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Category: Customer Expectations

Put Your Audience First

Which sentence do you prefer?

1. A good speaker should tell you all the things the speaker wants you to know.

2. A good speaker should tell you all the things you need to hear.

Those two sentences are not the same. In the margin lies the difference between a great presentation and a lousy one. I have sat through many presentations where the speaker obviously started with the question, “Hmmm … What should I say?” He’s asking the wrong question.

As I was setting up my two talks for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) for last Sunday, I had a lot of information to share. Both topics were about money. One was focused on financials, the other focused on inventory management. Lots of ground to potentially cover on both topics.

To put together my outline for each presentation I had to put myself in the shoes of the audience. I had to think like a typical store owner/manager. I had to ask the question, “What does she need to hear?” Then I followed up with, “How does she need to hear it?” and, “How will she best remember it?”

There were lots of things I wanted to say, but only when I looked at it through the lens of the person in the audience could I find what needed to be said. Just as important, when I looked at it that way, I found what to leave out. I had to put the audience’s needs ahead of my own ego and make sure the audience got what they needed from the presentation, more than just saying what I wanted to say.

It is the same principle I take with both advertising and customer service. What does the audience (customer) need to hear? This is the question you need to ask. Get it right and you will have a customer-focused business that is growing leaps and bounds. Get it wrong and people will get disinterested and leave early.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Note that I did not say what the audience “wanted” to hear. I said what they “need” to hear. There is a HUGE difference between those two words. Sometimes what they need to hear makes them uncomfortable. That’s okay. There is learning in the uncomfortable parts of life—especially when a skilled leader jumps in there with you and guides you back to safety (understanding).

PPS When you’re ready to hire a speaker that puts your audience’s needs ahead of his own, you need to give me a call.

“I Had to Argue to Get It”

My buddy Lenny and I were having a conversation last night at the industry party for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) event in Philadelphia. Lenny sells toys, specifically one of my favorite companies — Marky Sparky. Lenny and Mark(y) were regaling the story of being at a different toy show years ago and winning a free booth space for the following year. If you’re in the retail world, you know what a big deal that is for a vendor. Big savings.

Image result for marky sparkyThe only problem was … they weren’t invited to the following year’s show.

When they got invited to a later show, you can guess what happened—no one claimed to know anything about the free booth space they had won. Eventually they got their free booth space, but as Lenny said, “I had to argue to get it.”

Do you think they are excited to go back to this particular show? I sure wouldn’t be.

Mark and Lenny are a couple of the nicest guys in the toy industry. They won’t name names and they won’t say bad things. You have to do a lot to get them upset. This got them upset enough to share the story.

You have customers that are as sweet as apple pie. It takes a lot to anger them to the point they talk about it.

Here’s the catch. It doesn’t take a lot to get them to quietly walk away.

The point? If you offer a bonus, a gift w/purchase, a freebie of some kind, or any other special deal, honor that deal. Period. Don’t ever make your customers have to argue for it. The ones who do argue for it won’t ever be happy with you. The rest will simply walk away.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I hate fine print. If you are going to offer something special, make it simple enough so that everyone understands the rules without needing fine print. Then, whenever a customer feels like there was a loophole slanted against them, make it right before they feel they have to argue to get it. Not only will you keep a customer, but she’ll go to the mat to defend you in the future.

Use Your Flaws to Your Advantage

I was born and raised in Jackson, Michigan. I have spent 44 of my 50 years living in Jackson. Back in the late 1800’s Jackson was known as “Central City” because it was the hub to all the rail lines that ran through Michigan. As the railroad died out, Jackson became known as the “Prison City” because we were home to world’s largest walled maximum security prison. My high school co-ed softball team called ourselves the Prison City Inmates.

When I headed east to Ann Arbor for five years at The University of Michigan, the conversation with the new people I met went like this …

“Where are you from?”

“Jackson.”

“Oh, the prison.”

“Yep, just got out.”

