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Who Would You Blame?

Overheard in a shoe store the other day…

Customer: “Ma’am, do you have this style shoe in a brown?”

Clerk: “I don’t know what we have or don’t have. I just work here.”

My first thought when I heard this was, “You won’t be working here for long with that attitude.” Then it dawned on me. Someone hired this person. Someone hired this clerk, “trained” her (I use the term loosely), and scheduled her to work on a busy Saturday. This clerk who shows no initiative to learn, shows no empathy or caring, shows no desire to serve, went through an application and interview process. This clerk got hired, filled out paperwork, and learned how to run a cash register.

Who is to blame?

My first reaction was to blame the clerk for her lack of desire to do her job. But then again, the clerk needed a job and did what she needed to do to get that job. The manager who hired her failed in finding the right person to fill that job. So maybe you could blame the manager.

But in the manager’s defense, you have to know… Was the manager ever trained on hiring skills? Was the manager ever trained on how to teach? Does the manager have a training program in place for new hires? Does the manager have training on how to motivate the staff to get the most productivity out of them? Does the manager have the authority to create her own programs for training and motivation if her higher-ups don’t have those for her?

I read articles on the retail industry every day. I read about CEO’s of major retail chains talking how they are implementing plans to increase customer service, focus more on the customer, become customer-centric, etc. But then I hear, “I don’t know. I just work here.” Where in the chain of command is the breakdown?

I want you to do a quick exercise right now. Write this down on a piece of paper. Don’t overthink it. Just write down the first number that pops into your head.

  • What percentage of your customers are “repeat customers”? What percentage of the people that come through your door today have been in your store before? Write it down.
  • What percentage of your customers are “referral customers”? This is their first visit, but they came to you because one of your repeat customers told them to visit you. Write it down.

That first number is a measure of how good your customer service truly is. If you have great customer service, if you meet your customers’ expectations at every turn, then you will have a high amount of repeat business.

That second number is a measure of how well you exceed your customers’ expectations. Remember that word-of-mouth comes when you go above and beyond what people expect to surprise and delight them.

Add those two numbers together. Subtract that from 100 and you have the percentage of your customers that are advertising-driven.

If you are like most indie retailers, the first two numbers are far greater than the last number. Yet, if you are like most retailers, you probably spend way more money on advertising than you do on training. You might want to rethink that.

Next Wednesday, April 26 I will be doing a one-day workshop in Jackson specifically for managers. This SPOTLIGHT ON MANAGERIAL SUCCESS workshop will teach managers how to teach. It will teach managers how to better communicate. It will teach managers how to build a team. It will teach managers how to set up and implement training programs for new employees. It will teach managers how to set up and implement ongoing training to keep the staff at peak performance. Your store will only rise to the ability of your manager. Make your manager great!

Space is limited for this class. Sign up now.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I would fire the shoe store clerk. Although her lack of training probably isn’t her fault, she doesn’t have the right personality traits for the job. I would then spend a lot of time working with the manager who did the hiring to make sure she knows how to hire and how to train so that the above conversation never happens again.

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.

Hinkley Donuts, Or How to Go Above and Beyond

I had a Hinkley Donut this morning. My favorite is chocolate frosted cinnamon, but I could eat any of about a dozen of their different donuts with equal pleasure. Those of you in Jackson know what I mean. In a statewide competition Hinkley’s Bakery won Best Donuts in Michigan (if they hadn’t there might have been an uproar – or at least a road trip to see if it was true that there existed something better).

When I eat Hinkley Donuts I often think about Ernie.

Hinkley’s Donuts – Best in Michigan!

Ernie sells chairs. Not just any chairs, but fully customizable, fits everyone, incredibly comfortable, office chairs. I put Ernie in the hot seat and asked him about his sales process. He led me through the cold calls, the visits, the dog-and-pony shows, the follow-ups, the closing of the sale and the delivery.

At each point of contact I asked Ernie what his staff was instructed to do. Then I stopped him, and everyone else in the class, and asked, “What does the customer expect out of you at this point?”

This was an eye-opener for everyone in the class. We know what we do, but we rarely stop to think about what our customers actually expect and want. Yet, that is the secret to great customer service – meet your customer’s expectations. In fact, that is critical in today’s connected world where if you fail to meet their expectation, all 962 of their friends on Facebook will know by tonight, and visitors to Yelp and Google will read about it for years.

If you aren’t doing this exercise, you might be missing a critical problem in what you thought was your awesome customer service that has been holding you back.

