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When You’re Good to Momma

On a trip to NYC for Toy Fair a few years ago I met a family that came to the city just to go to Broadway shows. That sounded like a dream trip to me. I love musical theater. I wish Netflix had more “live Broadway” shows than they currently do. In spite of what the critics say about them, I even love movies based on Broadway shows (yes, including Evita!) One of my favorites is Chicago. There are a few songs I could watch over and over.

One is Queen Latifah singing “When You’re Good to Momma” about the Law of Reciprocity.

Last night I had my own Law of Reciprocity moment. I received an act of great generosity from someone because of the generosity this person received many decades ago from my grandfather. I will have to pay it forward as she did.

That’s how it works. You do something good for me and I feel the urge to do something good for you. If I can’t do something good for you, I pay it forward.

Bob Negen gives the example of walking through a set of doors. If two guys approach at the same time and one offers to hold the door open for the other, at the next set of doors the the other guy will hold them open for the first. It is a social contract.

Liberty Mutual did a whole commercial campaign around the idea of paying it forward (here is the full video, grab your tissue.) 

It also works in reverse. If you’re rude or disrespectful to me, I may fire back in kind. We’ve certainly seen a lot of that in the past several years.

As a business owner, however, you have one choice that works long term—Generosity.

Be generous in your offerings. Be generous in your kindness, your helpfulness, and your time. Be as generous for the customer spending $2.50 as you are for the customer spending $2,500. It pays in the long run.

Generosity helps your business in many ways.

  • First, it leads to more word-of-mouth. When your generosity is genuine, unexpected, and sincere, people talk about that to their friends.
  • Second, it leads to reciprocity. Generosity more often leads to trust, which leads to more sales. Yet even if your customers are not generous directly back to you, they may pay it forward, and that helps out everyone.
  • Third, you feel better. An eye-for-an-eye leaves the whole world blind.
  • Fourth, your customers are watching and judging you by your actions. In fact, unfair as it is, they are judging all small businesses by your actions.

The little things you do that you don’t have to do are big things in your customers’ eyes.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” -James D. Miles

You have the choice of the reciprocity you wish to receive and the reciprocity you wish to foist upon the world. Generosity is the winning formula for small businesses.

Be good to Momma.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Calling another store to see if they have something you don’t carry is generous. Carrying heavy packages out to your customer’s car is generous. Offering free valet parking in a downtown setting is generous.  Making the customer look like a hero to her family or friends is generous. Adding an unexpected gift-with-purchase is generous. Spending time to get to know the customer, talk to her kids, and be interested in her life is generous. Treating the customers “just looking” with kindness, respect, and helpfulness is generous. Ask your staff at your next meeting. I am sure they can come up with some more ideas of ways to be generous.

When Being Clever Backfires

We were standing on the back patio looking up at the stars. The big dipper was only slightly obscured behind a tall cedar tree. You could see enough of it to recognize the constellation.

“Where’s the North Star?”

I pointed directly at it, proud of my astronomical knowledge.

“That’s it? That’s not very impressive.”

Have you ever thought you were being clever and then had someone just blow it up for you? That was one of those moments. We had a good laugh.

Unfortunately for some companies, they roll out something they think is clever without first testing it to see how quickly and easily someone might punch holes in their cleverness, or not understand the inside joke, or simply just not think it is that impressive.

My friend in California sent me a picture of exactly that.

The back of this employee’s shirt says, “I can make it right.”

Does that mean they expect to screw up a lot? That was the first thought my friend had when he saw the shirt. It was the first thought I had when he shared the story. I’m sure it is the first thought on many people’s minds.

There is something to be said for admitting your flaws and taking responsibility for your mistakes, but it probably isn’t the best idea to tell people that you expect to make mistakes. A lot of them. All the time. So much so that your staff is going around proclaiming that their one skill is in being able to fix problems and make them right.

Maybe you should train them to do it right the first time?

