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Proof That Customer Service is Not Dead?

I read two stories yesterday that caught my interest for two different, yet related reasons.

The first story is about the results of a survey of 600 mall shoppers across the country. The results showed that a larger percentage of Millennials believe that sales associates are “extremely important to their retail experience” than Boomers believe that statement. Doesn’t this fly in the face of conventional wisdom about Millennials that they just want to be left alone to shop with their headphones on and smartphones in hand?

Haven’t we all been told that today’s young adults don’t value customer service as much as previous generations?

This study says you’re wrong. Only 9% of the Gen Y respondents did not believe sales associates add value to the experience. In other words, Customer Service is not dead. It is as important as ever, even to this current generation of tech-savvy shoppers.

Image result for nordstrom localThe second story is about a new store concept launched by Nordstrom called Nordstrom Local. The store is 98% smaller than the typical department store. In fact, it doesn’t stock any merchandise. It is a location for BOPIS (buy online pickup in store). It is a location for fashion advice. It is a location for meeting with a personal stylists. it is a location for alterations and tailoring. It is a location for manicures and refreshments. It is a location for all of the services that make Nordstrom special except for one thing—the actual product.

I am watching this project with a lot of curiosity to see how it pans out. It will be a true test of whether customer service is really that important to a significantly sized crowd or not. In many ways Nordstrom Local seems to be embracing the concepts I read about in this article. Nordstrom is betting that customer service and experience is more important than the product.

Me? I’m not too sure. I’ve always believed you need a solid mix of both to truly be successful. At the same time, I would love to see this concept be successful if for no other reason than to prove once and for all the Customer Service is not dead.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The first two links come from a daily email I get from Chain Store Age. If they didn’t open up for you, you need to get an account (It’s free!) If you are a retailer and are not getting this information and these stories, you should sign up. While many of the stories are about chain stores, the information you will glean about retail in general and about your competition is priceless.

Measuring the Right Result

This is the year of confessions. I’ve told you I don’t like cleaning up and filing things away. I’ve admitted I only went to the University of Michigan to get football tickets. As much as it pains me to be one, I’ve even admitted I’m a Detroit Lions fan.

I have one more confession. I love musical theater. I get cranked up watching Broadway shows. I even get excited watching live Broadway-esque performances like the one Neil Patrick Harris did here.

Image result for disney newsiesLast night I watched Disney’s Newsies on Netflix. Not the 1992 movie starring Christian Bale but a filmed stage production. Loved it!

While reading more about the production on IMDb.com, I noticed it had a pretty high rating from the public. I started reading reviews and and they were mostly 10’s. The reviews that weren’t so stellar didn’t talk about the acting or singing or dancing or storyline. They talked about camera angles and editing of camera shots.

One person gave it a 4 solely because of the choppy editing of the dance sequences. Tough critic.

It got me thinking about how we measure success of our business and how our customers measure success of our business. The two criteria are completely different.

Your customer considers your business a success if she comes in, gets what she needs, and feels good about it. You consider your business a success if you can pay all your bills and make some money for yourself. Two completely different sets of measurements, yet when you stop and think about it, the more you take care of your customer, the more likely you’ll have enough business to pay all your bills and make some money for yourself.

You need to measure what is important to your customers as much as you measure what is important to you.

Notice that I didn’t say, “instead of.” I said, “as much as.” You need to measure both.

You need a method of keeping track of how many times you say, “No we don’t.” to a customer request. I have a friend who has a “No List” she keeps by the cash register just for that purpose. Every time a customer asks for something they don’t have, the staff has to write it down. She figures if a lot of customers come in believing she might have a certain item, then it would be in her best interest to look into carrying that item.

You need a method of tracking how many customers are repeat and referral customers. Only customers who get their needs met and feel good about it will come back and bring their friends. If those numbers are rising, your customer service is succeeding.

Inventory levels, cash flow, profit margin, and sales are all important and need to be tracked, but they are as much a result of the first two numbers as anything else. The more your customers think of your business as a success, the better those other numbers will be.

If you have a lot of items on your No List then you need to figure out why your customers have such a different view of your business than you do. If you have a lot of new customers not referred by a friend, then either you’re a tourist destination, your advertising is stellar, or you need to up your game on taking care of your customers.

When your customers come in, get what they need, and leave feeling good, that’s the singing, acting, and dancing that gets you the standing ovation.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Speaking of measuring the right things, here is the survey that the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) uses for the presentations at their Academy.

