BALTIMORE -- The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association previewed the first course in its new five-part bakery training series at its annual seminar and exposition held here earlier this month.
Miller Lavengood, director of bakery products at Supervalu, Minneapolis; and Tom Rains, vice president and general manager of in-store retail bakery at Pillsbury Bakeries & Foodservice, Minneapolis, introduced the first segment of the training program that will include videos and accompanying workbooks.
The course, which is specifically designed for training "front-of-the-house" associates, shows how to determine customer needs and how to build friendly service.
The first video in the series, called "Service That Sells," shows a bakery staffer in situations in which she provides bad customer service or none at all and then in action after she has been gently corrected.
As Lavengood put it, "She had missed a great opportunity to suggestive sell, which associates should be doing all the time." In the film, the training manager puts her back on track.
The first sequence, or "wrong" way, shows the staffer stacking loaf cakes and packages of doughnuts diligently while a would-be customer stands nearby obviously seeking the employee's attention. But she goes on stacking.
The potential customer finally says, "I'm having a brunch and I'm wondering what to serve." The staffer, looking bored, says something like, "Any of these are good."
In putting the employee on the right track, the training manager suggests she think in these terms: F-A-S-T. F is for "find out what the situation is." A is for "ask preferences." S is for "suggest two choices." And T is for "talk about each one."
After the coaching, the employee is shown back in the department. This time, when a potential customer inquires about cakes, the employee asks if the cake is to be for a special occasion, and what the customer's preference in flavors is. She then suggests two different items and talks about the ingredients in them.
"In the lemon custard filling, there's fresh grated lemon peel added for extra taste," she says as she describes a lemon-coconut cake.
In addition to suggestive selling and meeting a customer's special needs, the video also includes information on handling customer complaints.
The film narrator points out that an unhappy customer usually tells at least 10 people about an unpleasant experience, while only 30% report the situation to anyone connected with the store.
The film also points out that it's been found that 70% of customers will switch stores if their complaint isn't handled rightly. But nine out of 10 will remain loyal to the store if their complaints are handled properly.
In this portion of the video, the associate is advised to think C-A-L-M. C is for "stay cool. Don't get defensive. Just listen. The unhappy customer just needs to be heard," the trainer tells the associate.
A is for "apologize." L is for "listen with empathy." The trainer says, "Try to put yourself in the customer's shoes."
Then, M is for "make it right." Whether it's a refund, an exchange or whatever the store's policy is, it should be done without hesitation, it is emphasized.
The series' four other courses -- on product knowledge, food safety, product care, and merchandising and managing the department -- are in the process of being developed under the direction of Mary Kay O'Connor, IDDA's education director.
The project was spurred by strong positive response to IDDA's training program for delis, said Carol Christison, IDDA executive director, in an earlier interview.
"We're doing this at the request of retailers who are using the deli program and began asking us when we're going to do something like it for bakery," she said.
This first course segment includes a video, one participant manual and one leader's guide. The price for IDDA members is $85 and for nonmembers, $200. For more information, call (608) 238-7908.