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Only One Out of Fourteen Said Hello

Over the last few weeks I’ve visited some big malls. Call it field research. These malls have been busy, packed with customers. These malls are also packed with stores you’ve read about that are struggling and closing locations around the country. I saw a fair amount of Going Out of Business signs. One mall is losing its Macy’s. Another has a Sears and a JC Penney as anchors. I’m sure the leasing agents are nervous.

In my last two trips I visited fourteen stores in those malls.

Only one greeted me with a sincere hello.

Only one made me feel welcome and tried to connect with me instead of bombard me with sales pitches. Only one asked me a question that wasn’t a version of “Can I help you?” or “What brings you in?”. Heck, some of them never interacted with me at all.

The traffic was there in the mall. The mall owner had done his job. The food court and the Starbucks seemed to be making sales. But there were a lot of other sales being left on the table by the untrained sales teams.

Here is a quick recap of the experience…

Six of the stores never greeted me at all. I entered the store. Looked around. Touched a couple items. Walked out. No one said hello or hi or welcome or thanks for coming in. It wasn’t that these stores were necessarily busy. Maybe they were a bit understaffed, but there are still ways to teach your staff to greet new customers even when engaged with someone. Maybe they couldn’t afford enough staff because they weren’t training their staff how to sell. Either way, I left feeling neglected.

Five of the stores greeted me with some form of,  “Can I help you?” or “What brings you in?” In all five cases I responded with the two words you never want a customer to say – Just Looking. I verbalized out loud that I was NOT there to buy. I told everyone including myself I was only browsing.

One store shoved a coupon in my hand for 20% off their already 40% off discounted prices. I guess they don’t value their merchandise very highly. Or maybe they could see I was a transactional customer and needed that little push to get me to pull the trigger? Oh wait. How could they know that considering they hadn’t asked me a single question? I will give this store credit in that every single person on their team approached me at least once during my walk through their store. They had a willingness and desire to sell, if not the actual training on how to do it properly. As misguided as it was, at least it was better than the indifference other stores had shown.

Only one store, however, greeted me with a sincere hello. This gal greeted me as if I had just entered her house. She was in the process of straightening up a display. She stopped, greeted me with enthusiasm, and started a conversation. Pretty soon we were sharing stories of trips to Florida and Phoenix and anywhere warmer than Detroit. Shortly after that I was asking her questions about product that wasn’t just, “Do you have this size in back?” We were engaged in conversation. We were engaged in getting to know each other. When she offered to show me something new she was excited about, I immediately said Yes!  I learned about a product I never would have known otherwise, never would have searched for online, never would have considered if she hadn’t first made a connection.

That is the “shopping experience” customers visiting malls and shopping centers and downtowns are craving. That is the shopping experience that gets people to come back and bring their friends. That is the shopping experience that makes your cash registers ring. Everything else is just a transaction, more easily done on a computer.

The traffic is there. You just need to connect.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you were counting, there was one store I didn’t mention. Actually it was a food kiosk. If you run a food kiosk that regularly has a line of customers, can you please make it obvious where the line starts and how it should form? Please? Don’t make me guess where to stand. Don’t make me guess where to place the order. Don’t make me stand where people have to keep cutting through me to get past me.

2 comments

  1. Donna says:

    Had the same experience right after Christmas in what used to be our “IT” mall. My two friends and I went in and quickly decided in this graveyard of a mall that we each needed to go to different stores, but would meet when finished with our individual shopping at one I particularly wanted to visit because their chain had just been on Undercover Boss.

    I went directly to that store. It’s a big store, with two halves divided with an archway. All three people that were working at the time were on the side opposite the entrance. I came in, and immediately started browsing…taking shirts off wall racks to check sizing…struggling with reaching some things because I’m short. I purposefully walked that entire half of the store, touching…looking…obviously an interested potential buyer.
    Not once was I approached…heck, they didn’t even yell out “Hi, welcome to….”

    Then, I moved onto the side with the three workers who were now all huddled back by the cash wrap doing who knows what. Again, I purposefully moved through the entire side of the store – even walking super close to the cash wrap twice. I was dumbfounded.

    Then, one of my friends came in. Same thing. Finally, the third friend entered – same – and we all left without ANY of us being acknowledged. It was evident that shoppers weren’t necessarily important in this store.

    Good luck, people. Being on Undercover Boss gained you absolutely nothing.

    • Phil Wrzesinski says:

      I’m beginning to wonder, with all the “sales training” programs out there if the problem is a lack of good “manager training” programs, and managers don’t know how to find the right staff and train them the right way. One of my former employees worked for a big retail chain and they offered zero training. Zero. Null. Nada. Nothing. More importantly, the store manager made very managing mistake known as if she was writing a “what-not-to-do” manifesto with her life.

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