Once we established the customer’s expectations I asked Ernie a second question. “What would it look like to exceed your customer’s expectations?” If you want to take your customer service to the level where it generates Word-of-Mouth, you have to exceed your customer’s expectations. 

Ernie’s sales team did early morning or early afternoon visits to show off his chairs. We wondered what would happen if the sales people showed up with Hinkley Donuts (well, okay, the equivalent in that town) for morning meetings or Klavon’s Pizza for afternoon meetings. All it would take is a simple call to the local Chamber of Commerce to find out which local bakery or pizza joint is best known in town. A good salesman could probably find a way to get that info in a conversation. I told Ernie, don’t announce you’re bringing the yummies. Make it a surprise. As Roy H. Williams says, “Surprise is the foundation of delight.” It was a simple change, an inexpensive change, but one that would pay high dividends.

By the time Ernie was out of the hot seat he had several ideas of how to meet and exceed what his customers expected. I’m pretty sure he’s been doing that ever since.

When you go above and beyond what your customer expects, you will delight her and win her as a customer. No matter what competition you face, no matter what technology disrupts your future, that will always be true.

That’s what I think about when I eat a Hinkley Donut.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I can be bought with food. But it isn’t so much the food itself as it is the gesture. You went above and beyond because you found the local source and made the effort to ply me with something unique, not generic or mass-produced. That’s a powerful statement that earns a lot of trust.

Before You Start Advertising

I am working on my next book (new working title “Most Ads Suck: But Not Yours”). It will help you write copy that gets noticed, remembered, and acted upon, whether for digital, print or broadcast consumption. It is an in-depth take on one of my more popular speaking topics – Making Your Ads More Effective. This book will focus purely on your advertising and marketing content and show you what works and what doesn’t.

Yesterday’s blog about what my grandfather wrote back in 1969, however, had one line about advertising that sticks in my mind.

“If a customer is not satisfied after he is in the store, there is no sense in advertising to get him in the store.” -Philip H. Conley, 1969

Kinda reminds me of another quote I like…

“Advertising will only accelerate what was going to happen anyway.” -Roy H. Williams, 1998

Whenever a company asks me how much they should spend on advertising, my first question is to ask how much are they spending on staff training. No matter what criteria you use to determine your ad budget, if you aren’t spending an equal amount of resources training your staff to be exceptional and extraordinary, you are likely spending too much on advertising.

This is why you see so many big retailers closing their doors. Too much money on advertising, not enough on the in-store experience.

You only get traffic three ways:

  1. Repeat customers
  2. Referral customers
  3. Advertising-driven customers

Repeat customers come from offering great customer service, meeting your customers’ expectations at every point along the way.

Referral customers come from offering over-the-top customer service that causes word-of-mouth. You get that by exceeding your customers’ expectations along the way.

If the majority of customers walking through your door are ad-driven, then your customer service isn’t up to par. You need to hire me to do the breakout Raising the Bar on Customer Service. Or better yet, plan a half-day workshop and I’ll also show you the best way to create a team to consistently deliver that high level of service.

If the majority of your customers are repeat and referral (and business is steady), then go with the breakout session Making Your Ads More Effective. It will deliver the techniques you need to increase your ad-driven traffic. Better yet, the half-day workshop helps you with strategy, too, including how to calculate your budget and choose your media. Best of all, the full-day workshop includes uncovering your brand and message.

First things first, though, as Phil and Roy said, before you spend money on advertising, make sure you have something worth promoting.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I know some of you are going to tell me there is a fourth way to get traffic – walk-in traffic. I will argue that walk-in traffic is part of your advertising. Your location is part of your overall exposure. Bad location, bad signage, bad front window, no walk-in traffic. (Take the half-day marketing and advertising workshop and you’ll learn how to include your location in your ad budget.) 

Fascinating Interview with Half of Neiman-Marcus

Digging through old files I found a magazine article my dad had buried a few decades ago. It was a gem of an interview with Stanley Marcus of Neiman-Marcus fame. I had to keep checking the date on the article because I swear it could have been written today (other than the fact Stanley Marcus died in 2002 and the age of 96). Here is just one excerpt from the interview…

INC.: Other [retailing] myths?

MARCUS: That stores “own” their customers. Nobody owns anybody anymore. This is show business, folks, and you’re only as good as your last performance. And if it was lousy, shoppers could probably find identical merchandise three doors down in the same mall.

