It's no secret that educating prospective customers on how to make the most of a product increases both sales and satisfaction after the sale. Mickey Robertaccio, owner of Sandy Hollow Herb Company, in Wilmington, Del., recommends the following techniques to increase customer knowledge:

Offer classes for a nominal fee. Select topics from customer requests. "Customers are amazed by the number of uses for a single herb," asserts Robertaccio. "The classes really help them get the most out of their purchases." They also function as a form of market research. By paying attention to customer interests and questions, staff learn how to provide better service.

Create ministores within the store. Each of these ministores can be staffed with a specialist. While staff can answer basic questions about all areas of the store, customers are more likely to engage in conversation with people who project expertise in a specific area, such as folk healing or aromatherapy.

Send newsletters to customers. Most companies are adamant about maintaining a consistent look and feel to each issue of a newsletter. Robertaccio takes a different approach. Three times a year, different staff members write the newsletter. The process of producing a newsletter is developmental for employees. Customers feel connected to employees, because each issue conveys the unique knowledge and personality of the writer. These ties are reinforced when customers with questions seek out the writer on their next visit to the store.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing