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Manager Do’s and Don’t’s

I’ve been blessed to have several employees tell me I was their favorite manager/employer. As much as I would like to take credit for being awesome, I can’t say how much of that was because of me or because of the extremely low bar set by their other employers. The stories they would tell me of their previous employers led me to believe that my dog would have been considered a better manager.

I know my own managerial style has been greatly influenced by a number of people.

I worked for some amazing leaders back in the 1980’s at YMCA Storer Camps that had a profound impact on my development as a person. The camp motto is “I’m Third” (God is first, others are second, and I’m third.) I’m sure you have seen powerful leaders who do their best work serving the people they lead.

I worked for an amazing man named Dana in the summer of 1992 who taught me how to treat everyone on the team equally and also how to trust us to do our jobs. You know how tough it can be when the boss plays favorites.

My grandfather Phil Conley working the register back in 1958

I saw my own parents and grandparents in action, too. My grandfather, Phil Conley, was Mayor of Jackson. He told me time and time again that the true jobs of Mayor were to build consensus and be head cheerleader. Mayor? Manager? The roles are pretty much the same. You and I are head cheerleaders for our teams, spending much of our effort trying to get everyone all on the same page.

In keeping with the theme of the last two posts (here and here), let’s put together a partial list* of Manager Do’s and Don’t’s.

I’ll start.

Manager Do’s

  • Do praise your staff, even for the small stuff, even for the stuff they only partially do right.
  • Do listen to new ideas and carefully consider them before deciding.
  • Do grant your team the time off to handle family and health issues as necessary.
  • Do be thorough in your explanations and communications.
  • Do schedule them as far in advance as possible so that they can make plans farther into the future.
  • Do work around any time-off requests they give you well in advance.
  • Do encourage them to better themselves through classes, conferences, books, etc.
  • Do let them redecorate and re-merchandise the store.
  • Do give the autonomy to do their job.
  • Do be clear how they will be measured and rewarded.
  • Do give them unexpected bonuses and meaningful gifts.

Manager Don’t’s

  • Don’t criticize them in front of other employees or customers.
  • Don’t be condescending.
  • Don’t play favorites.
  • Don’t give them a task without clear instructions of how you want it done.
  • Don’t give them a task you would not do yourself.
  • Don’t share anything they told you in confidence with another employee.
  • Don’t talk about other employees to them.
  • Don’t do anything you wouldn’t let them get away with.
  • Don’t believe that you are “above” them in any way. (They are people, too.)
  • Don’t expect them to care as much as you do. It is your life, it is their job.
  • Don’t make a decision until you know all the facts.
  • Don’t micromanage.
  • Don’t assume they think like you do or know exactly what you mean.

What would you add to these lists?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

*PS This will always be a partial list. No one could ever finish it (although I encourage you to try). With that said, share with me your best ever manager stories either when you were being managed or you were managing someone else and it just clicked.

Giving Back Good People

Whether you agree with yesterday’s post about giving good people back to society or not, you will likely agree with this statement …

You want the best staff your payroll and training budget will allow.

(Surprisingly, many chain retailers at the mall don’t act like they agree with that statement. Not surprisingly, many chain retailers at the mall are closing stores.)

The two limiting factors to having an amazing staff filled with good people are Time and Money. As always, you can spend one to save the other. You can pay more than everyone else in your industry and hopefully attract the best and brightest candidates. Or you can spend the time to make them  the best and brightest.

I give you three things today that will help you get the most out of your payroll and training budget. The first is something you have to do no matter what. The second costs you time. The third costs you money. All three together, however, will help you give good people back to society.

HIRE GOOD PEOPLE

My team with plaques I hand-picked for them as appreciation gifts.

It starts with the quality of your hiring. In my book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel I outline the nine steps a potter takes to create a work of art that is considered beautiful, useful, strong, and long-lasting. I then show you how those nine steps relate to the hiring and training process to create a staff that is beautiful, useful, strong, and long-lasting.

One of the first steps is to hire someone who already has the right character traits to be successful on the job.

Along with the other traits you might need, you should hire people who are already Caring and who are Problem Solvers by nature. Those people will try harder to take care of your customers in the first place.