Here are the averages of the survey responses from your presentation, “Cash is King & You are the Advisor:”

1—Unsatisfied  4—Completely Satisfied

Did the presentation meet your expectations based on the session description? Were you satisfied with the speaker(s) level of knowledge on the topic? Rate your overall satisfaction with this session:
3.9 4 3.9

Those of you who have followed this blog a long time know that the three things I stress the most about Customer Service are:

  1. You have to meet your customer’s expectations. (Question #1)
  2. You have to build trust. (Question #2)
  3. You have to leave them feeling good about the transaction. (Question #3)

Did the audience come in, get what they needed, and feel good about it? Those results were my standing ovation.

A Trip That Pays For Itself

Ever have one of those amazing meals you just have to tell everyone about? I’ve been blessed to have had several. One took place in New York City.

I was there for Toy Fair several years ago when a sales rep invited me to dinner. It was a Danny Meyer restaurant, legendary for amazing customer service. Being a customer service junkie, I had read a lot about Mr. Meyer and his restaurants. Needless to say, I was excited.

Image result for gramercy tavernEver have one of those moments where the hype was so high, no one could possibly live up to it?

This was NOT one of those moments. The service was spectacular!! Our waitress anticipated everything we could ever need and was there before we asked. At the end of the meal she came by our table with small goodie bags for each of us. There had been a private party earlier and there were a bunch of leftover truffles that she had, “hand-selected based on what you ordered for dinner and dessert.” Nailed it!

If I owned a restaurant in NYC, I would pay for my wait-staff to regularly eat at a restaurant like that. It would be the best training money could buy. Let them see what awesome service is supposed to look like so that they can offer it when they work, too.

That’s one of the biggest problems with customer service in retail right now. There are so many examples of bad service your staff experience every day that they rarely ever see the level of service you want them to provide. Every day your staff go out into the marketplace and interact with stores that have poor customer service. It is poor to you, the customer service junkie, but to your staff it is the norm. It is all they see.

If you want to make an impact on them in a lasting way, take your marketing budget for this quarter and instead blow it on a weekend retreat for your staff to a Ritz-Carlton with a shopping spree to Nordstrom’s (and if you’re near Seattle, make a side trip to Pike’s Place Fish Market). Show them what true top-notch service looks like. Let them experience it. Then sit down and talk about it.

Ask them what was different. Ask them what made it special. Ask them how it made them feel. Ask them if they would like to be treated this way all the time. Ask them how their life would be different if this was the norm instead of Walmart. Ask them what your store needs to do to be spoken in the same breath as these places.

Your Return on Investment may be the best staff training money you’ve ever spent.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS This post came about from a recent restaurant trip where the waitress was so bad, we wondered if she had ever eaten out herself and had any concept of what a waitress should do. If all your staff has ever experienced is Walmart and Target, they have no understanding when you speak to them about customer service. Help them live a little.

PPS Maybe the Ritz and Nordstrom’s aren’t in your budget. Next best thing to do is give them all a gift certificate to the one place in your town known for legendary customer service, be it restaurant, retail, or other. It will pay off. (Note: if you are that place with the legendary service, keep up the good work!)

PPPS Wonder how Danny Meyer got his team to the pinnacle? Read this article about how he takes care of his team and his customers. It tells you all you need to know.

Handling the Unruly and Rude

I was talking with some fellow retailers at a trade show recently and the discussion came around to the perceived higher level of rudeness and unruliness among customers. I say “perceived” because everyone felt it, but no one had actually measured to know if it truly was more than before. Our guts said “more” but it could also be that we were more sensitive to it. It could also be that those who were rude were no larger a crowd, just louder.

While there are many theories why there might be more rudeness and unruliness in the world, we felt it best to focus instead on how to diffuse the angry, rude customers when they showed their ugliness. One thing became clear in our conversation …

When you answer rudeness with rudeness you get more of the same. 

It is entirely justifiable to treat rude people the way they treated you. But it doesn’t make things better. It doesn’t even feel good to you except for a fleeting moment. More often it just escalates the situation. An eye for an eye and everyone goes blind.

At the same time, simply ignoring it doesn’t help either. When a customer treats you or your staff with extreme rudeness, you have to stand up for yourself and your team, otherwise you are condoning that behavior. How you stand up for yourself, however, can make or break the relationship you have with that customer.

