Home » Customer Expectations

Category: Customer Expectations

A Tool You Can (and Should) Use From Time to Time

We offered a layaway program at Toy House. It was one of those services my grandfather thought would be helpful for customers buying toys. It was simple, too. Just pick out the toys you want, take them to the register, put down a 10% deposit, make a payment once a month, and pay it off when you’re ready to pick up the toys.

Some people would pick up their layaway late afternoon Christmas Eve. They only had to hide the toys from prying children’s eyes one night.

On the customer’s end the layaway program was simple. On our end it was a lot of work. (That’s the way any program should be in a customer-centric business.) One reason it was a lot of work on our end was because our biggest fear was losing a customer’s product. In the thirty five years I worked in the store (including my part-time roles while in high school and college) we only lost three items that we didn’t have in stock in the store. That’s not bad considering we did over a quarter of a million dollars in layaway every single year.

Then again, we agonized over every single one of those losses because it was a failure on our part to service the customer.

I still remember them. One in particular was a Little Tikes Football Toy Chest. I remember it clearly because I was sixteen years old and my dad had me drive to Lansing to Toys R Us to buy one so that we could replace the one that was missing.

Another time I ordered the missing product from a fellow toy store owner out in California. I paid $84 in next-day shipping to have the $14.99 item in my hands Christmas Eve for the customer.

I didn’t bat an eye at the $84 shipping cost because I was looking at the big picture. It wasn’t $84 for a $14.99 item. It was $84 to protect the trust of a lifetime value customer. It was $84 to protect the integrity of the layaway program and the $250,000 in business it affected.

Sometimes it is worth losing a few dollars today to make more money tomorrow.

You probably don’t have a layaway program. But you do have customers in your store today looking for a solution you don’t have in stock nor plan to have in stock in the next day or two. She could have gone to Amazon, but she didn’t. She came to you. If you send her out empty handed, she’s likely going to Amazon now (and she might never come back to you.)

Unless you order it for her.

You could go online and order the item for her. Have it delivered to your store. (Note: you don’t even have to order it from Amazon. You can choose to support someone else.) It is the same for her whether you order it or she does.

The difference is how she feels about you.

You won’t make as much money as if you had it in stock, but you kept a customer happy by solving her problem for her (as she was hoping you would when she walked through your door.) Plus you get her back in the store to pick up the item.

If you know the lifetime value of a customer, quite often this will be worthwhile. If you look at each transaction as simply a transaction, then it will never make sense.

I don’t recommend this as a standard policy. You’re much better off having the right solutions in stock. At the same time, I want you to have the right frame of mind if you do decide to help out a customer this way. It makes sense if:

  • It will Surprise and Delight the customer
  • It will keep her as a loyal customer
  • There is a lifetime value of the customer that will pay off down the road

It isn’t a policy so much as a tool to help you keep a customer happy. Like all tools, it has a specific use. When used right it will make a difference.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I have actually pitched this idea to several manufacturers that happen to also sell directly online. They should have a code for each vendor (such as your account number) where you can order directly online from the vendor, put in your code, get a back-end discount, and make the customer happy. Just think how much better that would be for you, your vendor, and most importantly the customer, than to have the vendor undercutting you or the customer leaving to go to Amazon.

Three Stats to Tell You All You Need to Know

I went to a presentation last night. As you know, I am all about continual learning. Education is one of my Core Values. This presentation was at TechTown Detroit, a small business incubator that helps launch tech and retail businesses. Mary Aviles of Connect 4 Insight put on the presentation. Mary is also the Director of Strategic Development for Tech Town.

The presentation was “Designing the Customer Experience.” (I’m sure you can guess why that piqued my interest.) The goal was to give these start-up and pop-up retailers some ideas to help them be ready for the holidays.

Mary gave out three stats I want to share here. (Note: I was not able to get the source from her on these stats but I know she did her research.)

STAT #1

24% of all Amazon Sales are from customers who went to a brick & mortar store first.

What does this mean? Nearly one-fourth of all of Amazon’s business is from customers who were disappointed by their in-store experience. Nearly one-fourth came from customers who chose to go to a store first but didn’t get their needs or expectations met.

In other words, customers are choosing brick & mortar, but our lack of selection or lack of service or super high price is driving them online.

STAT #2

40% of customers change their minds in the store because of the in-store experience. 

What does this mean? The in-store experience affects a large number of sales both to the good and to the bad (some of those 40% are more inclined to buy, some are less).

