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Category: Word of Mouth

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.

How to Teach a Class in Your Store

You know why you need to teach classes in your store. Here are the six steps you take to create a class that draws traffic, builds excitement, gains you followers, sets you up as the expert, and makes people want to buy from you.

  1. Determine which product(s) you sell that takes the longest to explain or takes the most trips before the customer pulls the trigger. These are the items to build your class around because these are the items that require an expert. The more questions a customer asks about a product, the more likely you’ll find people wanting to attend a class to learn more.
  2. Write down all the questions a customer typically asks about the product. Then add in two more questions you think they should be asking. This will become the outline of your presentation. (You can brainstorm this list with your sales staff.)
  3. List all the benefits of the products (remember, a feature is what the product does, a benefit is why that helps the user).
  4. List all the downsides of the product. Everything has a downside. If you don’t tell your customer up front, she will think you’re hiding something. Being honest about the downsides wins you trust.
  5. Get the customer to visualize using the product in her home or in her life. Ask questions like, “How would you use this?” Where would you use this?” “Do you see yourself using this?” “How would this affect your life right now?” This moves the customer from being in analytical mode to being in ownership mode. We only do in real life what we have already visualized in our minds. Get your customer to visualize owning the product and you will be more likely to win the sale.
  6. List all the reasons why someone should buy this product from you. If you offer services like layaway or financing or delivery or assembly, this is when you share that information. If you truly have answered all the most important questions including the ones they forgot to ask, and you have helped them visualize owning and using the product, then you have their permission to sell them. Just remember that you aren’t selling a product, you are selling a solution.

That’s the class. It is no different than selling to one person while a bunch of other people sit in and listen. You can decorate with comfortable seating, snacks & prizes (ask your vendors for giveaways), cool signs, etc. Just make sure you follow the steps above so that you offer a true benefit to your customers. They’ll thank you for the effort with their pocketbooks.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Don’t worry about attendance. You might get 30 people, you might get 3. Make them feel special. Go above and beyond what they expect. Not only will you get the sale, you’ll get the referral, which is often a more powerful sales tool than the class, itself.

PPS Just a reminder that it doesn’t have to be that expensive to advertise. Social media, email, your website, some in-store signage, and a few online community calendars will draw a crowd. Make it worth their while and they’ll help you draw the next crowd.

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.) 

Don’t Build Your Own Obstacles (Part II)

If you’re a BBQ lover in the Detroit area, you recognize this door. Behind it is the tantalizing flavors of smoked meats, refreshing liquids from the Great Beer State, and an aroma that pleasantly stays in your nostrils for hours. You know it as Slow’s BBQ. In fact, you take pride in knowing those natural-colored thin planks stacked tightly together is the actual door of entry, not the door to the right going upstairs, nor the door ten feet left of the picture covered with stickers and locked, nor the locked door leading to the patio another fifteen feet to the left and directly beneath the sign on the building telling you that you’ve arrived.

Those were the three doors I tried first before finding the actual opening.

If there hadn’t been a sign on the building telling me where I was, this would be a different post. It would be about Over-the-Top Design and Sharing Secrets. It would be about how you felt like an insider because you knew the red and black building without a sign and with a hidden doorway was home to some killer ‘cue. You only knew because someone told you, making it (and you) feel even more special.

Instead, I felt like an idiot. I felt like I was made to feel stupid before I ever set foot in the joint. That’s a big obstacle to overcome. If the food or the service had not been stellar, just average, I’d probably never go back. It would be a nagging feeling just below the surface.

As I was leaving, there was a guy outside having the same struggles I had. Apparently the design of the door wasn’t over-the-top enough to get people to talk about it, only about the food. Their fancy, hard-to-find door didn’t generate word-of-mouth, only frustration. You never want your customers walking into your establishment frustrated. Make sure they know how to get in the front door.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The other alternative would be to remove the sign on the building altogether. Sure, it would make it harder and even more frustrating for some people to find the joint, but since most of these places get their new business from word-of-mouth, it would ratchet up the need for people to talk about the design elements and ratchet up the feeling of knowing something others don’t. It would have changed my feelings of frustration to feelings of discovery and being in-the-know.

PPS Of course, at the end of the day, if you’re a restaurant, you better have over-the-top food first and foremost. Slows brought it. I saw a few items on trays passing by that will get me back. They overcame the obstacle. Not many stores and restaurants do.

Friends With Benefits

Align yourself with charity. Pick one or two local organizations (or more if you’re up to it) that you feel strongly about. Do something special for them. Help them out. Be their friend and ally.

You’ll both benefit from the friendship.