Understand that rudeness often comes from ignorance, entitlement, or someone simply having a bad day and taking it out on you. Rarely is it intentional and done specifically to harm you. More often the person being rude doesn’t even recognize it.

Here is the phrase I found most helpful when confronting a rude customer …

“I’m sorry. Is there something wrong?”

This puts the burden on the customer to explain her behavior. Often this question is all it takes to turn that behavior around, especially if their rudeness comes from having a bad day.

Sometimes they do have a problem and this question gives them the space to air their complaint. Having someone listen to their complaint is another quick way to end rudeness and unruliness. Most people just want to feel that they are being heard.

Sometimes their problem is legitimate. They have a real reason to be unhappy. If that is the case, follow up with this question …

“I’m sorry. What can I do to make it right?”

Over my twenty-four years of retail I have asked that question dozens of times. Never once has a customer asked for more than what I was already willing to do to make it right. Not once. More often than not their answer was far less than I planned to do.

Notice how both of those questions address the behavior without stooping to similar behavior? Both of those questions get to the root of the rudeness, whether it comes from ignorance, entitlement, or just having a bad day. Both of those questions put the burden on the customer to justify his or her actions in a non-confrontational way.

I have asked those questions of some of my favorite and best customers. I could have just “fired” them and told them to take their rudeness elsewhere. Instead I treated them with dignity and kindness without letting them get away with their behavior. Their behavior changed and it paid off huge in the long run.

You can debate all you want on whether there is more rudeness, whether we are more sensitive to rudeness, or whether the rudeness just seems to stand out more.

Me? I’m more interested in finding tools that work to diffuse difficult situations when they arise and turn unhappy customers into evangelists for your brand. I hope you are, too.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Those two questions work in many situations beyond retail. Try them and see what happens. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.

PPS I have only asked one person to never set foot in my store again because of rudeness, and he was a sales rep.

Two Ears and One Mouth

George Whalin was the last guy you wanted sitting next to you on an airplane. George was a retail consultant and public speaker (and one of my inspirations). George loved retail. A vacation to him meant a trip to The Grand Bazaar in Turkey followed by a trip to their local mall to contrast the old with the new.

Retail Superstars Book

When George sat next to you on an airplane, he peppered you with questions. “What’s your favorite place to shop and why?”

That was the question he asked every flight into Michigan that got Bronner’s and Toy House included in his book Retail Superstars: Inside the 25 Best Independent Stores in America. When he heard the same answers over and over he knew those places must be special.

“The questions you ask are more important than the things you could ever say.” -Tom Freese

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” -Naguib Mahfouz

“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” -Anthony Robbins

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” -Stephen R. Covey

One of the most important lessons George taught me was that every customer has a different need to fill. Every customer comes through the door for a reason uniquely their own. Our job as salespeople is simply to find out that reason. You don’t do that by talking. You do that by listening.

“No man ever listened himself out of a job.” -Calvin Coolidge

“Most people think ‘selling’ is the same as ‘talking.’ But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of your job.” -Roy Bartell

George got to the top of his craft not because of what he said, but because of what he learned and the relationships he made. He knew how to ask the right questions and listen to the answers. He was fascinated by you. If you ever did sit next to George on an airplane, you probably still would consider him a friend.

“You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them than you can in two years by making them interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie

Ask and listen. Your customers want to tell you why they are here.

-Phil Wrzesinski
wwwPhilsForum.com

Image result for fired up! selling bookPS I got all of the quotes for today’s post from a new book called Fired Up! Selling. It is the best quote book I have ever seen. (Disclaimer, I was one of over 1000 judges that got to help select the quotes for the book so I might be biased, but with that many business people choosing the quotes, you know the quotes are going to resonate. No, that is not an affiliate link. Just me telling you this book is cool and will make a great gift for someone you know. Shop local.)

Busting a Scheduling Myth

There is a scheduling myth I have heard for many years, and although on the surface it seems to make sense, I don’t think it is in the best long-term interest of your store. The myth is that you should schedule your best sales people for your peak hours and your worst sales people for your off hours. Let me tell you where the flaw is in this thinking.

In November 1991 I moved to San Diego, CA. I immediately got two jobs there.  One was teaching Outdoor Education for the Orange County School District at Camp Edwards near Big Bear Lake. The other was selling sporting goods for Cal Stores – a ten-store chain of sporting goods and apparel stores in San Diego County (since bought out by Big 5 Sporting Goods).