Yeah, Marcus said that in the June 1987 issue of Inc. Magazine. Nineteen frickin’ eighty-seven, thirty years ago, long before eCommerce, back when anyone could make money in retail.

I was in a large mall last Saturday. An incredibly busy mall. The Cheesecake Factory was quoting a four-hour wait for service! There were shoppers everywhere in the hallways, but not so much inside the stores. It was easy to tell why.

I visited nine different stores and only one store greeted me. Four stores asked if they could help me and four stores ignored me completely. Yet many had the exact same merchandise, or at least close enough. The trip almost became comical when an untrained salesman in an over-staffed store with too few customers had me fighting back laughter at his expense because of his poor approach to selling me. I felt bad for him afterwards, knowing that it likely wasn’t his fault. No one had ever trained him the right way to sell his products (or, as in his case, to even know his products).

At least this mall was getting to keep its Macy’s and Nordstrom’s stores (we’ll see how long Sears holds up their anchor position) for what that may be worth.

Mr. Marcus, you see, also predicted the demise of the department store in that interview, pointing out how the discount stores were in a race to the bottom, other retailers were maximizing service and maximizing selection, but in-between were the department stores giving neither the best service nor the best price.

That was true in 1987 and is even more true today. The businesses succeeding today are either the best in service or the best in price (or in some cases, like Costco and Amazon, best at both). Even this busy mall had stores that obviously weren’t reaping the benefits of all the traffic.

Stanley Marcus was quite prescient. If I were you, I’d take his advice. Choose to be the best at service or the best at price and then go about figuring out how to do that.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Being best at price is the easier of the two, but you won’t be in business long. Being best at service is incredibly hard, and also incredibly rewarding, as long as you’re committed to staying the best. You can start by poking around the Customer Service articles on my Free Resources page for some ideas.

Not My Job

The downside to writing a job description for each position on your staff is that you can never remember to list everything that position needs to do. Something will eventually get left off the list. Or if you do remember everything, the list is so long no one reads it, let alone memorizes it.

I had an experience last night that was clearly the case of, “Not My Job.”

I had a sit-down meal in a fast-food joint. Ordered french fries with my meal. You know the drill in these restaurants. They give you an empty cup and you get your own beverage. Want ketchup for your fries? They have those little paper cups and the big vat of ketchup. Two pumps and you’re loaded.

Except last night.

Somehow they timed it perfectly. There were only two paper cups left at the ketchup stand. I grabbed them both. I was about to tell the gal behind the counter they were out of cups, but as I started filling my cups, the ketchup ran out, too. Both nozzles on either side of the drink dispenser were dry. “You’re out of both ketchup and these little cups,” I said to the young lady.

And I got the look. You know the look. “Why are you telling me? That’s Not My Job.”

Fifteen minutes and several packets of ketchup requested by frustrated customers later and still not a single employee had addressed the issue. Apparently it wasn’t only Not Her Job, it wasn’t her job to tell anyone else about the problem, either.

Do you have any NMJ employees?

Here are two ways to solve that problem…

  1. The first line of any job description, no matter what the position, should read, “Do whatever is necessary to make sure the customer has an awesome experience.”
  2. Only hire people who care.

Our tag line at Toy House was, “We’re here to make you smile.” When new employees ask me their job description, I start with, “Your job is to make customers smile.” Then I show them how to answer the phone, run the register, ask questions, suggest the proper toys, giftwrap packages, offer tips, carry things up front or out to their car, sign them up for the Birthday Club and email newsletters, build a relationship, occupy their child, counsel them, teach them a new game, oh yeah, and sell them stuff.

The second part – hiring people who care – saves you all the hassle of writing up a lengthy job description. Hire someone who cares and they will do whatever it takes to get the job done well. The one thing they don’t care about is whose job it is to get something done. They only care that it got done.

You find those people by asking questions like…

“What do you care about?”
“Tell me a time you went above and beyond what was expected of you…”
“What are your biggest pet peeves?”
“Have you ever done someone else’s job for them?”

Just hiring warm bodies won’t grow your business. I would have written a different blog if the gal had looked me in the eye and said, “I’m so sorry about that. Thank you for letting us know. We’ll get on that as soon as we get a free moment. In the meantime, can I get you some ketchup packets? How many do you need?”

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Don’t get me started on the overflowing trash cans or the ten-minute wait for the fish sandwich or the cold apple pies. You can’t afford that kind of help at any minimum wage.

PPS When you decide you want a better staff, buy the book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel. The steps are there for turning your staff into a work of art.