START WITH SMILES

We started each staff meeting with “Smile Stories”, stories from the previous month where we made the customer’s day. Our mission was summed up by the phrase, “We’re here to make you smile.” By starting each meeting with those Smile Stories, we not only reinforced our mission, we put everyone into a positive mood. People were laughing (and sometimes even crying tears of joy) at the stories. This opened people up and made them more receptive to any training offered.

If you start by criticizing (as I have seen many managers do), you put people on the defensive. They close up and make it difficult for you to get anything across to them.

Start with your successes and build on them.

MAKE CONTINUED LEARNING A PRIORITY

For several years I offered a $150 bonus toward some form of continued learning. It could be used for a computer class, a conference fee, or even a dance class. The idea behind it is that a person who makes continued learning a goal in his or her life will be more open to learning new skills in general. By encouraging my team to continue to pursue their dreams and grow their skills in their personal life, I kept them in a frame of mind for growing their skills in general. This made my staff trainings more effective right from the start. Learning new skills is a mindset that you need to foster.

In Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive, he states there are three things needed to motivate your staff. One of those is Mastery, the idea that they are learning new skills to become better at what they do. When you foster continued learning, you lead your team to Mastery. When you lead your team to Mastery, they find the intrinsic motivation they need to do their best.

Too many retailers look at their staff as a plastic bottle of syrup to be squeezed until every last drop is out, only to be discarded for a new bottle down the road. Instead look at your staff as the ceramic pitcher that holds the syrup in a much more classy way, gets refilled as necessary, and lasts through many years of service.

That’s how you get the best staff your payroll and training budget will allow.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I cannot emphasize enough the importance of starting off meetings on a positive note. I did a presentation to kick off a staff meeting once. We were having a rocking good time. Then the meeting began and the manager started off with a laundry list of every mistake the team had made since the last meeting. The energy drained from the room faster than if a tornado had swung through. I could tell by the body language in the room that everyone had shutdown. No one was listening intently after that. If you have to criticize, do so in private and sandwich it between two pieces of praise. If you have to bring up a problem in a meeting, do it by saying, “Here is an area where we can improve.” Much more positive that way.

What are You Prepping Your Staff For?

The biggest thing I miss not running Toy House is my staff. I miss the daily interactions. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the laughter and jokes. I miss the smile stories we shared at the beginning of each staff meeting. I miss the “Aha” moments during those staff meetings when light bulbs went off or new ideas sunk in.

This was one of our staff meetings where we discussed different toys for special needs.

Of all the things we accomplished at Toy House over the years I am most proud of creating a team that other people recognized for being at the pinnacle of what retail is all about. The day we announced our closing I fielded several phone calls from people wanting to know how soon they could start hiring away my staff. Every single caller said the same thing … “I know the quality of people you have on your team …”

A few weeks ago a wise woman said,

“The greatest thing we can give is good people back to society.” -Mary Ben Woolbright

She was talking about being parents as we watched a mutual friend’s daughter graduate college. She could very well be talking about our role as managers of people, too.

Mike Rowe does a television show about Dirty Jobs, but we all know retail and its kin sister, food service, are the lowest rungs on the employee food chain.

If nothing else, we owe it to our staff to give them the tools to better their lives, whether that’s through education, learning new skills, or simply learning how to be “good people”. If we don’t do that for them, we do them and our business a disservice.

If we do that for them, we create a culture where everything is possible, where people want to work, people want to shop, people want to be. If we do that for them, we give good people back to society and help individuals achieve their dreams.

This is a mindset. Not every employer has that mindset (but wouldn’t it be great if they did?) If you don’t have that mindset, tomorrow’s post won’t be for you.

If you do have a similar mindset, tomorrow I will share with you some of the things I did to try to give good people back to society (hint: it helps to start with good people in the first place, but then you have to nurture it, too.)

This mindset served my team well. Every person on my team that wanted work, found it quickly, and in many cases found better work than even I could offer them. It also served my customers well. That’s why my phone was ringing off the hook. Other employers liked the standards we set and wanted the people who met those standards.

When I look back on 2017, that is what makes me happiest.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Go read my free eBook Understanding Your Brand in the Free Resources section of my website. I’ll reference it tomorrow, but to give you a heads up, you can read it today.