Image result for big 5 sporting goodsI spent Monday morning through Friday morning in the mountains above San Bernardino teaching kids about geology and ecology. I spent Saturday and Sunday selling tennis rackets and weight sets.

At Cal Stores we were paid on commission. Each week they would post the top selling people across the chain in sales per hour. I was usually #2 for the entire chain, right behind the guy who sold all the ski packages. I wasn’t #2 because of my selling skills, but because I had the two best shifts—Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t have any mundane Mondays to drag my average down.

In the above myth, I would always get the peak times and best shifts because my numbers were top notch. And I would hold onto those shifts because those shifts would keep my numbers higher than the Tuesday and Wednesday slackers. It would self-perpetuate. I would stay on top and feel no need to improve. Plus it would drag down the morale of everyone not getting the prime times.

Do you see the flaw now?

Smart managers understand the importance of having top levels of sales and service at peak times, but they also look for ways to raise the level of all the staff so that everyone can perform at peak and off-peak. They look for ways to pair top sales people with learners to help both become better (the former by teaching, the latter by being with the former). They split up the hours, knowing that sometimes you need the busy hours for the learners to hone their skills, and sometimes you need the slower hours to know if your top sales people are truly good or just lucky.

Smart managers realize that raising the bar for everyone helps the business far more in the long run than just maximizing the peak hours. They realize that a properly trained staff maximizes sales at all hours (and there are some big sales you can do during the perceived off-hours.)

Smart managers realize when everyone performs at a high level they have more flexibility for scheduling around vacations and special requests for time off. They have more staff available for special events. They have more trust that the staff will perform no matter the situation.

If you have a few top performing sales people and a few that need some work, don’t just throw all the prime rib at the top people and leave the scraps for everyone else. Give them all a taste of the good stuff and teach them all how to rock your customers’ worlds every day of the week.

That’s what the smart managers do.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I wasn’t a great salesperson back then. I was just lucky with my shifts. Fortunately I was (and still am) a competitive guy who is always looking for ways to improve. Not every salesperson thinks that way. Smart managers find ways to help everyone improve and raise the overall bar for the store.

PPS No, not everyone will perform at the same level. Your goal, however, is to help each person on your team get to the next level no matter where he or she is right now.

Does Your Advertising Match the Experience?

How many times have you heard a radio ad that sounded something like this?

Phil’s Toys is the leader in selling hard-to-find toys. We have thousands of toys in stock. We won’t be undersold! Our customer service is unbeatable and we always offer the best deals. Phil’s Toys has the best toys ever! If you haven’t been to Phil’s Toys, you need to check it out! Located on Main Street right by the clock tower. Go to Phil’s Toys dot com and check out our every day deals. (517) 555-1111. That’s (517) 555-1111 or Phil’s Toys dot com for the best selection, best prices and best services on all your toy needs. (517)-555-1111. Call Phil’s Toys today!!

Pretty much all of them, right?

Image result for boringMultiple unsubstantiated claims. Zero emotions. No representation of your Core Values.

Boring.

Most people will ignore that ad. The few that don’t ignore it will remember one of three points—that you have tons of products, cheap discount prices, and excellent customer service.

But what happens when your customers walk in to find you have a fraction of the products of your big chain competitors, prices that are fair but on the high side, and customer service that is decent but nothing to write home about?

Sure, you have good products. You’re selling a higher grade product than the chains. You’re selling lesser-known but better solutions than your customers are used to seeing. You have fewer choices because you’ve curated down to only the best options. But that isn’t what your ad said.

Sure you have good prices. Thanks to MAP, no one has prices consistently lower than yours (except for the rogue website or two that drives Amazon down temporarily until you complain to your vendor.) No one has prices any higher either. The prices are fair, if not inspiring. But that’s not what your ad said.

Sure you have great service. At least you think you do because customers tell you they love you and you get great reviews on Facebook. That’s the problem with customer service, though. There is no set definition in all customers’ minds what great service looks like. Just because you aren’t bumbling, gum-chewing, idiots like your competitors doesn’t mean you’re meeting your customer’s expectations. but that’s not what your ad said.

If you make an unsubstantiated claim in your advertising, most people won’t believe it (if they heard it at all.) Those few that do believe it better not be disappointed when they show up in your store. Otherwise they will become your greatest critics which is worse than them not showing up at all.