Stories From Toy Fair

The big show for the toy industry starts this weekend. It feels weird not gearing up for the trip to NYC. So instead of a trip to New York, I’m going to take a trip down memory lane. Here are some of my favorite stories…

Toy Fair LEGO Booth 2010

This first story goes back to my grandfather, Mayor Phil Conley’s first trip back in 1950. Munn Furman (Furman’s Clothing) pulled him aside and told him the vendors there did their “credit check” by the thread count of his jacket. Munn gave my grandfather a new suit to wear and told Phil to pay him for it after the trip. Sure enough, the first showroom my grandfather entered, the guy vigorously shook his right hand saying hello and welcome, all the while rubbing the shoulders and back of the suit coat with his left hand. My grandfather knew immediately he would be paying Munn for that suit (and that suit was already paying for itself!)

Lesson? Appearances do matter. They did back then and they do today. Make a good first impression if you want to be taken seriously.

My dad had an interesting story of being in a showroom once back in the early 80’s when the Toys R Us buyer entered the room. The man talking to my dad left him in mid-sentence – yes, with half a word still dangling in the air – to go meet the TRU guy. Another gentleman came and escorted my parents from the showroom as they closed shutters and locked doors behind them. I had a similar experience in a booth two decades later when a salesperson actually said, “You’re not as important to me as the Toys R Us buyer. You can find your way out.” In both cases, those companies lost our business. In both cases those companies were out of business long before we were. In both cases, politeness would have gone a long way.

Lesson? Sure, your best customers deserve top-level attention. But then again, so do all your other customers. If either company had been polite and apologetic toward my dad or me, they wouldn’t have lost any customers that day.

One of my favorite booths was Education Outdoors. They had a hunting lodge feel to their booth. Tim and Jesse were always welcoming and friendly. They had two camp chairs in the booth. Usually I would see them late in the day. After two days walking the concrete floors lugging a few hundred pounds of catalogs, those camp chairs felt like Lazy Boy recliners. One year I got to their booth and my phone battery was dead. They had paid extra to have electricity in their booth and let me plug in my phone and pick it up an hour later. I can count on one hand the number of booths I trusted enough to even ask such a request, let alone trust them to leave my phone behind. Yes, they were always one of my favorite vendors. Probably one of yours, too, if you ever played the game “Camp”.

Lesson? Relationships matter. Trust matters. Helping each other out matters. Little acts of kindness matter. Get those things right and the rest will follow.

My favorite part of attending Toy Fair had to be the basement booths. The basement was filled with a lot of smaller companies. A lot of game inventors were downstairs. Education Outdoors was always downstairs. A lot of single-item toy inventors were downstairs. A lot of treasures to be discovered were downstairs. You had to walk some of the aisles with blinders on. This is where the real salesmanship was happening. Everyone was trying to catch your eye. Everyone had their pitch ready. If you so much as slowed down or glanced in their direction, they pounced.

“This will be bigger than Tickle Me Elmo!”
“Come on, give a small guy a chance…”
“Boo! Made you look. Now you have to stop in the booth!”

Or my favorite line I heard once, “Hey Phil, my friend bet me I couldn’t get you to stop in my booth.”

There were people sitting on chairs in the back of their booths waiting to be discovered. (They never were.) There were people jumping out in front of you as you walked the aisle. It was dog-eat-dog selling. The line that worked best was simply, “Phil, can I show you something new?”

Lesson? Honest, sincere pitches always work best. Gimmicks might get my attention, but never got me to buy. (Same thing with your advertising.)

I don’t miss travel to NYC in mid-February (been there for several feet of snow over the years) but I do miss the trade show, especially the after-hour sessions talking shop with my peers over a few beers. A lot of lessons to be learned for anyone paying attention.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, I stopped. But only after he agreed to split his winnings with me. Funny thing is that I don’t remember the booth or the product, only the gimmick.

You’re Not Perfect

You’re not perfect. Far from it. Me, too. You will make mistakes. You will ruin someone’s Christmas. You will cause someone gray hairs. You will make someone miss an appointment because they had to deal with your carelessness.

You will have some problems that aren’t even your fault. Maybe your vendor screwed up or the customer had a completely unrealistic expectation even after you explained it for the third time. Maybe you get the good spouse, bad spouse routine.

No matter what type of retail, you are going to have the unhappy customer.

I believe two of my favorite companies – Ritz-Carlton and Zingerman’s Deli have it right.