As a customer, my expectation is that you will make it right. Period. If you don’t, I won’t be back. Telling me on your shirt that you are trained for that doesn’t necessarily instill any new confidence in me because it makes me immediately think you’re prone to making mistakes you need to fix a lot. This shirt gives off the wrong vibe.

That’s not very impressive.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS There is nothing wrong with being clever. Just be sure you have someone you trust look at it before you roll it out. Not your staff, though. They see the inside joke you see. Have an outsider tell you their first impression, then decide if you’re okay with that impression before you go live. Cleverness can be good when done right, but can also backfire when people don’t get the joke.

I’m Looking For Work

Since closing up Toy House last December I have been writing, speaking, coaching, sailing, selling, and singing for my supper. It has been an interesting adjustment from the steady paycheck of selling toys. It has been filled with highs and lows and stimulating conversations when people ask me how I’m enjoying “retirement.” I’m a few decades away from that word. I need to work.

The past few days I have thrown my hat into the ring for some full-time job openings in southern Michigan.

Yes, I am looking for work. 

This is me. Always smiling. Always ready to help.

Here is my resume: (Please excuse my bragging—that’s what resumes are for, right?)

27 years as a Team Builder: Developed, Organized and Led Team Building Activities utilizing Low and High Ropes Courses, Wilderness & Experiential Activities, and designated tasks to promote better communication, cooperation and trust for groups ranging from adolescents to corporate America. Led and Facilitated Training Programs to teach others to be Team Builders. Wrote and published blogs and articles on Team Building.

24 years as a Purchasing Agent: Created and Managed Open-to-Buy programs for multi-million dollar retail store. Negotiated Terms with Vendors. Made Purchasing Decisions for millions of dollars of inventory. Designed Merchandising Displays including Revamping 16,000 square feet of display space. Led Workshops, Seminars and Webinars on Inventory Management, Pricing, and Financials,

22 years as a Marketing & Advertising Director: Developed and Managed Advertising Budgets between $20,000 and $120,000 annually. Made Advertising Purchases and Created Content for TV, Radio, Newsprint, Billboard, Direct Mail, Email, Facebook, In-Store Signage, Business Flyers, and Press Releases. Conceived, Organized and Hosted several public and private Marketing Events. Made Public Appearances at Networking Events, on Radio, and TV. Built websites for www.ToyHouseOnline.com and www.PhilsForum.com (among others). Led Workshops, Seminars and Webinars on Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations. Wrote book on Advertising called Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t).

21 years as an HR Director: Hired, Trained, Scheduled and Managed a team of 12 to 30 employees. Created an Employment Manual and Training Program. Planned, Organized and Led monthly Staff Trainings and Meetings. Led Workshops, Seminars and Webinars on Hiring & Training and Customer Service. Wrote and Published a Book on Hiring and Training called Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art. 

27 years as a Speaker/Teacher: I have given over 100 seminars to other businesses, led over 100 training workshops for staff development, facilitated over 100 team building events, conducted over 100 presentations on shopping to customers, and taught over 100 classes for new, expectant fathers at our local hospital.

9 years as a Writer: I have written four books, dozens of magazine articles, hundreds of different advertising content, and 788 blog posts (counting this one.)

I am looking for work.

You can hire me to do Private Coaching, one-on-one, in the area you need the most help. (For a lot of people that has been hiring and training.)

You can hire me to do Presentations and Workshops. My Customer Service presentation takes a unique approach by helping you define each point of contact a customer has with your business and measures your performance at every step along the way. Like my Hiring & Training presentation, this works with any type or size of business. In fact, it was a manufacturer who paid me the highest compliment telling me I had given him the “million-dollar idea” he needed to take his business to the next level (as he flew away on his private jet.)

You can hire me to help you revamp your Marketing & Advertising. Whether temporary as a coach/consultant and/or to help you create new content, or full-time as a Manager or Director, I will bring insights and skills that will move the needle for your business.

