Bookseller Article

Got Staff Problems?

Running a bookstore is a full time job. Knowing your stock, answering questions, supplying books to your customers and checking them out, not to mention the general worries of "is this building going to fall apart?" can take a lot out of a manger. With so much going on, sometimes it's hard to remember that a staff can make or break a bookstore.

A cranky staff will drive away customers. An uninformed staff will eat away at your customer loyalty. And an inattentive staff will keep first time customers from returning. But how do you combat these common staff problems?

Cranky staff members - Encourage your staffers to stay positive on the sales floor. Let them know that you are interested in their feedback. Keep an open door, let them know they can come to you with staffing issues and encourage them to give you feedback about where they see your store can be stronger. One easy way to do this is to incorporate their ideas into your book displays. And remember both your staff and your customers benefit from a "Staff Picks" display!

Uninformed staff members - No one has time to read everything, but there are many ways to get your staff members to learn about titles outside of their usual genre. In your break room you can put up top ten lists of each person's favorite books, with the book's genre next to the title. You can also cultivate staff member specialties, like "Whitney The Romance Girl" so that both customers and staff members have a resource for good recommendations. Try challenging your staff members to read one book out of a new genre each month.

Inattentive staff members - One of the ways to encourage your staff members to be attentive to customers is by having them walk through the store and check the shelves while there is a lull in other store tasks. By fostering a staff that is easily accessible to your customers, you will have increased the amount of opportunities for your staff and customers to develop relationships. Ultimately it is the staff member-customer relationships that will keep your staff members attentive to your customers rather than to each other.

And remember, cranky, un-informed, and inattentive staff members are only a symptom of the illness. Try getting your staff together for a potluck dinner or bringing in donuts some morning. When in doubt, this former bookstore employee always suggests you try to woo your staff with treats!

-Whitney Kate Sullivan, RT Web Assistant Editor and bookstore staff member for seven years