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Snowden’s Jewelers

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Wilmington, NC

[dropcap cap=E]very few years Chris Snowden takes his family to Disney World. For his daughter and wife it’s a chance to enjoy the rides and Florida Sun. For Snowden it’s a chance to learn.

“They’re the best. They have 38,000 employees and they are all on the same page,” he says, marveling at the amusement park’s processes that enable it to deliver a consistently terrific experience to the tens of millions of customers who pass through its gates every year.

“Every jewelry store claims that what sets it apart is exceptional customer service. They’re wrong. Customers’ minimum expectation is good customer service. Customer service has to be exceptional,” he says. And the key to ensuring every customer is wowed, he believes, is a strong management system, like the one at Disney World that guides almost every employee behavior.

For the last few years, Snowden and his manager, Patrick Giarelli, have been refining their own code to ensure that things are done right at his store. The Snowden’s Standard, as it has become known, dictates such things as greeting customers within 10 seconds, offering toclean their jewelry, sending thank-you
notes as well as more involved behaviors, like maintaining a customer profile book, which includes personal details, such as whether the client may have a son in med school.

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“Everything revolves around the relationship,” Snowden, a second-generation jeweler says, noting that this is independent retailers’ great advantage over chain stores.

The Standards are supported by training (every Wednesday morning), education (the store reimburses all course fees), and finally and probably most important, follow-up. If sales staff stray from the procedures — for example, if they don’t have their customer profiles updated after an interaction with a customer — they are nudged back on course.

The purpose of the procedures is not to rob sales associates of their personality or individual flair but to ensure minimum standards are maintained.

“(Patrick and I) standardized the things we knew increased our sales and put them into practice. To me, consistency is the secret to getting better.

That’s the point of systemization.” The final part of the puzzle to encourage staff to embrace the Standards is the carrot. Snowden’s uses an aggressive incentive system that sets demanding targets for the sales staff. The quotas are based on the store’s previous five years of sales with incremental growth of 12 percent built in. Sales associates start accruing monthly bonuses when they hit 50 per cent of their quota under a system structured to ensure commission accounts for about 50 percent of payroll.

“At that level, staff are making money for the store and not costing it money,” Snowden says.

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And based on the past few years, Snowden’s staff has clearly been making money for the store. Sales last year were up 44 percent to $1.4 million, following an increase of 12 percent in 2009. The store basically trod water when the recession hit in 2008, with sales slipping 3-4 percent. This year Snowden is expecting sales growth of 12 percent. Snowden’s next goal is to replicate his Standards at a second store. It may be the beginning of his own Magic Kingdom. — CHRIS BURSLEM

[span class=note]This story is from the Novem 2011 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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