Whether you change your ads or change the experience, the ad and experience have to match to be effective.

Here is one way you could talk about your customer service that is interesting and more substantive …

The box wasn’t unusually heavy.  Awkward?  Yes.  But not too cumbersome.  Getting it into the trunk was fun.  The top first, a little twist here, and finally a big push.  The customer looked at me and said, “I probably should have brought the van.”  I laughed, “Next time.”  A couple of thank you’s and she left with a smile.  I had a happy customer, and a little fresh air.  Ahh, we love carrying the big stuff out to your car.  Toy House in downtown Jackson.  We’re here to make you smile.  But next time bring the van.

That is a true story from a time I was carrying a box out to a customer’s cars. It illustrates one of our services, but more importantly paints the picture of the level of service we offer.

Here’s another true story …

I served them ice cream.  8:30 in the morning and I served my staff ice cream.  Some looked at me like I was crazy.  Others dug right in.  Yeah, I’m a little unconventional that way.  Kinda like how we staff the store.  I have more staff on the floor than stores double our size.  Some think I’m crazy.  Others love it.  There’s always someone available to help you.  It takes a little more ice cream, but it’s worth every scoop.  Toy House in downtown Jackson.  We’re here to make you smile.

This one tells you one important point—we have “more staff on the floor than stores double our size.”

Stories are far more illustrative and effective at getting your point across in a way people will notice and remember. When you show customers what you do, you are substantiating your claim and making it more believable. When you tell a true story you also make it more memorable.

Show people what you have done to help them see what they can expect when they visit. Not only will your ads be more interesting, they will match the experience your customers have in the store perfectly.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Here’s one more substantiated claim …

On a slow day we gift wrap about fifty packages.  On a busy day it’s closer to five hundred quickly and neatly wrapped gifts.  Why do we do it?  Because your time and money are valuable and this is how we help.  After fifty-six years and over five hundred miles of giftwrap, we’re pretty darn good at it.  Sure, there are a few hundred of our thirty thousand toys we just can’t wrap.  For everything else, let us do the work.  We like to wrap.  Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

Case Study: Taking Care of the Customer Science Safari Style

My buddy, Sean, owns a toy store in Cary, North Carolina called Science Safari. I am sharing his story as he posted it on FB …

Image result for science safari north carolina“Weird occurrence… It’s happened twice in the last week. I certainly don’t mind, but I’ve never seen it in 30 years of retail nor ever thought of doing it as a parent…

“I had two people print up their own (unauthorized/counterfeit) Science Safari Gift Certificates and give them to their child. One for a class and one for $10 from the Tooth Fairy (side note, what kind of Tooth Fairy hands out $10 notes?!?). 

“The parents made good on them, giving me the money on the sly.

“Strange, but I’ll take your money.”

Yes, two different parents had the idea to print up unauthorized gift certificates to his store and give them to their kids. What would your first thought be if a customer handed you an unauthorized gift certificate?

Then the parents paid him on the sly for those “gift certificates” and the kids got to use them in the store.

Three thoughts come to mind.

First, Sean should be honored that parents, when trying to come up with a cool last-minute gift, thought of his store first. That’s when you know you’re already playing the customer service game right.

Second, here are a couple of parents who need to work on their planning ahead skills.

Third, and most importantly, as strange as this occurrence was, Sean and his team didn’t hesitate one second to allow it to happen. “Strange, but I’ll take your money.” Sean served those customers the way they wanted to be served. Sean made those last-second-forgot-to-plan-ahead customers look like heroes to their kids. Sean said, “Yeah, we’ll take care of you.”

As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

That, my friends, is what winning the customer service game looks like.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Making your customers feel like, look like, or be the hero is always the right thing to do. Always.

PPS If you live anywhere near Cary, NC, put Science Safari on your radar. It is definitely a store worth visiting.

They Thought They Had Helped

I went into a sporting goods store looking for a walking stick. Unlike most guys, I’m not afraid to ask for help in a retail store. I approached the first clerk I saw and asked, “Do you have any walking sticks?”

“I don’t know. Let me ask someone …
She doesn’t know, either. If we did they would be in camping.”

Then the clerk walked away, thinking she had been incredibly helpful.

Fortunately for me, I had been in this store before and knew where the camping section was. Unfortunately for me, I was looking for a tall, skinny item, not thinking that walking sticks telescope down to almost nothing. A quick walk down the camping aisle proved fruitless, so I asked another clerk in the area about walking sticks.