PPS Please forgive my humble brag. We weren’t perfect. Far from it. There are so many things I wish I had done better. So many things I left undone (or even unstarted). I wasn’t always the best boss. One thing that made it work, though, was that we always strove to be better. Start with that. Start with where you are right now and figure out small incremental steps to get better. You’ll be amazed how quickly steps turn into leaps.

Few Things Go As Planned

Back in the early 1990’s I ran a wilderness trip program out at YMCA Storer Camps. I had a team of trip leaders who would plot out backpacking, biking, rock climbing, and canoeing trips around the Midwest and Ontario. One of the planning stages for the trip leaders was to build an itinerary showing what they would be doing each day, where they would be camping each night, and what goals they hoped to accomplish on the trip.

Papa Moose and family on the Missinaibi River, Northern Ontario 1987

Before each trip I would go through their itinerary with them, making sure the trip looked sound on paper. Then I would have them fold up the itinerary, place it in a Ziploc bag, and stick it in the bottom of their rucksack to only pull out if necessary.

Rarely if ever did a trip turn out exactly as it was written on paper. Flat tires, flash flooding, lost canoes, or other unexpected obstacles would always throw the itinerary off track. Sometimes the itinerary had to be adjusted to meet the needs of the group. One of my bike trips added an extra 100 miles to their trip because the kids had the skills to make that extra jaunt. There was always something.

What I learned through this exercise was one simple lesson—the future will not turn out exactly as you planned.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for it. The two most important days of the itinerary were the first and last. The first set the tone, the last got you home. What happened in between was subject to change at a moment’s notice. A skilled trip leader knew when to adjust the itinerary to make the trip fun for everyone. A skilled trip leader expected to make changes mid-stream and was prepared to do so.

So here is my best New Year’s advice to you.

2018 will not turn out how you planned.

I’m not being a Debby Downer here. In fact, 2018 may surpass all your wildest dreams. Or it may take a hard 90-degree turn down a path you never imagined that might be the best path you ever could take. It may be close to what you thought, but there will be plot-twists, obstacles, detours, re-routes, and even a dead-end or two along the way.

That’s okay.

It is impossible for you to foresee that much of the future to meet every challenge perfectly prepared, knowing what will happen before it happens. (If you had that skill, you likely wouldn’t be reading my blog.)

With that said, you still need to plan your itinerary. You still need to plot out where you are today and where you want to be at the end of the year. You still need to put down a plan for how you will get from Point A to Point B. Without a plan, I can promise you won’t get anywhere close to Point B.

A skilled retailer will plan the following:

  • Marketing: What events, what advertisements, what other ways will you draw traffic to your store? At the same time, how will you measure new, unforeseen opportunities as they come along? What will you need to see to jump at an opportunity or take a risk with your advertising and marketing?
  • Staff Training: What skills do you want your staff to learn and strengthen in 2018? At the same time, how will you deal with the sudden change should you lose a key employee or two along the way?
  • Customer Service: Where are the holes in the service you provide and how will you raise the bar for 2018? At the same time, how will you spot new opportunities to surprise and delight customers in the future as their bar of expectation rises as well?
  • Inventory Management: How will you raise margins and turn ratios (to increase cash flow) while keeping prices attractive and keeping enough inventory on the shelf to maintain sales levels? At the same time, how will you respond to fads? What criteria will you use to jump in whole hog when something is going hot (or jump out quickly when something has died?)

 

A skilled retailer like a skilled trip leader knows that the goal is to start the year out on the right foot and make it to the finish line intact. What happens in between will never match the plan, but if you’re prepared, will be a helluva lot of fun.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Those four categories will be the main focus of this blog for 2018. My goal for the New Year is to prepare you to see the opportunities, the detours, the 90-degree turns, the obstacles, and the dead-ends for what they are so that you can navigate through them or around them. Sound good?

A Little Forethought Keeps Little Things Little

When I was a kid, I loved riddles. I especially loved the gotcha riddles where if you didn’t pay attention to everything you were sure to get it wrong. One of my early favorites was,

“What weighs more? A pound of feathers or a pound of gold?”