You can hire me to Write. My specialty in writing is to teach and persuade. I’m sure you can figure out how to use that in your business.

I’m not a perfect candidate. Most people look at my resume and get hung up on the fact I have Bachelor of Science in Geological Oceanography from the University of Michigan. That was 28 years ago. I barely remember that child (but I still know more about shoreline erosion than anyone really needs to know.)

Or they want to discount the above experiences because I didn’t do it in corporate America. I can see that. Of course, I did all those jobs simultaneously (plus twelve years as CEO and CFO) for a store that in 2009 was named “One of the 25 best independent stores in America!” in the book Retail Superstars by George Whalin. That’s not corporate America, but it does speak to my ability to learn and my ability to stay organized and focused while juggling a lot of responsibilities in a fast-paced environment.

I’d be happy to discuss these and any other reservations during the interview.

I am looking for work. Do you know anyone who can use a guy like me?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I apologize if this post sounds too much like bragging. I really do need more work. I want you to know I’m not just a blogger who thinks he knows something about business. I have walked the walk. I have made many mistakes and learned from them. I don’t have the business degree, but I did have the toughest teacher ever—real life! You get the exam first and then you get the lesson. Please share this post with anyone you know who could use a guy like me.

PPS You know my Core Values are Having Fun, Helping Others, Education and Nostalgia. My ideal job is teaching and helping others. It is what I do best and I enjoy it thoroughly. My second passion is marketing & advertising, finding new ways to drive traffic. That and Free Cell are my two favorite puzzles to solve. If the right opportunity comes along, however, I’m game for just about anything that lines up with my values.

Could This Happen in Your Store?

You have some time to kill before your next appointment. You pull into the parking lot of one of your favorite stores at 9:17am. You know they don’t open until 9:30am. It says so right on the door. That’s okay. You’ll sit and wait.

You look up from your phone to see someone walking into the store. You check your phone. Nope, still only 9:20am. Maybe she is an employee.

Image result for broken open signYou see another person walking out of the store with shopping bags in her arms. It’s only 9:21am. Three customers later, you’re wondering what is going on. Finally at 9:30am you walk in past the sign on the door that clearly says 9:30am to 9:00pm Monday through Saturday.

Once inside, you see plenty of customers already in the store shopping, but the two center rows of lights are off. Now you are really confused. You work your way toward the back of the store down one of the lit side aisles. You finally see a staff member near the back.

“I thought you opened at 9:30am”

“Not on Saturdays. We open at 10:30am on Saturdays. We never open at 9:30.”

“That’s not what your door says.”

“You need to read it again.”

“Then why are all these people in here already?”

“We’re having a special event.”

“Why are the lights off?”

“We aren’t open yet. I told you. We don’t open until 10:30am.”

You walk away from this employee with more questions than answers. A special event? Where are the signs? What kind of event? Why are the lights off? Why does the door say 9:30am? Why was she so rude?

You work your way carefully up one of the darkened aisles. You get to the front and walk to the door. It still says Monday through Saturday 9:30am to 9:00pm. No signs about special events anywhere.

You see another employee, a manager. You ask her the same questions. She confirms that the store normally opens at 9:30am. She confirms that they opened at 8:30am for a special event (even though you still haven’t seen any signs about it.) You ask her why the lights are off. She says, “Oh, I didn’t notice.”

Ten minutes later the lights come on. You look at your phone. 10:00am on the dot.

A few minutes later you walk out of the store empty handed, shaking your head, confused. One of your favorite stores has dropped a few notches on your list. You still don’t know what the special event was. You still don’t know how the manager couldn’t notice that half the aisles were too dark to shop. You still don’t know why the one employee was so adamant they don’t keep the hours they have posted on their front door.

About the only thing you can do is call your friend who writes a blog about retail. I took that call about 12:20pm today. I’m still not sure how to file this or even what lesson to learn from it.