Santa Paws 2015 #1

This is a picture of the Cascades Humane Society doing their annual Santa Paws event – pictures of your pet with Santa Claus. They called me a few weeks ago looking for a space to take the pictures. I have a stage. I love dogs – especially rescued dogs. I said yes.

They coordinate getting Santa here. They hire the photographer. They set up the backdrop. They sign up and schedule the photo shoots. They work the tables. They get the profits.

We get the traffic. We get the goodwill. We get the customers telling us how nice it is that we are doing this for them. We get the social media exposure. We get exposed to everyone on their mailing list. We get our name mentioned in their press releases (and non-profit press releases get picked up far more often than for-profit press releases).

Our friendship with them brings benefits to both of us.

When you partner with a charity, you expand your reach. You get exposure to a crowd of generous people who love to give to charitable causes (can you think of a better demographic for the independent retailer?). You get touchy feely goodwill because you are helping out. You don’t just look like a greedy merchant. You strengthen your community (the better the non-profits do, the better everyone does).

Make friends with a charity or two. You’ll reap the benefits.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Your charity doesn’t have to be aligned with what you sell. We don’t sell pet toys or pet food. Pick charities based on a few different factors such as…

  • Do they have an active base of followers?
  • Do they want to “partner” with you (or simply have you do all the work)?
  • Do they align with your own personal core values?
  • Are they well-respected in the community?

Those are all good reasons for making friends.

The Need to Keep Raising the Bar

Bed Bath and Beyond just announced that their coupon strategy is backfiring and that their profits are hurting because everyone is waiting for the coupon to do their shopping.

Umm… yeah. When you send the coupon out every week and never enforce the exclusions or expiration date, you pretty much send out the message that everything in the store is always 20% off. Anyone paying full price in that store is either lazy or an idiot.

What used to be special is now considered the norm.

BBB faces a dilemma. They either have to drop the coupon program and wean customers off the 20% discount (a daunting and dangerous task), or raise the bar on the coupon program to make it special again.

They said in the article, “Bed Bath and Beyond says it plans to draw in more customers through marketing.”

Okay, but how? A bigger, deeper coupon every so often? (further eroding profits) or something else?

THE LESSON

If you are doing something special for your customers, eventually it goes from special to expected and the marketing pull from it will taper off. If it is a discount, that discount will have to grow over time to remain equally effective.

If you consistently go above and beyond your customers’ expectations, eventually they will come to expect it, meaning you’ll have to raise the bar even farther.

As you choose your marketing strategy, remember that the special things you do today will become the norm tomorrow. Make sure you have room to raise the bar when the effects start tapering off.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Surprise and Delight are the best tools for attracting new customers because you’ll never run out of new and fun and inexpensive ways to surprise and delight your customers. Check out these two Free Resources to get some ideas of things you can do to raise the bar and attract more customers – Generating Word of Mouth and Customer Service: From Weak to WOW!. I doubt either of these will be strategies employed by BBB (although they should).

From Your Customer’s Point of View

Legend has it the day before Disney Land opened, Walt and crew arrived to do a walk-through. Upon entering the gates, Walt immediately kneeled down at the front of the park. His entourage was curious as he begged them to kneel with him. Once everyone was kneeling, he explained that this was the height of the customer he was most concerned about pleasing and he wanted to see the park from their perspective.

Do you look at your business from your customer’s point of view?

I took a trip last weekend to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. Took my son to see Michigan Technological University and my family to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I snapped this picture of one of the lookout platforms.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Lookout Platform
Viewing window for little visitors at the lookout platform for Miner’s Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

See the window built into the wall of the platform? They got this one right. This family-friendly park made sure the entire family had a view of Miner’s Castle and Lake Superior. No dangerous lifting of young children over the safety of the wall. No little ones complaining that they couldn’t see. No unhappy faces feeling forgotten or ignored.

Little things like that window make a huge difference in how someone views and remembers their experience.

Walt knew this. He built his park and empire by looking at how his best, most important customers would experience it. He made sure the people he wanted to impress the most would be impressed. He looked at everything through their eyes.

Have you done the same?

Have you asked these questions?

  • Who are my best customers?
  • What is their minimum expectation when they visit my store?
  • How can I design my store and its policies to make their experience even better?
  • How can I surprise and delight them even more?

I’ll bet Walt asked these questions. You should, too.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS One easy way to do this is to look at every single interaction your customer has with your store and ask just these two questions…

  1. What does the customer expect to happen here?
  2. What can I do that will surprise and delight them here?

It is a perspective that changes everything (for the better).

 

 

Newly Redesigned PhilsForum.com Website

I told you I was working on a new version of my PhilsForum.com website.