Once I learned the devil was in the details, I would never answer a riddle until I heard it several times, always paying attention to every little detail. Another of my favorites was,

“You’re the driver of a bus. The bus goes west one mile before turning right. Then it travels two miles, drops off one person and picks up three. The bus turns right again and travels 4 miles, dropping off six and picking up five. The bus turns left and goes a half mile dropping off two and picking up nine. What is the bus driver’s name?”

Miss that first detail and you miss the whole riddle.

The Toy House Team during our Summer Fun Sale

This Friday, every year, was a detail day. Tomorrow you will be as busy as any day of your year. You’ll likely have to fight to get a break just to eat some cold leftovers (unless you were smart enough to cater lunch for the team). You’ll feel overwhelmed at times. You’ll feel pulled in several directions at once. The last thing you need tomorrow is to have to take care of problems that can be nipped in the bud today.

The night before a big day we replaced all the cash register receipt tape with fresh, full rolls. We checked the ink levels on the registers and in all of the pens nearby (and made sure there were plenty of pens nearby). We restocked all the giftwrap paper we used to wrap gifts and had extra rolls on standby. We checked all the tape dispensers, refilled all the staplers, and made sure there were plenty of our yellow note pads at every register and phone.

Those all seem like simple things that should be done every night, but on Friday nights especially, the team is tired and wants to go home. Those few minutes spent, however, make a huge difference when there are lines at the register the next day and everyone in line has somewhere else to be, too.

I’m not a detail guy by nature. But I understood at an early age the importance of paying attention to the details and seeing how they would payoff in the long run.

Tomorrow is going to rock and roll. You’ll have your moments. And if you take a little time tonight to take care of some little things, those little things will remain little things and not blow up into big things tomorrow.

You might even get a moment for a quick bite.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Murphy’s Law states that the register will run out of receipt paper at the worst possible time. Doesn’t it always seem like it takes twice as long to change the paper when people are waiting in line staring at you than it does when no one is at the counter? That is stress making you feel that way. You have enough stress already. Eliminate that one before you even get started. You’ll have plenty of days in January to use those partial rolls of paper.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

I had my first Chick Fil A sandwich a few years ago. We don’t have a Chick Fil A in Jackson, and until recently didn’t have any in the entire state of Michigan. I knew people that drove to Toledo, OH just to get Chick Fil A. That’s pretty high praise for a fast food sandwich.

It is deserving praise, too.

That sandwich is quite good. Every single time. Every. Single. Time.

I’m not alone in liking that sandwich. The average Chick Fil A restaurant does $4.4 million in sales. Contrast that to Kentucky Fried Chicken that does $1.1 million in sales. Four times their biggest competitor! Number one overall in sales per restaurant in the fast food industry! And they’re only open six days a week!!

It isn’t just the sandwich that makes them the true kings of Fast Food Chicken. It is the service.

According to a Business Insider article last summer by Hayley Peterson …

“The chain consistently ranks first in restaurant customer-service surveys. In reviews, customers rave about the restaurants’ cleanliness, quick, convenient service, and hardworking employees.”

The article goes on to say …

“Chick-fil-A says its service is so consistent because it invests more than other companies in training its employees and helping them advance their careers — regardless of whether those careers are in fast food.”

Invests more in training its employees. Gee. Where have you heard that before?

I’m going to tell you one other thing that sets them apart. They do what other fast food restaurants don’t do. Look at this picture of the Chick Fil A in Athens, GA.

Chick Fil A Restaurant, Athens, GA December 2017

You don’t see that in other restaurants, period.

There are only seven fast food restaurants doing more overall business than Chick Fil A. All of them have many multiple times more stores than Chick Fil A.

Like I said before … You can either do stuff no one else is doing, or you can open up more stores than anyone else. Those are the two paths to success.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I went into a Kentucky Fried Chicken the other day. The menu was amazingly confusing. It didn’t even have everything on it. Worst of all, I only wanted some of their chicken strips and a drink. I was told it would be more expensive to buy chicken strips and a drink than to buy the meal which got me chicken strips, a drink, a side, and a cookie. I’m trying to watch my carb intake. I didn’t want a side or a cookie. My choices were to …

  • Pay less and throw away food
  • Pay more and not throw away food
  • Pay less and eat more than I wanted

This is a business plan???

