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Things Fish Store Employees Should Know

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Go on any major aquarium fish forum and you'll notice a lot of disdain for some of the major pet stores and fish stores. This is disturbing on several fronts. The major chains seem to be popping up all over the place, displacing the smaller Mom and Pop shops who simply can't compete with the larger chains because of the discounts they get from bulk purchases and more streamlined operations. One of the major drawbacks from this trend is the knowledge that is being lost at the point of sale. We need a poll on this, but we'd be willing to bet that if given a choice between purchasing from a Mom and Pop local fish store or from one of the major chain pet stores, most would choose the Mom and Pop shop.

Along with the proliferation of the big box marts comes a decreasing level of customer service. Pay people crappy wages and you'll get what we have today - miserable customer service. It's hard to fault the store employees at these chain stores. They just want to do their jobs, collect their check and go home. Many are high school students or retirees. Stores provide little to no on the job training. This is unfortunate but the good news is that this situation is easily remedied.

Think of the difference it would make if these stores would spend just 4 hours training their fish and aquarium clerks on some of the basic concepts in fishkeeping. These educated employees would be able to better help customers with questions. Yeah, it could lead to less short-term sales, but the increase in long-term customers who continue in the hobby because of better information sharing would outweigh these short-term losses. It seems that most major corporations are only concerned with short-term gains and could care less about the future. The potential for an aquarium fish specialty store that provides good advice and good customer service with an online presence seems great.

Ok, we've ranted long enough. Let's get to the gravy. Below we've compiled the recommendations from Fish Lore forum members on what they wish/think fish store employees should know. You won't come across more devoted aquarium hobbyists that provide exceptional care for their fishes than Fish Lore members. They are the best and go out of their way to help each other. A truly remarkable group of fine folks.

We've paraphrased their recommendations and hopefully we've captured the basic concepts. You can read the posts on the forum thread: Things Fish Store Employees Should Know

If you own a fish store this should be very interesting to you. After all, these are your customers telling you what they want.

Things Fish Store Employees Should Know

  • They should know the basic requirements of the fish species they are selling. Provide a description of the species, necessary foods, water parameters, compatible tank mates, etc.

  • Know the temperaments of the fish they are selling. Know which species can go in community tanks, which need species only tanks, which are mildly aggressive, etc.

  • Know the adult size of the species and try to convince customers not to get them if they don't have a large enough tank.

  • Know the schooling species and make recommendations on how many they should get based on the customer's tank size.

  • Know of any "special needs" of the species they are selling. Does this fish only go after live foods? Is it an obligate corallivore? Does it do best in soft, acidic water conditions? Is it really a brackish species?

  • Know how to determine the gender of fish species (when able to determine from external differences). Many, many customers are interested in this for various reasons. Some want to breed them. Some don't want them to breed and they need to know how to sex the species they are interested in purchasing.

  • Know about the Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle. This should be one of the first things taught to new employees. Don't even think about selling a whole bunch of fish to people who have just set up their tank. Especially steer your customers away from less hardy species in new tank setups. Instead of making a fish sale, sell them the cycle starting products such as Bio Spira.

  • Know about overstocking a tank and why customers don't want to do this. Question the customer on their current tank setups. What fish are they currently keeping? Are they already overstocked? Don't sell them another fish to make things worse. Warn them about the risk they are taking by keeping their aquarium overstocked.

  • Know that they need to remove any dead or diseased fish immediately from display tanks. Also, what if stores were to keep fish in quarantine tanks for 2 weeks before selling them? Let the stores treat diseased fish and not the customers. This is one area that could lead to huge gains in customer satisfaction.

  • Know how to identify fish diseases and how to treat fish diseases. Be able to explain to customers that come in with questions on their sick fish what to do about it. Steer them to products that can help.

  • Warn about the prolific breeding that some of the live bearers are known for. Warn the customer that if they get males and females that they could soon have babies and that they need to be prepared for when this happens. Try to sell them all males or all females of live bearers.

  • Know that this is not a typical sales position. You are selling live animals that people may form bonds with. If you're not up-front and forthright from the get go you could have some very angry customers on your hands if you can't provide timely or even correct information. Don't be afraid to tell the customer that you don't know something. Say something like "I don't know, but let me find out." Then go ask a co-worker.

  • Pay attention to who your regular customers are. Chances are they are rather knowledgable when it comes to fish keeping. Pick their brains, ask them questions. Most would be happy to chat about their fish and aquariums and you could learn something in the process that could help you in a future sales situation.

  • Know about the tons of helpful and free web sites online (cough, cough - that customers and employees can turn to when they need help or information.

  • Know minimum tank sizes needed. This one kind of goes with one of the items posted above. Don't sell folks goldfish if they have a small half gallon bowl. We need to stop this practice. This only leads to a short term sale and an often dissatisfied customer. Wouldn't it be better both from a sales perspective and from a fish health perspective to steer the customer towards that 20 gallon setup kit for their goldfish?

  • Know about the equipment they are selling. Read up on filters, heaters, protein skimmers and the pros and cons of each. Be proactive and try to help your customer make an informed purchasing decision.

  • Know the various fish species you're selling on sight. That way if a customer asks, you know right away whether or not you have them in stock.

  • Know how to catch fish quickly. Use two nets instead of one when trying to catch a fish. Remove any big aquarium decorations from the tank first. Don't over stress the fish!

  • Know about the medications you're selling. Which can be used with invertebrates (very few) and which can not, etc. Tell the customer about removing the carbon from their filtration systems and turn off protein skimmers when using meds.

  • Know about ways to quickly and effectively euthanize a fish.

  • Last but not least, have a customer suggestion box. Learn from your customers. You may get some fantastic ideas on how to provide better customer service. After all, your customers are keeping you in business.

These are some of the helpful suggestions that the FishLore members have come up with thus far. These are all great ideas and realize that if your company doesn't do these things that you're opening the door for a company that will.

If you'd like to participate in this discussion head on over to the forum. We don't want this to be negative in any way. We are just concerned fish keepers that realize something needs to be done to improve the current situation.

Thanks for reading!

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