, and went back to icing the cake, or to whatever she had been doing. It was as if they hoped the customer wouldn't say anything. They didn't want to be interrupted. In dairy departments, nobody said anything to my researchers. Usually nobody was there.”

Granted, the sample is small and not statistically significant. Also, only 80 of the 100 visits had been completed when SN talked to Lloyd last week.

“But this certainly gives us some insight into what's going on. Flat out, my conclusion is that bakery and deli associates are completely production-oriented and don't care anything about selling product,” Lloyd said. “Maybe they don't think that's their job. If that's true, that's the fault of management. Well, it's the fault of management anyway.”

Lloyd talked about Moe's, a quick-service restaurant, and Cold Stone Creamery, both of which have their associates communicating well with customers, he said.

“You walk into Moe's or the Creamery and they greet you, saying welcome, and all that. I checked. Those associates are not paid any more than our deli associates are,” Lloyd said, pointing out that it's not money that makes the difference.

“It's probably lack of training. Starbucks gives its associates 40 hours of training. In deli and bakery, we [in the supermarket business] give our associates an average of eight hours.

“Management should at least give associates a target to shoot for.”

Instead of a production quota, a sales quota might be a better target, he suggested.

Interacting with customers would be a worthy goal — in fact, Lloyd said that supermarket customers buy 21% more when there is some type of interaction with an associate or a manager.

“During her observations last week, my wife actually heard a store manager congratulate his deli manager for cutting her man-hour budget by 10 hours,” Lloyd said.

“That's while my wife was standing there, being ignored by both the store manager and the deli manager. It's hard to believe, but true. They're congratulating themselves for cutting back associates' hours while customers stand around waiting to be acknowledged, and then leave without being waited on.”

Lloyd added that management often seems to be so grateful when an associate shows up for work that they don't want to rock the boat.

“They're not about to give associates who showed up, maybe even on time, an added responsibility like requiring them to talk to strangers.”

Lloyd's presentation at IDDBA's Dairy-Deli-Bakery 2009 Seminar & Expo is billed as “Holy Donuts, Batman. Two Dozen Ways to Raise Dairy-Deli-Bakery Sales Without Spending Too Much Dough.”

Lloyd, who has been a speaker at IDDBA's annual event for years, always gets high marks from seminar attendees, IDDBA sources told SN.

“Harold has a very loyal following in the retail arena, because he has walked in their shoes,” IDDBA Executive Director Carol Christison said earlier.