Let’s just say I was surprised, but far from delighted.

PPS You could look at this as a lazy post, just using someone else’s research to make my point. I look at it as a Case Study and social proof that what I have been preaching is working for a business that believes the way I do. By the way, Case Studies are a great advertising tool, too. Don’t tell people what you do, show them.

Being World Famous

I hope someday to be world famous. I could almost say that I already am world famous. I do have a follower in Russia. I have another in Serbia and one in Austria. I have a couple followers from the southern hemisphere. I have shipped my Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel book overseas on several occasions. I’m not exactly a household name, but getting there.

Some places claim to be world famous on even less than that. Some places truly are world famous. I talked about two of them yesterday.

Here is another worth mentioning.

Image result for pike place fish market
World Famous Pike Place Fish Market

Pike Place Fish Market, the retailer highlighted in the excellent training book FISH!, wasn’t world famous at one time. They were just a fish market in Seattle trying to carve out a niche in their market. Business was okay. Like every retailer on the planet, they wanted it to be more than okay. The staff and management got together and decided they wanted to be World Famous.

Deciding you want to be World Famous is powerful. Acting on that decision is the true magic.

When the team at the fish market made that decision, the first question that popped up was the one that would change their fortunes forever.

“What does a World Famous Fish Market look and act like?”

The simplest answer was that it doesn’t look and act like all the other fish markets out there.  It does things differently.

A World Famous Retailer …

  • Offers services no other retailer in their industry offers
  • Treats customers better than they could ever imagine
  • Has hard-to-find products no one else sells
  • Makes an emotional connection with their customers
  • Makes people feel good about themselves, about their purchases, and about life in general
  • Is an experience, not just a shopping trip
  • Is prepared for crowds (heck, they are prepared for anything)
  • Always, always, always has the right attitude
  • Always, always, always does more than the customer expected
  • Foresees problems before they happen, and nips them in the bud
  • Fixes problems right away without hassle, and to a level better than the customer expected

Being World Famous is a mindset first, a recognition second, and a designation third. The path to World Famous is pretty simple. Decide you want to be world famous and do everything on that list consistently year-in-and-year-out, or open up a few thousand stores. Either way, you’ll become World Famous.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I was looking through one of the Memory Books we had for people to sign when they visited Toy House. (People love to sign books like that at World Famous locations, hint, hint.) Found this one …

“Awesome store! What a pleasant surprise! Greetings from the Netherlands, Europe”

Right below it was …

“Thank you for such a wonderful evening and such a wonderful store. -Amiye, Cairo Egypt”

You don’t have to be World Famous to act World Famous. Do the acting part first and the rest will take care of itself.

PPS You can call yourself World Famous before you actually are, but then you better perform like it. Anything less and the marketing will be all for naught.

Attitude Before Aptitude

Long distance runners and long distance swimmers know that somewhere in the middle of the race is where you separate the pros from the amateurs. The amateurs have either gone out too fast and really start to feel it in those middle miles, or their minds start to wander and they lose focus on their pace and strategy.

This is that midpoint for holiday retailers. The run from mid-November to Christmas is a marathon, with many peaks and valleys. The week of Thanksgiving is the start of the race. The week before Christmas is the final sprint to the finish. It is in these middle weeks where focus tends to wander off.

Hire fun-loving people and they’ll raise your attitude, too!

You’re tired. You’re a little down because the sales, while good a couple weeks ago, have ebbed a little prior to that final push. The hours are longer while the days are shorter, and it doesn’t seem like you have enough hours in the day to do everything you want to do. Plus, you have all those seasonal staff that aren’t quite up to the level you had hoped for them. You feel like you need to work on both their Attitude and their Aptitude.

If you have to choose between Attitude and Aptitude, choose Attitude first. Focus on raising your team’s overall cheerfulness, friendliness, and joy.

A customer will overlook the lack of skill of a friendly staff person trying her best much more than they will overlook the surly attitude of a competent but frantic or unhappy staff person who acts like she doesn’t want to be there.

Plus, when you raise the the level of positive energy in the store, you make your staff better prepared for learning new skills.

