Let’s start by acknowledging that working at an adult boutique is not like working in your typical retail setting. For instance, not all retail stores have the potential to save a marriage. By promoting sexual wellness and providing basic sex education, customer service plays a key role in the sex toy industry, where an optimized shopping experience not only builds a better rapport with your clientele, but encourages them to come back time and time again.
The challenge lies in learning how to initiate intimate and sensitive conversations surrounding sex. While the subject has certainly become less taboo over the years, talking to a complete stranger about your kinks, questions and insecurities is not an easy feat, and pulling this information out of a potential customer is even harder. So how do we broach this subject without having shoppers head for the hills?
Lube them up.
Like any other retail space, always start with a simple acknowledgement and friendly greeting. Remember that this is a safe, inclusive environment, and you want to make the customer feel welcomed and at ease. Depending on their response, you should be able to determine whether the customer is receptive and looking for an interactive experience, or if they simply need some more warming up.
Warm-up question: “Do you currently have any toys for the bedroom?”
Although a close-ended question, this helps to get a grasp on the customer’s comfort level. One-word answers should be followed up with more probing questions, but if the one-word answers continue, give them some more time to browse.
Pro tip: Always be within eyesight! Nothing discourages a customer more than having to look or search for someone once they’ve worked up the courage to ask for help. This also helps with theft prevention.
Remember, honesty is your best policy. Whether that means forewarning your clients that things may get a little personal, or letting them know about your specific store policies, your openness and honesty will encourage them to reciprocate, ultimately providing a safe, judgment-free environment where shoppers are encouraged to ask questions and step outside of their comfort zone.
If a customer approaches you with a question that is out of your area of expertise, have no fear; customers love humility. A simple “I’m not too sure about that, but let’s find out!” goes a long way, showcasing your dedication and determination to help. When in doubt, a little Google search never hurt anyone. This can help clarify things and get a conversation going. If you’re still at a loss, offer another solution. Does a coworker of yours know a little bit more about the subject? The customer will remember your effort and appreciate your dedication. Remember, loyalty is built on meaningful experiences.
Pro tip: Share stories about how and where your products are made. Sharing this information not only provides an opportunity to educate shoppers, but also gives them a more in-depth experience, making it easier for them to trust your expertise.
As we all know, sex is a subjective experience unique to everyone. One size does not fit all, but due to the nature of the business, novelty items tend to be final sale. Encourage staff to inspect all products at the time of purchase, giving clients a quick demonstration before they leave the premises. This will minimize the potential of selling a defective product while also giving the customer a quick rundown of how the product works.
Pro tip: Always keep a bestseller on the floor in every department. That way, when a customer slows down in a certain section of the store, you can break the ice by giving them a hands-on demonstration.
Sales Associate Roles to Avoid
The Helicopter: A sales associate who stops everything they are doing to watch the customer’s every move, interjecting every time they reach for a toy, and leaves customers feeling like they are being monitored, judged and even singled out. This is an intimate experience and should be treated as such.
The Nosy Nancy: A sales associate who keeps asking questions to fill the silence. This is another type of helicoptering, but implies pressure to purchase. This can feel suffocating and ultimately may push the customer out the door.
As in any industry, the key to gaining a loyal following is through impeccable customer service. This is especially important when competing with the world of online shopping. Despite the challenge of the subject matter, customers need to feel comfortable, heard and safe when it comes to retail shopping at an adult boutique, where a thoughtful, well-trained staff can make all the difference.