When I moved back to Jackson after a year out west and a couple months up north, it dawned on me … Jackson has been hiding from the prison city moniker as though ashamed of our status in the world. Back in the mid-90’s I started telling city leaders they need to embrace that image and play it up, not shirk from it. Be who you are, warts and all. Embrace your downside. Use your flaws to your advantage.

Image result for kingman museum
Kingman Museum, Battle Creek, MI

Over the years I have given that same advice to other businesses.

Earlier today I met with the chairperson of a really cool museum and gave her the same advice. Use the fact that your museum looks more like a musty old mausoleum to your advantage. “Shhh … don’t tell your friends what you found behind these cold concrete walls.” They could have a whole lot of fun with that. It definitely would be memorable, and it would take what people already think about the museum, its biggest flaw, and make it a positive.

I saw the chairperson’s gears in her brain start whirring. I know she is going to run with it and I can’t wait to see how it looks.

If you want some more ideas on how to turn a negative into a positive, check out this post I wrote back in 2011 about the Pig & Trebuchet Brew Pub and their “Bad Table”.

Identify the most negative aspect of your business and use it to your advantage. First, just by talking about it, you admit that A) you’re human, and B) you’re not perfect. That, alone earns you trust. Second, by bringing your negative aspects to light, you manage the expectations so that they never really seems as bad as they are painted out to be. Third, the flaws are memorable because they are flaws you own. No one else has your flaws.

If Jackson had embraced the Prison City moniker years ago, and made it a focal point of their advertising and marketing, we wouldn’t be wallowing around feeling sorry we aren’t Ann Arbor. Conventional wisdom said hide the ugly and only show the pretty. Conventional wisdom has sunk many a marketing & advertising campaign because people know you have an ugly hiding somewhere. The more you hide it, the more they will go looking for it. Embrace it and make it your calling card. Then it becomes an asset.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS This is just one of the fun concepts we discuss in the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING workshop taking place Tuesday, June 20th. Sign up today and I’ll help you turn your negatives into positives (especially that bottom line.)

This is What Winning Looks Like

I was in Macy’s flagship store in New York City back in 1995. Seven floors of department store Nirvana. Everything you could ever imagine under one roof. I thumbed through sport coats of all sizes. Found several even bigger than the 50-Long I was wearing. They had everything … except a shirt that would fit me. My problem is that along with my wide shoulders I have long arms and a long torso. I need shirts that are sized “tall”. Even though they had at least a dozen jackets that would be too big for me, they only had one shirt my size in the entire 2.2 million square feet (a Ralph Lauren Pink Oxford for $110), and no shirts for those guys who would be wearing the bigger blazers.

But I’m not writing this to tell you about a store that failed me. I want to show you what “winning” looks like.

Along with the struggle of finding quality shirts that fit, I have run into a new problem. I am now allergic to a dye called Disperse Blue. It is found primarily in dark colored polyester fabrics. All those microfiber, dri-weave, quick-dry, ultra-soft, wicking fabrics I love are all off the plate in dark colors like navy or black or charcoal. This, after wearing a navy shirt almost every day for the last two decades!

Image result for dxl storeIn search of a new wardrobe, I walked into DXL in Ann Arbor. They specialize in big & tall sizes from brand names like Reebok, Adidas, Nike and Ralph Lauren. They also apparently specialize in customer service.

I was greeted pleasantly at the door by a couple of sales people. I told them my problem with Disperse Blue dyes and what I needed. While one salesperson led me around the store, the other got on the Internet and started researching the dyes used in her clothing brands. Not finding the info there, she called corporate offices. She didn’t get any answers (the corporate office was closed), but before I tried on my first item, she handed me a phone number to call that would be the most likely place to find out which shirts used Disperse Blue dyes and which did not.

I didn’t ask her to do any research. I was planning on buying light colors and/or 100% cotton to avoid the issue in the first place. But she went way above and beyond my expectations, looking up websites and making phone calls to help me out.