How do you “raise attitudes?”

  • Check your own. The staff feeds off of you. If you’re still showing a happy, cheerful, friendly demeanor, they are likely to be happy, cheerful, and friendly. If you’re showing the stress of the season, they’ll feed off that, too. You might have to fake it to make it. Go ahead and fake it. Do whatever you have to do to make sure you are the cheeriest of them all.
  • Praise them. Give your staff praise every time you see them do something well. Praise them early and often, even if they make a mistake. Praise the parts they did right. Praise is right up there with food and water as being essential to their well-being. Praise them and they’ll want to learn and do more for you to get more praise.
  • Ask them. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them what has been fun so far. Ask them what you can do to make it better for them. Asking shows that you care, especially when you listen to and act on the answers they give you. They will never care more than you. So the more you care, the higher the ceiling for them to meet.
  • Give them some small token of your appreciation. It can be food or snacks in the break-room, an unexpected gift card to a local restaurant, a gas card, a poinsettia (especially from the stash your sales reps have been giving you.) It doesn’t have to be expensive to be impactful. The act of being generous to them helps them to pay it forward to your customers.

Not only will doing those things raise the attitude of your team, they will help you raise your own attitude so that you don’t have to fake it. A truly good attitude will help you stay focused on the strategies you’ve laid out to be successful in these last couple weeks.

You’ve got this. I know you do.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I have had competent and unhappy people on my team. I have had happy but not yet competent people on my team. I’ve never had a customer complain about the cheerful employee who tried but failed. I’ve had several customers complain about surly attitudes. An entrepreneur I met once, who has started several successful companies, had a simple hiring/firing philosophy … Fire the unhappy people. 

Now is Not the Time to Panic

Long before there was ever Cyber Monday, there was Letdown Monday. You worked incredibly hard gearing up for Black Friday (and now Small Business Saturday). You planned events, did marketing, trained the staff, decorated the store, and had a nice busy weekend. Then Monday hits and you wonder where all the customers went.

You feel a little letdown. You feel a little worried that you didn’t get enough momentum to carry you through the season. You worry that Cyber Monday is stealing your dollars while you sit there feeling helpless. You start to wonder why you didn’t put more energy into building your own website, or why you didn’t plan a lot of deals for Cyber Monday to keep the customers in your store, or that you have too much inventory, or that you don’t have enough inventory.

In the immortal words of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Don’t Panic!

Image result for hitchhiker's guide to the galaxyI know the feelings of this week. I lived it for twenty three years, and lived with it for another twenty seven. The slowdown from the busy weekend gives you too much time to think about what you might have done differently, what you haven’t done, and what you’re afraid might happen.

That’s a natural reaction, but not all that productive. I’m here to put it all into perspective.

First, let’s talk about the slowdown. It is a natural ebb of the season. Happens Every. Single. Year. The busiest days of the year are typically:

  • Saturday before Christmas
  • December 23rd
  • Second Saturday before Christmas
  • Black Friday/Small Business Saturday
  • First Saturday in December

This year the 23rd of December happens to be on a Saturday making it extra special. Also you get a bonus of having four Saturdays in December prior to Christmas. Still plenty of big days to get the sales you need. You just won’t get many this week because there are too many days before customers truly get into that Christmas mood. This year, with Thanksgiving extra early, you have a long season. Expect a little customer (and staff) burnout.

The slowest week of your season is this week.

This is not the week to panic. This is the week to prepare. 

In a marathon race everyone sprints off the line. That’s Black Friday. Then they settle into their strategy. That’s this week and next. Finally, they go into their kick down the homestretch. That is your last two weeks. Now is strategy time. Now is preparation time.

  • Put a little extra time into training your staff. Work on role play, on greeting customers, on working with multiple customers at the same time.
  • Put a little extra time into decorating. Sure, you got it done for last weekend, but now is a good time to tweak it, upgrade it, spruce it up. Make it extra special because for the next few weeks customers will actually have the time to appreciate it more than they did in the frenzy of last weekend.
  • Put a little extra time into merchandising. Highlight the high-profit stuff you really want to move. Put the stuff they come in asking for by name at the back of the store so that your customers travel past everything else to get there.
  • Put a little extra time into Social Media. Start polls. Compare two items side by side. Share heartwarming stories. Tell the backgrounds of you, your store, your staff, your vendors, etc. Don’t make it about discounts or drawing traffic. Make it human and interesting,
  • Put a little extra time into you. Do something nice for yourself this week. Your staff can handle it. Take some time to go shopping (if you haven’t already). Take some time to catch a movie or go to a show or go outdoors. Those little things will keep you refreshed for those last two weeks that will be busy enough.

