I was a little harsh last week on a radio station for playing eighteen commercials in a row. I said they were purely paying lip service to their advertisers (their customers) by putting them into a block that long where it would be hard to stand out and be memorable.
Yeah, part of that stand-out-and-be-memorable burden lands squarely on the shoulders of the advertiser, but the radio station did them no favors. From the outside it looked like the radio station was trying to decrease their customers’ chances of success and thus decrease their chances of being repeat customers by scheduling the ads in the least effective way.
What was really happening was the radio station was choosing between two distinct and different customers with distinct and different needs. They were choosing listeners over advertisers.
The radio station needs listeners. Those are as critical to the station’s success as the advertisers. Without listeners there are no businesses lining up to pay to reach those listeners. Therefore, radio stations develop programming designed to attract the most possible listeners. Gimmicks like 25-minute rock blocks are designed to attract listeners and keep them from switching channels.
When you’re the only station in your market playing your genre of music, those gimmicks are unnecessary. But when you’re competing with other stations playing the same music, the fight for listeners is real. The winner gets to charge more for advertising. Unfortunately, if the winner, in the process of getting listeners, convinces the advertisers that “radio doesn’t work,” they not only bring their own station down, they ruin it for other stations as well.
There is a parallel to indie retail.
If you fail to service a customer in your independent retail store, you jade the experience of shopping local for that customer, affecting her propensity to shop at other local stores.
Here is where the parallel gets interesting …
Most radio stations have no clue that scheduling eighteen ads in a row is hurting their paying customers. Most radio stations have no clue that writing boring, sounds-like-everyone-else commercials is hurting their paying customers. Most radio stations have no clue that scheduling ad campaigns that don’t reach the same listener at least 3x per week are hurting their paying customers. They get so focused on their listeners that they forget to take care of their customers.
The radio stations think that just by having their advertisers on the air those businesses will grow leaps and bounds thanks to the listeners they have attracted. (That’s the sales pitch they give you.)
Most indie retailers have had no training on customer service. Most indie retailers have invested no money into training programs or services to help increase the level of service they offer their customers. Most indie retailers have no formal training program for their front line staff to help them be better servants and salespeople. We get so focused on the products, prices, and promotions we offer that we forget that our real goal is to service the customers.
Most indie retailers, however, believe they offer better customer service than their competitors and that if they just have the right products, their customers will be happy.
How? By accident? Just because they “care” more?
As an indie retailer you have a much easier opportunity to offer better service than your competitors. First, you have a better customer-to-sales-associate ratio. That allows for more one-to-one sales (assuming you have more than one person working at all times.) Second, you often have the owner—someone passionate and thoroughly knowledgeable on the products—on your sales floor. Third, you can take on the mindset of being awesome, compared to the corporate giants who are just trying not to be lousy.
Whether you take advantage of that opportunity or not, however, is a choice as clearcut as whether a radio station runs eighteen ads in a row.
Here is a place to start.
Two weeks ago I did five presentations at the Independent Garden Center Show on selling and customer service (which go hand in hand). Those presentations were:
- The Meet & Greet: Working the First Step to the Sale
- You’ll Score the Sale with Assumptive Selling
- How to Push for the ‘Yes’—Without Being Pushy
- Ten Mistakes that Sideline the Sale
- Yes You Can Get Millennials to Shop in Your Store
Over the next two weeks I will be posting the notes to these presentations in the Free Resources section. Each time I post a new pdf, I will write a blog that focuses on different ways you can teach these concepts to your sales and front line staff. Knowing it yourself and teaching it to your staff are two different beasts.
(Note: those were the titles I used at the IGC Show. The bold words will be in the titles of the pdfs as I post them.)
Not only will you and your team raise your own bar of customer service while selling more at the same time, when your customers run into their friends who won’t shop local because of their experience somewhere else, your customers will be saying, “Oh, then you need to go to …”
PS Okay, maybe this time I am being a little harsh on the retailers. Here is the thing. If a retailer ever thinks he or she knows it all, that retailer is part of the problem, not the solution. I spent six months researching those five topics above and learned things in the process I wish I had known years ago. I also learned better, more efficient ways we could have done what we were already doing. Even if it is tweaks around the edges, when you take on the mindset of personal growth and individual growth, it will help your business growth.
PPS I understand the balance for radio stations between catering to the listeners and catering to the advertisers. It is a fine line every advertising-revenue-based entertainment venue must walk. But if radio stations would start by looking at how best to help their paying customers, they might just find a way to create programming that serves both needs. Imagine the radio station where you didn’t mind listening to the ads because they were interesting, heartfelt, memorable, fun, and helpful. Heck, a station like that might just get a few more listeners regardless of their musical genre. Likewise, if a retailer would start by looking at the best ways to service a customer, that retailer would know exactly what products, prices, and promotions make the most sense.