This isn’t typical sales clerk behavior. I know. I’ve been shopping chain stores for a long time looking for shirts that fit. She surprised and delighted me. I bought a Ralph Lauren shirt among other items and will definitely be back to buy more. More importantly, I’m telling you about my wonderful shopping experience. About 300+ people read this blog each day. That’s pretty decent word of mouth wouldn’t you say? I’ll probably tell another dozen people or more.

This salesperson listened to my problem and then did more than I ever expected to try to solve my problem. That’s what “winning” looks like. Do you have that culture in your store?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Let’s break down the key steps. The first thing that happened is that the salesperson listened. Then she acknowledged she didn’t know about Disperse Blue dyes. She asked more questions. Then, while another salesperson showed me around the store, she got online and on the phone to try to solve my problem. Either she is trained incredibly well, or she is just an incredibly helpful person (or a little bit of both). If there is a skill your sales team needs, you need to either hire it or train it (or both). I can help you either way.

PPS Word-of-Mouth is the most powerful form of advertising. Here’s the key. It comes from your customer service budget, not your advertising budget. We’ll discuss the four tried-and-true ways to consistently get people to talk about your business in the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING CLASS taking place Tuesday, June 20th. Are you in?

The Value Equation

As customers, we are often quick to ask the question, “How much does it cost?” That’s what we want to know. Get to the bottom line. Why? Why do we go so quick to the price? The answer – The Value Equation.

The Value Equation is this … Does the Perceived Worth of an item equal its Actual Price?

We beg for the price because we are always at least subconsciously calculating Perceived Worth on everything we see. We’ve been doing it our whole adult lives. We do it shopping for groceries. We do it shopping for tools. We do it shopping for clothes. As we walk the store we attach a Perceived Worth to everything we see. (If we don’t want it, the PW is zero. If we might want it, we attached a price to it and check to see if we are right.) 

When the Perceived Worth equals the Actual Price, we put the item in our cart.

The surprise is often in finding our Perceived Worth is far higher than the Actual Price. The first question we usually ask when that happens is, “What’s wrong with it?” or, “Is this marked down?” Sometimes we think to ourselves, “Wow, it must not be as good as I thought it would be.” Before we buy the product, we have to answer those questions satisfactorily.

That’s why it is easy to under-price yourself to bankruptcy (or at least leave serious dollars on the table.)

The other problem is when your Perceived Worth is much lower than the Actual Price. You either totally dismiss the product as being “out of my range” or you wonder what you missed in your evaluation of the product.

Take, for example, the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING class I am offering. I have to find that sweet spot of a price that fits what you believe a class like this should be worth.

I start by taking cues from what other similar programs charge. For instance, Bob Negen’s Whizbang Training two-day Retail Success Summit this summer is currently $997.  My buddy Tim Miles just announced a one-day workshop with Roy H. Williams, himself, for $1250. (By the way, I highly recommend both programs, and, no, I don’t get any kickbacks from these links.)

My workshop is $250* for a half-day —similar to Bob’s price for two days. Some of you will look at the price and see that it is about what you’d expect to pay for other, similar types of training. Some of you will look at the price and ask, “Where’s the value? What do I get in return?”

So I also look at the benefits you will get from the program. For instance, in this four-hour program you get:

  • Eight ways to market your business with little or no money at all
  • How to get free publicity from the media
  • How to craft a message that gets noticed, remembered, and acted upon – three things that are incredibly hard to accomplish in today’s fractured, over-saturated media world
  • How best to use the media of your choice (and tips on how to choose the best media for your business)
  • Four ways to generate more Word-of-Mouth advertising than you ever thought possible
  • One year of advertising support including help with your message, your campaign, your media buys, or wherever you have questions or need advice.
  • Half-rate discounted tuition for any future programs I offer through Jackson Retail Success Academy™.

Some of you will still balk at the price. That’s okay. I know I won’t convince everyone.