“Did you see any in the camping aisle?”

“No.”

“Then we must be sold out. Sorry.”

Then the clerk walked away thinking he had been helpful.

Both clerks engaged with me. Both answered my questions. Both walked away thinking they had given me good customer service. I was about to walk out empty-handed, but on my return trip down the camping aisle, I happened to notice a small, skinny box down in the corner. Upon closer inspection, they had three different types of walking sticks in stock on their shelves, just not in the packaging I was expecting.

I got my walking stick, no help from the clerks who thought they were helping me.

I tell you this as a cautionary tale. If your staff training consists of teaching your staff to engage with customers and answer their questions, you are likely losing sales. The two clerks both did that for me, but neither solved my problem. If instead of answering questions, they were taught to solve my problem, the interaction would have been different.

“She doesn’t know either. If we had any, they would be in camping. Let me walk you over to camping and help you look.”
“She doesn’t know either. Let me look it up on the computer and see what it says.”
“She doesn’t know either. Let me ask the buyer for camping.”
“She doesn’t know either. Let me call another store to see if they have any.”

Notice that neither of the clerks asked me any questions to clarify what I wanted or why I wanted it. Neither offered to walk over and look with me. Neither offered to take my name and call me when they got more walking sticks in. Neither suggested another store where I might find the item I needed. Neither offered to look in their system to see if they even sold walking sticks. Yet they both engaged with me and answered my questions. They walked away thinking they had helped.

Don’t assume your customers know what they are looking for. Don’t assume your customers know where to look. Don’t assume just because you answered a question, you’ve offered any level of service. It isn’t great customer service until the customer’s reason for coming in has been fully resolved.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS We kept an Internet-wired computer up front because sometimes customers would ask for items by a different name than we knew or a different version of a product we carried. A quick search on Google showed us what the customer wanted and helped us either find it or offer an alternative solution.

PPS Every customer that walks through your door did so for a reason. Your staff’s job is to connect and engage with that customer well enough that they tell you their reason and ask for assistance. When you take on the mindset of solving their problems, resolving their issues, then you are on your way to great customer service.

The Sweetest Sound is Your Name

Have you ever had that “Cheers!” moment where you walked into a place and everyone shouted your name? I’ve been blessed to have it happen to me several times. It never gets old. Never. In fact, it is one of the better feelings on this planet. I know when I hear my name shouted like that, I’m among friends. I know when I hear my name shouted like that, I’m where I am wanted and where I belong. It is one of the sweetest sounds you’ll ever hear.

Heck, just being greeted by name by a single voice when I walk through a door is pretty darn good. As I mentioned in a previous post, we are creatures of habit and familiarity. If you know me by name, then we’ve reached a certain level of comfort and familiarity.

The same can be said of your customers.

Image result for name tagThere are many consultants out there with data-mining programs to find out as much information about your customers as possible so that you can fulfill their every need. While all that info is valuable, the one piece of info with the greatest amount of value is her name.

Without her name, you can’t create the kind of relationship that turns her from a customer into an evangelist for the store. Without her name, you can’t build the level of trust that turns her into a lifelong fan of your store. All the other data is useless if you don’t first know her name. (All the other data is useless if you can’t make an emotional connection with her, but that’s a post for another day.)

There are many ways to learn a customer’s name. You can sign her up for your email list. You can look at her credit card when she is paying (which you should be doing anyway). You can simply ask her.

The best way is through conversation. Here is a simple structure you can teach to your staff if they struggle to get conversations going with customers.

  • Compliment her.
  • Ask her questions related to the compliment.
  • Get her to talk about herself or her kids (her favorite subjects).
  • Share a little about yourself that relates to what she said.
  • Introduce yourself – more often than not she will reciprocate.
  • Use her name repeatedly throughout the rest of your interaction to help you remember it.

Not only do you get her name, you get her talking. You start building the relationship that leads to familiarity and trust. The best sales people do this instinctively. Fortunately, it can be taught to everyone else. Teach your staff and have them practice on each other. The other benefit is that as your staff gets better at learning names, their own confidence grows and they get better at serving your customers, too.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It might seem a little phony at first. Not everyone is a natural conversationalist. But if you want to be a good salesperson, it is a skill you need to learn. Plus, it isn’t as phony as you think. You’re trying to build a relationship in a short window of time. This is just speed dating in a retail setting.