If you are worried about your inventory, keep this in mind. The last week before Christmas will be approximately ten percent of your entire yearly sales. If you don’t have enough inventory for that, then do some buying this week. Other than restocking a few hot items that will sell well after Christmas, too, trust your inventory levels and go have some fun.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS It is too easy to second-guess everything based on last weekend. Unfortunately, that’s the worst barometer you have. The only time to properly analyze the season is after it is over. Right now your only job is to prepare this week to make those last two weeks the best ever.

Not Everyone Is Expecting the Same Thing

A couple weeks ago I did a Customer Service workshop with the staff of Kingman Museum. In a workshop for a single entity I get to do some different things than I do in a presentation to a large and varied group, including focusing in on different elements of customer service that will truly make a difference for the types of customers you’ll see.

As you know …

Customer Service is a measure of how well you meet your customers’ expectations.

The minimum bar is simply to give the customer exactly what she expected. Anything less and she’ll tear you to shreds on Facebook or Yelp or in the hallway outside the MOPS meeting. Anything more, however, and she’ll sing your praises to the mountain top.

It is a fine line between failing and winning. Worse yet, the line is constantly shifting because not every customer is expecting the same thing.

In the planetarium at Kingman Museum. You should check it out.

Our first exercise, therefore, was to figure out the different personas that visit the museum. We came up with eight basic personas; The Member, The Young Family, The Homeschooler, The Field Trip, The Tourist, The Senior Citizen, The Passer-By, and The Donor. We then described the general characteristics of each persona, listing them on pieces of easel paper taped around the room.

Then, as we looked at all the interaction points the staff has with the visitor, we talked about how the expectations differ based on the personas. For instance, Tourists are looking for a far different experience than Homeschoolers. Senior Citizens want to see what is very new (because they are frequent visitors) and very old (for nostalgia’s sake). Young Families want activities to keep the wiggles at bay. The Donor wants to see where the money went.

First, by knowing these personas and the different expectations they might have, we were able to create different ways to exceed their expectations.

Second, we spent a lot of time on the importance of communication. It is through the relationship-building process that you learn which persona best fits their needs, and also what personal expectations they might have, so that you can apply those surprising moments.

This is a simple exercise you should do with your staff.

  • Start by describing the different types of customers. Give them each a name.
  • List the characteristics that define each persona.
  • Brainstorm questions you can ask (or answers you can look for) to help you identify each persona.
  • List the expectations each persona might have, especially how they differ from the other personas.
  • Think of what it will take to surprise and delight each persona.

Only when you know the different types of customers and what they expect from your store can you truly meet and exceed their expectations on a regular basis. Giving a group of kids on a Field Trip a list of your favorite nearby local restaurants is not nearly as delightful as it is when you give it to the Tourist.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Some of you are already ahead of me in figuring out that these personas also play a role in your marketing and advertising. When creating new advertisements, pick one persona and write directly to that person. It won’t be as effective for the other personas, but it will move the needle for her in ways you never imagined.

PPS Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is a great exercise to work on over the course of several meetings. Start with simply identifying the different personas and what makes them unique. At the next meeting you can start to talk about their expectations and how you identify them. What you will find between those two meetings is that at the second meeting they may have a sharper definition for each persona. That means they were observing. Praise them for that. By the third meeting, however, you should be working on ways to surprise and delight.

PPPS If the veterinarian staff had done this exercise with the simple personas of Cat Person and Dog Person, they would have been OMG instead of WTF.

PPPPS Go to Kingman Museum and see how they are doing. The museum is really cool with a ton of stuff packed into an architecturally cool building. Plus, they have a planetarium! (Be gentle. This is the first time they have looked at Customer Service as a thing, let alone as a different thing for different people.)