I was sitting in a conference center in Louisville, Kentucky for a presentation by Rick Segel in May 2009.
Rick asked the crowd, “Raise your hand if your product selection sucks, if you just don’t have the goods people want.” No hands went up.
Rick then said, “Raise your hand if your store has lousy customer service, if you’re treating customers poorly.” Again, no hands went up.
One more time Rick said, “Raise your hands if you are gouging the heck out of your customers with your prices.”
Since two surveys I had done showed customers already believed that about us, I raised my hand. “Ooh, me! I do!” Rick tossed me a free copy of one of his books and said thanks for being honest.
The point Rick was trying to make was …
Every business thinks they have Great Selection, Great Service, and Great Prices.
Most of us are wrong. We have either wrongly convinced ourselves of our greatness or justified away our flaws. We think, “If only more people would come through the door they would see how great we are.”
The truth is …
If you were truly Great, more people would come through your door.
Our problem is one of perception. We see the business through our own perception, from inside the bottle. Our customers have a completely different frame of reference. We compare ourselves to our mass market competitors and say, “See? We are soooo much better than them.”
Our customers compare us to every store they’ve ever visited and say with a sigh, “I wish [your store] was more like [my favorite store].”
If you want to find your blind spots, you have to look at things differently. You have to look at your business from your customers’ perspectives.
To improve your product selection, create a “No List”. This is a list of all the items customers come in asking for that you have to say, “No, I’m sorry we don’t. Can I show you an alternative?” (By the way, that or “Can I suggest a store that would have that item.” are the only two acceptable answers when you don’t have a certain product.)
If a customer walks through your doors or calls you on the phone asking for a certain product it is because the customer perceives you to be the kind of store that would carry that product. If you’re constantly saying no and not showing the alternatives you would rather carry, you’re flying directly in the face of customer perception. If there are one or two products on that No List every week, you need to look into either carrying those products or the next best alternative to those products. Otherwise your product selection will not be considered “Great” in your customers’ eyes.
What percentage of your business is repeat business? Make an educated guess. Your repeat business is a direct reflection of your Customer Service. If your Customer Service is Great, meaning you’ve met her every expectation, she will be back.
What percentage of your business is referral business, people who have never been in your store but came in because a friend told them (or better yet, dragged them in)? This is a direct reflection of how often you did more than a customer expected.
“Surprise is the foundation of delight. If you expected something to happen and it happened, there is no delight.” -Roy H. Williams
If all you do is meet expectations (Great Customer Service), you’ll get some repeat business. To get referral business, however, you have to raise the bar even higher. If you aren’t getting a lot of repeat and referral business, then you don’t have Great Customer Service in your customers’ eyes.
One last thing to consider … If your store isn’t the store everyone points to in town for having the best customer service, your service isn’t good enough, yet. (And if it is, then the bullseye is on your back so you better be doing something to keep raising the bar.)
This is one area where you’ll have a hard time changing perception. When we did our surveys we were regularly considered “Over-Priced” and “Expensive” compared to Walmart, Toys R Us, Meijer, and Target. All four of those stores talk about low prices and saving money in every ad they run. There is a built-in perceptual bias that all indie stores are more expensive than their mass competitors. The interesting part of the survey for me was that we also owned the word “Value.” That’s when I knew my prices were okay. Yes we were Expensive because we carried more expensive items. But the customers saw the Value in those items.
Remember, too, that not everyone shops on Price. Make your prices competitive and sharp, but more importantly, hone up on the Product Selection and Customer Service elements, and people will see the value you offer.
Every store thinks they have Great Selection, Great Service, and Great Prices. Most stores are wrong. You can’t measure whether you have Great Selection, Great Service or Great Prices from any of your spreadsheets. You can’t see it from behind your cashwrap. You have to look at it from the customers’ eyes. That’s the only point of view that counts.
PS You can win over some of the perceptual bias on Pricing. The blueprint is in the Free eBook Pricing for Profit. Most stores who have followed this pricing have reported back how customers perceive their pricing to be much more competitive. All of the stores who have followed this pricing have reported back increases in profit margin because of it. What do you have to lose?
PPS Even if you think your Customer Service is Great, ask yourself …
- What would happen if your staff was better at building relationships with your customers?
- What would happen if your staff was able to close more sales?
- What would happen if your staff was able to increase the average sale?
- What would happen if your staff learned to work together better as a team?
How would that change things for you?
One downside is that you would be busier. You’d have to write more orders (increasing your turn ratio and your cashflow). You’d have to look into hiring more people to handle the increased traffic. You might even have to consider a new location to expand your business. If you’re okay with those hassles, contact me to run The Ultimate Selling Workshop with your team.