Tom Clancy said, “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” This story makes no sense at all. That’s how you know it is true.

Is this about holding a special event and not making a big deal about it with signage, lights, and everyone on board?

Is this about an employee not knowing basics like the store hours and not knowing how to treat a customer with respect?

Is this about a manager not observant enough to know the lights aren’t on?

Or is this simply a cautionary tale that if you aren’t taking care of the details, you just might be turning off customers who otherwise liked you?

I’ll let you decide the lesson.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The unfortunate thing is that this is becoming the norm in retail. While that helps you differentiate yourself from your competitors, it also lowers the overall bar of expectation making it easier for your competitors to meet those lower expectations. It devalues customer service as a whole, and that is not good.

Where to Spend the First Million

Reports are that Toys R Us has secured $3.1 billion in financing to get them through the holiday season. Thanksgiving is only nine weeks away. I have a plan for the first million dollars they should spend that will change the culture in their stores immediately and just in time for the critical holiday season. It will take about seven weeks to fully implement. Have David Brandon call me ASAP.

There are 866 Toys R Us and Babies R Us locations in the United States. I would fly the 866 store managers in to headquarters for a full day of training. That training would include a morning segment and an afternoon segment.

The morning segment would be all about toys and play value including:

  • The Importance of Play Value on Child Development
  • The Elements of a Great Toy
  • The Different Ways Children Play
  • Smart Toy Shopping

The afternoon segment would be all about hiring and training a staff plus how to raise the bar of customer service and would include:

  • Determining the Character Traits for the different positions on the team
  • Interviewing Techniques
  • Developing a Training program for New Hires
  • Developing a Continual Training Program for current staff
  • Raising the Bar on Customer Service

The morning would be about changing the way the company as a whole looks at the products they sell and gets them to shift their mindset away from “selling toys” to “solving problems” or “helping children develop.” As I explained previously, this is the direction they should have taken back in 1998 when Walmart surpassed them in overall toy sales. This is where they should have gone to reclaim their throne as the “king of toys.”

The afternoon would focus on raising the bar for the staff by finding better people, training them better, and creating a lasting program to continually raise the bar on their servicing of their customers. Even a big chain like Toys R Us that doesn’t offer a lot of fancy services like free gift wrapping or year-round layaway can still find new and better ways to treat customers by meeting and exceeding their expectations.

The managers would end the day equipped with new skills for hiring, training, and managing their staff while also teaching their staff and their customer base about the importance of their products and why customers should be choosing to shop at Toys R Us for all their toy needs.

Not only would Toys R Us see a profound shift in customer satisfaction this holiday season, but with better hiring of the seasonal staff, the managers would have a better pool of employees to change the culture of their stores going forward. Better hiring skills have a cumulative effect year after year.

The cost to TRU breaks down like this …

  • 866 managers flown in for training x $800 per person for flight and hotel = $692,000
  • Assorted costs for training room, lunches, and printed materials = $58,000
  • Fee for me to do 7 weeks of training (at 25 managers a day, it would take 35 days to see them all, or seven 5-day weeks) = $250,000

It would be the best million dollars they spend all year. But they better hurry. Thanksgiving is only nine weeks away.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you’re an independent retailer you’re hating this post. Everything I just explained that TRU should do is exactly what sets you apart from the category killer and big-box discounters you compete against. If you’re an indie retailer, though, you have secretly been scared that if the category killer in your industry ever “got it” and decided to do what I’ve outlined, it would make your job that much harder. Here’s the kicker. Do it first. Do it before they get smart.

PPS My rate may seem a little high, but that’s because I’m here to help my fellow indie retailers and small businesses succeed. If the chains want me, they’ll have to pay. You, however, can hire me to do all that for your business at fraction (very small fraction) of that cost. Get a couple of your fellow local retailers to join you and you can split it even further. Call me.

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.)