Some of you will think that seems like a pretty fair trade for $250 and four hours of your time.  You’ll sign up now for the class on Tuesday, June 20th.

Others will wonder why the price is so low for all that you get. Most of you in that frame of mind have either been to one of my programs before or live in a city where prices for stuff like this are just a bit higher than they are in Jackson. Remember, Helping Others is one of my Core Values.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

*PS If your business or you personally have taken one of my workshops through the Jackson Retail Success Academy™, you qualify for the Half-Price Alumni rate of $125.

PPS Why the half-price tuition for JRSA™ alumni? I believe strongly in continuing education. Now that I make my living speaking and writing, I am reading more blogs and books on speaking and writing, and I am attending workshops to learn all I can in those fields. I want to encourage anyone who takes one of my workshops to come back for refreshers or other programs, or maybe send a staff member to learn more. Plus, you’re always looking for a better deal. You know these classes are worth it at almost any price. Half-price just makes you feel good.

“Are You Happy?”

“Are you happy now?” she asked.

“Yes, most definitely,” I replied.

“Are we good?”

“Absolutely!”

Image result for delta airlines logoIn the wake of all the stories about passengers being hassled by the airlines including the latest about a family getting booted from a JetBlue flight over a birthday cake, I wanted to share with you an incident that happened last week on my Delta flight home from Las Vegas.

As the drink cart worked its way down the aisle I removed my headphones, lowered my tray, and waited my turn. For reasons unknown, the flight attendant offered drinks to the A, B, C seats but skipped over us in D, E, and F. No problem. I’ll just hit the call button.

“What can I do for you?” asked the flight attendant.

“You missed our row for drinks,” I said.

“Oh, I’m very sorry. That wasn’t on purpose. What would you like to drink?”

“Diet Coke, please.”

As she handed down my Diet Coke and a Ginger Ale for the gentleman on my right, she asked, “Are we okay?”

“Yes we are.”

“Would you be happier with a bottle of rum for that Diet Coke?”

“Yes I would.”

The flight attendant returned a moment later with a bottle of rum and started the conversation at the beginning of this post. Apparently not satisfied with my answer, she stopped by three more times before we landed to check on my “happy” status. A fist bump finally convinced her I wasn’t going to slam her online.

This flight attendant knew she made a mistake. It was a tiny one in the grand scheme of things, a definite first-world problem of the utmost degree. But that wasn’t going to stop her from going over-the-top to make sure she made it right.

Here is the lesson … Over-the-Top

I would have been perfectly happy with a quick apology and a Diet Coke. That was my expectation. She went far above and beyond my expectations to my surprise and delight. An apology and a Diet Coke would not have garnered a blog post and the extra word-of-mouth. An unexpected bottle of rum and three more courtesy checks on my happiness have me telling you about the wonderful attitude of the flight attendants on Delta.

When you make a mistake, do what you have to do to fix it. Then do a little more. It pays off far more than it costs you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Word-of-Mouth may be considered a form of Advertising, but in reality it is mostly a by-product of your Customer Service. Get that right and the only viral videos of your company will be positive ones. Two presentationsGet Your Customers to Talk About You and Raising the Bar to Go Viral – will change the way customers experience your business and what they say about you afterword. When you’re ready to start generating positive word-of-mouth, give me a call.

An Article Every Retailer Must Read

If you are a retailer, you need to read this article about Amazon’s new brick & mortar store in Chicago. It will be one of the scariest and most eye-opening articles you read this year. Go ahead. I will wait.

Image result for amazon brick and mortar store

Amazon, who is already cleaning our clocks online, is doing in their stores what some of us have only dreamed of doing and others haven’t even thought of doing. Amazon is bypassing the biggest headache most retailers face – getting your staff up to speed on product knowledge. How? By using signs.

Every single book in their store has a sign with reviews, ratings, and answers to the basic questions your customers would ask. Plus they have signs recommending similar titles, signs giving you data and information to help you make a purchase.

