Turnpike Comfort Footwear, Queens, NY Q&A with Steven Rueda
“It starts at the top, with myself, my brother and my store manager. I’ve always been under the impression that if you provide the consumer with courteous, professional and ethical service, you’d be successful. That’s even more pertinent today, because I think consumers are thirsting for human interaction. A greeting at the door, an offering of a drink, a handshake, a personal heartfelt thank you for your business. These are the things we stress on a daily basis and that are supported by constant managerial supervision. We always have a manager and/or an owner on the ﬂoor.”
“We have weekly meetings. We always start with customer service and discuss the fol-lowing: What did we do right, what did we do wrong and what can we do better? Then we move on to product. What’s new, what are the features and beneﬁts and how they apply to our customers? Where the shoes are made, how they are made and the company’s history. You can be the nicest person in the world, but if you don’t know what you are selling and why, then you aren’t providing the optimal service. We want our associ-ates to have an emotional connection to the product, to be excited about the product and transmit that emotion and excitement to the customer. This is everyone, not only the sales associates, but also our Point-of-Sale person, our IT person, even the bookkeeper. Everyone gets involved.”
“My manager has been with me for 20 years, since he was 16. We do extremely well hiring college students. They are sponges, bright and eager to learn. They have no preconceived ideas about our business or process-es, so we get to mold them into our perfect sales associate, doing it our way. We can get three to ﬁve years from college students. Sometimes, if they end up loving the job and the people they work with, we even get some to make it a career.”
“Our staff is very cognizant of competition from the Internet. They are inside of our management circle, not outside looking in, so they know the challenges we are facing. They are aware of vertical selling, Amazon, showrooming and Internet pricing issues. They know who our real partners are and where we make our money. It’s like everyone is an owner.
“Everyone is our competitor. Local retailers, vendors, Amazon and so on. Our biggest opportunity to compete is with customer service and because of this it’s our biggest challenge. Fortunately, our staff is humming, they love what they do and love coming to work. I attribute that to my store manager. He really makes our store a fun place to work. Of course, he missed his calling, he should have been a comedian.”
Tales from the Floor
“We had a gentleman that found us on Yelp and came in because of our reviews. He had a speciﬁc work shoe need that we couldn’t fulﬁll properly and we called a friend with a store 50 miles east of us that was able to ﬁll his needs. He was so appreciative that he wrote us a great review on Yelp about his interaction with our store. Sure enough, months later, he was traveling to Europe and came in to buy several pairs for his trip.”