(source unknown)

They both empower their entire staff to be able to take care of a customer’s problem. Everyone from the assistant bottle washer to the garden boy to the valet have authorization to take a customer’s wrongs and make them right.

It does beg the question… Would you leave the fate of your customer service reputation in the hands of your lowest paid employee?

Yes! If you train them right.

Here is the easy format for handling about 98.7% of your unhappy customers.

  1. Apologize. It doesn’t matter who is at fault. They are angry. They perceive you have slighted them in some way. Apologize to them. “I am really sorry that this happened.”
  2. Ask. Ask for a complete description of what happened and what went wrong from their perspective. Don’t interrupt. Let them say what is on their mind. Don’t assume you know what happened. Let them tell the whole story. Apologize again, if necessary.
  3. Amend. Make it right. The best way to make it right in their eyes is to ask, “What would you like us to do?” Most of the time, especially if you have done steps 1 and 2, they will ask for far less than what you are prepared to do. Do what they asked, and then a little more. Yes, even if you’re giving away the farm (figuratively, of course).
  4. Learn. Let your staff make the customer happy. Then have them report back to you what they did. As long as they made the customer happy, tell your staff, “Well done!” Then show them a better way to handle it the next time if necessary.

You have to train your staff to do this. It won’t happen overnight. You have to role play it at meetings. You have to spell it out in writing. You have to remind them that the store’s first and foremost goal is to have happy customers and their job is to make those customers happy. Your job is to teach them how.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Unhappy customers are people, too. Treat them with respect and dignity (apologize and listen fully to their complaints) and they become a lot less unhappy in very short time. In fact, they often become your best ambassadors.

Is Customer Service Dead?

I just spent several days in Las Vegas for the ABC Expo, the largest trade show for the juvenile product industry.

Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (btw, they mean the money you gamble stays in Vegas).

NO BEER FOR PHIL

One thing that didn’t happen in Vegas was me drinking beer. Not that I didn’t try.

I ordered a beer in a burger & beer joint in one casino. Took almost 20 minutes to arrive. I probably would have had two if I hadn’t filled up on water waiting for the first one.

I ordered a beer at another restaurant just as I started my meal. When the waitress finally returned to see if we wanted our check, I switched it from a tall to a regular.

I understand the concept of not bringing the check in a restaurant until they ask for it, on the hopes that people will continue drinking and run up the tab, but I wasn’t getting either the drink or the tab. It’s hard to pay 20% on over-priced meals when you get service like that.

NO PRICE LISTS EITHER

It wasn’t just the restaurants, either. I was in one of the largest booths on the trade show floor. I asked for a price list so that I could place my order. The sales rep said she was instructed not to give them out.

Huh?

I’m about to write an order equal to one month of your salary. You have a stack of price lists in your arm that I can see clearly. And you won’t give me one? Did you forget why you were here?

Time after time, booth after booth, I had to ask to make sure they gave me a price list with the catalog. It was baffling how hard many of these vendors were making it for us to do business with them.

CUSTOMER SERVICE IS DEAD

Another store owner and I, while waiting for our dinner check, had plenty of time to discuss the general lack of customer service everywhere. We shared stories of trips to the big box stores, department stores, mall stores, and yes, even indie retail stores where the bar was not met.

Think about it. Here are two retailers who understand the challenges of retail. Our bar of expectation is probably more forgiving than others. Yet we were lamenting how we couldn’t find anyone to consistently give us even simple basic customer service.

Yet a new survey from SAP SE says that one of the keys to future growth is, “Improve the in-store experience, because while a focus for many years on the in-store experience has paid off, retailers must continue to evolve and innovate to keep up with changing customer needs.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE CPR

The key phrase is changing customer needs. Actually they aren’t changing as fast as you might think. But if you aren’t hyper-focused on your customer’s needs, whether it be a beer or a price or just a friendly smile, your customer service is dead and dying.

My fellow retailer and I came to a simple conclusion. Customer Service is really quite simple…

Give the customer exactly what she wants.

WOW Customer Service is not much more difficult.

Give her exactly what she wants and then a little more.

We didn’t find that in Las Vegas. But if you do that in your store, it will pay off in ways the slot machines never can.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Your brick & mortar competition (chains and big-box behemoths) have pretty much given up on Customer Service. You know who hasn’t? The online stores. Amazon is hyper-focused on the customer. Other major online sellers are doing the same. If you can start exceeding your customers’ expectations, you can own the b&m landscape. Need an idea of how to raise that bar? Download Customer Service: From Weak to WOW! in the Free Resources section.