Rick Segal, famed retail consultant and speaker, once told me that signs increase sales of a product by 47%. He didn’t back that up with any proof, but it wasn’t a hard number to grasp. Just think about who would prefer a sign over a salesperson…

…every man and half the women.

Men like signs. We like signs because we speak vertically. Did what I say make you think higher of me or lower of me? Given the choice, most men would rather read a sign and figure things out on their own than ask questions and admit that they don’t know something. (Ladies, now you know why we don’t like to stop and ask for directions – just give us a map.)

Introverts like signs. Introverts aren’t shy. They just like their interactions with others to be meaningful and useful. Signs give them information to formulate the right questions before they have to interact with the salespeople.

Amazon is winning that game in their brick & mortar store.

You can, too.

No, you don’t have the data that Amazon has to create the kind of signage they create. But you can create signs that explain benefits. You can create signs that compare and contrast. You can create signs that answer frequently asked questions. You can create signs that show testimonials and staff picks (and why the staff picked them).

Online is where customers go when they know exactly what they want. Brick & Mortar is for people who want to browse or have someone help them find something when they aren’t sure what they need. Signs help you take care of those customers when your sales people are busy. Signs help you take care of customers when your customers would rather not interact with your salespeople. Signs help you take care of customers when your salespeople aren’t fully trained on product knowledge. Signs sell.

Get a computer and printer up front. Create a template. Start printing. Signs can even be hand-written if the penmanship is good. (Turn this project over to your staff and it will even help them with their product knowledge.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you did the math, you are thinking right now that 75% of the population prefers signs over salespeople, so why have any salespeople at all? First, understand that not everyone goes shopping. Since extroverts gain energy from being around people, they are more likely to be in-store shoppers than introverts. And there are multiple theories explaining why women tend to shop more than men. Therefore, it is highly likely that your store has more extroverted women in shopping right now than their percentage of the population would dictate. Second, relationships matter. Some customers don’t know the right questions to ask and need the guidance. Some customers have questions your signs couldn’t anticipate. Some customers don’t want items of mass appeal. Your salespeople are critical. So are your signs. Amazon got that second part right. Very right. You can, too.

PPS Your sales staff likes signs, too. Signs give your team confidence because they don’t have to remember facts. They can’t focus more on feelings, the relational side of sales.

The Power of the Smile Story

Every staff meeting started with “Smile Stories”, moments since the last meeting when we did what we set out to do and made the customer smile. Some of my staff wrote notes to themselves to remember all the stories. Others wrote notes to each other to remind them of their stories. At some meetings we spent three or four minutes sharing stories. At other meetings we spent ten or fifteen minutes. I never capped the time on this part of the meeting. It was too important.

Toy House Character Diamond and Core Values
The Toy House Character Diamond – our Core Values that drove our business.

The Smile Stories served multiple purposes.

First, they kicked off the meeting on a positive note. When you open a meeting with good news, it makes the people in attendance more open to listening and sharing. When you open with bad news you put people on defense and they clam up. So always start your meetings with something to celebrate.

Second, the Smile Stories got everyone into a sharing mood. If your meeting is simply for the purpose of telling people something, don’t meet. Send out a memo or an email. The reason you bring people together to meet is to allow for give and take, back and forth, engagement with your audience. Our Smile Stories got the staff engaged and talking early on, which always led to more engagement when we got into the training segment of the meeting.

Third, the Smile Stories reinforced our purpose. Our stated purpose for Toy House was, “We’re here to make you smile.” When we celebrated Smile Stories, it was clear to the staff why we were there and what we were supposed to do.

Fourth, the Smile Stories reinforced the training the staff had already received. When we shared stories of how we made customers smile, we were using concrete examples from which others could learn. Often the staff would even mention how a technique we discussed at a previous meeting worked well for them. Often within a story I would find a teachable moment that I could use to strengthen what we were already learning.

