New Jersey Retailer Debbie Schaeffer On Why Skills Matter

A third generation owner of an 81 year-old retail business knows a thing or two about what makes a business succeed. For Debbie Schaeffer, President and CEO of Mrs. G’s in Lawrence Township, New Jersey, equipping employees with training and skills to deliver quality customer service is a key to success.

Looking back to the lessons she learned from her grandparents who started the business in 1935, Debbie said that, “if we didn’t have customers, we wouldn’t be in business” and noted how committed her parents were to their employees and their role in mentoring staff.

For the 25 employees at Mrs. G’s, all play an important part of the customer service experience. Working with staff to develop skills is not limited to operating a cash register. Debbie knows the value in developing basic skills, like smiling while helping a customer over the phone, to the more modern skills needed today like operating a store website, blog and social media accounts. The eight people on her sales team now use iPads on the store floor to have product information right at their fingertips to help customers find the exact information they need.

Debbie also explained how being part of a national co-op allows a small business like hers to provide employees access to training programs to help them continue to develop new skills in the areas of financing, accounting, marketing, inventory, operating a truck and others.

Tom Gray, the store’s general manager for more than four decades, also spoke to the value of the skills developed working in retail: “Over 40 years what is constant is change, we need to constantly change to meet the challenges of today’s customer. Today everything moves a high speed and our customer’s expectations are what we focus on, to meet the demands of a new generation who have instant access to information on their phone. We need to keep our products fresh, up to date and our sales staff trained. It’s all about creating a positive customer experience today.” Gray not only speaks from his own experience, but his son is also a general manager at the store after working at Mrs. G’s during high school and college breaks.

It is tough to imagine what appliances will be capable of doing another 80 years from now, but the Mrs. G’s tradition of placing a premium value on employees and the customers they serve will continue to help the store stand the test of time.