It just went live a few minutes ago.

Everything is up and running except this blog (which should be migrated over by late Thursday).

In an effort to make it more search engine friendly, some of the pages you’re used to seeing have new names.

  • Freebies is now Free Resources and still includes links to free pdf’s you can download on a variety of topics
  • Speaker for Hire is now Hire Me to Speak and focuses on the top programs I am most often hired to do
  • Products is now Phil’s Books and focuses on my two books, Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel and Welcome to the Club Daddy
  • Media is now About Phil and yes, it is about me

You’ll also find a few fun things hidden here and there on the site including a page of radio ads I have run for Toy House and Baby Too.

Check it out and let me know if there are any issues with the site (tell me what browser/platform/device you’re using, please).

Every time an independent retailer grows, we all grow.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Supposedly all email subscribers will be migrated over, but I will be looking into it directly. You may get an email from me asking you to resubscribe to the new blog site. Just giving you a heads up.

Two New Social Media Platforms and How You Could Use Them

(Note: this post has been edited)
Video is HUGE. Go look at your news feed in Facebook and count what percentage of posts are videos.

Pretty high, isn’t it?

If you aren’t using videos – Vine, YouTube, iPhone videos loaded to Facebook, etc. – then you might not be reaching all the people you want to reach.

There are two new video services – Periscope and Blab – that might have some benefit to indie retailers. Here is a look at the two and how you can use them…

PERISCOPE

Periscope was launched by Twitter and is live, streaming video you do that allows for people to comment on your video as you’re streaming and send you love through the form of little hearts that float up your screen. The video can then be replayed for up to 24 hours before it disappears.

The upside… This is an easy way for you to do timely videos of things happening in your store in an interactive way. Simply send out a notice through your other social media channels (especially Twitter) that you’ll be doing a Periscope in a few minutes, then grab your phone and go live. Anyone watching you can post comments and questions that show up on your screen. It is kinda like having a FaceTime call with dozens of people at once.

One of the best applications I can see for this medium is behind-the-scenes looks at your business. People love to go behind the curtain. They love to see what is happening there. Best of all, they feel more attached to your store and more likely to share what they know when they feel like they got a peek into something not everyone else gets to see.

You could do Periscopes on products that have just come in.
You could do Periscopes on staff meetings.
You could do Periscopes on the process you go through to ship out an item.
You could do Periscopes on the prep work you put into having a big event at your store.

The downside… The videos are only up for a day. You might do some great footage, but you have to keep doing great footage to grow your presence. In fact, best practices in the early stages of this medium show that you should post something daily, even if it is only a 30-second post each day that says you’ll be back on Friday with a longer video. (Note: they do have ways for you to save the videos, but you do have to jump through a few extra hoops.)

BLAB

Unlike Periscope where only you talk and everyone else comments by typing, Blab is another live streaming video that allows for four people to be in the conversation at once. It kinda looks like Hollywood Squares with four boxes on the screen showing you and the three people you invited to sit in the conversation.

The upside… First, by having a true conversation, you can now invite experts into your social media world. Maybe you might interview a sales rep or one of your favorite vendors. Maybe you might use it to introduce new staff. Maybe you might use it to talk to someone who can talk more about your industry. For instance, since I sell toys, I could talk to a therapist about the value of play in a child’s life. Even better, you could invite your own fans to join in and talk about their experiences in your store.

Just like Periscope, people can type in comments and show you real-time love by tapping the icon on the screen. You can respond to those comments and have a real, live conversation about your store with other people watching. The videos stay up longer than Periscope, too, and can even be uploaded to your YouTube channel.

The downside… This medium is more of a sitting-at-your-laptop-chatting medium than a wander-around-the-store-with-a-smartphone medium, which makes it more difficult to show off products, etc. It is more of a two-way conversation than a one-way talk with you picking and choosing which questions or comments to answer. It becomes less scripted, which can make it more fun and original (and less sales/preachy), but can also go in directions you never intended.

Both Periscope and Blab have some interesting applications. Whether they are right for your business is up to you. Just remember the most important thing about all social media – it is about connecting and creating networks more than it is about selling or pushing your message across.

If used right, both of these channels can grow your network and strengthen your relationships.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I am looking at both of them as ways to grow both Toy House and Phil’s Forum. Right now I currently use my Twitter handle @philtoyhouse purely for sharing this blog and Toy House newsletters. Since you use your Twitter account to sign in to both of these services, I am considering setting up separate Twitter accounts and using @philtoyhouse for just Toy House activity going forward. I’ll let you know soon what my new Twitter handle for this blog will be.