The first step for making your meetings with your team better is to figure out your “Smile Stories”. Find that and you will see your meetings, training, and productivity start to rise.

I’ll be covering this and a whole bunch of other tools for making your meetings something your staff looks forward to attending at the SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop on April 26th. Looking forward to seeing you there.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Stories are more memorable than facts and figures. My new book coming out later this spring cites numerous studies that show how we remember the feelings we get from stories as if we lived them ourselves. Stories are also better teachers. It is no surprise Jesus spoke in parables. We learn best by example. Stories are concrete examples of abstract principles and ideas. We’ll also be covering the power of the story in this workshop.

 

Flying the Friendly(?) Skies

By now you’ve seen the video of Chicago Aviation Police physically yanking an unwilling passenger off a United Airlines flight, knocking him unconscious, and dragging him down the aisle like they were taking out the trash. Likely you have also read United’s lame apologies. If we want to become experts. we need to see what we can learn from this incident.

 

I prefer to look at customer service from the customer’s point of view.

Great Customer Service = Meeting the Customer’s Expectations.

What are the expectations of a passenger sitting on an airplane? He bought a ticket. He is seated on the plane. At this point the only way he is getting off the plane is if one of three things happen.

First, everyone is asked to deplane. Maybe there is a mechanical failure. Maybe there is a weather delay and since they are still at the gate, the decision is made to get the passengers off for comfort and safety. He won’t be happy about it, but he knows this is a possibility.

Second, volunteers choose to deplane. The incentive offered by the airline is great enough for the volunteers to consciously offer up their seats for the rewards offered. This process had already started, but the incentives were not great enough for this passenger to give up his seat.

Third, someone is a danger to themselves or others.

That’s it. That’s the complete list from the customer’s point of view. Never in his wildest dreams did this gentleman think there was a fourth option of being forced off the plane. Physically manhandled and forced off the plane. Dragged down the aisle. Requiring a visit to the hospital. Maybe that was buried in some fine print somewhere. Maybe United had the right to do what they did. Regardless of their rights, United offered the worst possible customer service to this gentleman, and everyone on the airplane saw it (and many recorded it).

If United Airlines was a customer-centric airline that believed in meeting and exceeding their customers’ expectations, there wouldn’t ever be an option #4. In the scenario above they would be stuck at option #2 offering incentives after incentives, upping the ante as often as necessary until they got the volunteers they needed.

A free flight doesn’t work? Offer a free flight and a hotel. A free flight and a hotel doesn’t work? Throw in a rental car. Keep going until you find the sweet spot that gets you a volunteer happy to leave the airplane. And then, to exceed expectations, give that same offer to the other people who volunteered to get off the plane for less. 

If United Airlines had done that, there would be four people tweeting and singing their praises. There would be four people telling us how awesome United Airlines is and how they will always fly the friendly skies. There would be four people that might end up costing United Airlines an extra $5000 total. That’s a mere pittance to what this debacle is going to cost them.

I figure the aftermath of this event will likely cost the airline millions of dollars, and no one will be tweeting anything friendly. They are going to lose customers. They are going to have legal bills. They are going to have to spend millions in PR and advertising. They are going to have to do something grand just to take care of the passenger they manhandled.

Here is the lesson… They could have bought word-of-mouth advertising by upping the ante on the incentives needed to get people to volunteer to leave the plane. It would have been the best $5000 advertising money they spent all year. Instead they chose to put their company’s needs over their customers’ needs and it will cost them millions of dollars.

You have that same choice every single day. you can figure out what your customer expects, then meet and exceed those expectations and have your customer sing your praises, or you can put yourself above your customer and pay through the nose.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS United Airlines still has one chance to make this right. It will be way more costly than upping the incentives, but they need to make some grand public gesture such as giving this passenger free domestic flights for life, while also admitting that their policy was completely wrong and will be changed. Anything short of that will likely continue to cost them far more in the short and long run.

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.