In other words, almost half of your customers are going to make their final buying decision based not on the product or the price but on your ability to offer them a quality shopping experience (or not).

STAT #3

80% of customers report that they would be willing to pay up to 25% more for an item because of a quality experience in the store.

What does this mean? Experience actually outweighs price. Four out of five customers say experience combined with the desire to own the item right away can get them to pull the trigger, even if the price is a little higher than online.

In other words, you can win over a lot of customers with your in-store experience, even if your prices are a little higher than the Internet.

The bottom line to all of these stats is this …

The in-store experience you are providing has more of an effect on your sales than pretty much everything else you do.

If it isn’t your number one focus, you might want to change your gaze.

The good news is that you still have time to schedule The Ultimate Selling Workshop for your team prior to this holiday season. Mary has the stats to convince you why you need to improve the customer’s experience. I have the nuts and bolts of exactly how to do that. Call me.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You have four days to lock in the special fall savings offer of only $2,000 for The Ultimate Selling Workshop. At 12:01am October 1st the price goes up to $3,500 (or more depending on time and travel). It is still a steal at the regular price. We already did the math. I’m offering the incentive price to get you to book now so you can have your best holiday season ever.

PPS If you are a retailer in Detroit or considering starting a retail business in Detroit, TechTown has amazing resources and programs, and a dedicated, smart, caring staff. You should check them out.

How Fast Do You Solve Her Problem?

You call a number. You get a recording, a menu of options. You listen to all the options before pressing two. Another menu. This time you press one. Now a recording offers you yet a third menu. You select three and a recorded voice comes on to say, “Please hold while I try that extension.”

Twenty minutes of horrible music and a voice interrupting every so often to say, “Please stay on the line and the next available representative will help you,” you finally get a live person on the other end of the phone. You explain your problem patiently only to hear …

“Hold on while I transfer you to someone who can help you.”

Aaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhh!!!!

Another fifteen minutes or so later you get someone equally unhelpful. You’re ready to hang up except you now have over forty minutes invested in this call. Your frustration levels are through the roof. Your anxiety is peaking. You’re about to rip someone’s head off if you don’t eventually get satisfaction.

We’ve all had that experience. Many of us have experienced it more times than we care to count.

Then we walk into a retailer with what we believe to be a simple problem, find a clerk to help us, explain our problem, and hear …

“Hold on while I find someone who can help you.”

We immediately go back to the frustrations and anxiety of all the other times this has happened to us.

Sure, you’re not a phone tree with endless menus and unhelpful people. Sure, you solve the problem with the second person she sees. Sure, your customer doesn’t have to wait thirty minutes like she did on the phone with that other company.

None of that matters. You still caused your customer to feel all those negative emotions first.

This is why the best stores empower the first person who greets a customer to be able to solve all of her problems and take care of all of her needs.

The customer walking through your door with a problem is already worked up. She brings with her the baggage of every forty-minute phone tree fiasco. She brings with her all the frustrations and anxieties of all the interactions with untrained, useless “salespeople.” She’s loaded for bear and ready for a fight.

Then you spring the, “Hold on while I find someone,” phrase on her.

When she explodes on you, it isn’t really you. You’re just the straw on the camel’s back. But those feelings she has are now associated with you whether you like it or not.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can empower your front line staff to solve her problem by teaching them this simple three-statement approach:

  1. “I’m so sorry you have this problem …”
  2. “Let me see if I have this straight …” (explain the problem back to her as your heard it and ask for clarification)
  3. “What would you like us to do?”

Always apologize. Notice that the apology doesn’t necessarily imply guilt or fault. The apology simply acknowledges that she has a problem and sets her at ease.

Then repeat back her problem to show that you were listening. Sometimes just being heard is all a customer really needs. It also gives you a chance for clarification to understand the problem better and time to think about how you would want to solve the problem.

The last phrase is the kicker. Great Customer Service is when you meet a customer’s expectations. The best way to know what she expects is to ask. And since an unhappy customer is your worst enemy because of the negative reviews and bad word-of-mouth, it is vital you know exactly what she wants.

Once she tells you what she wants, the best thing to do is give her that … and a little more.

More often than not, when you first put the customer at ease and show her you are listening to her problem, by the time you ask her what she wants she will ask for less than you were likely prepared to give. Even if she does ask for a lot, instruct your staff to give it to her. It is worth it in the long run because of how it makes your customer feel.

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

Empower and train all of your staff to handle all of the problems immediately and you will control how your customers feels. Speed does matter. (Plus, if your staff are handling all the problems, you’ll have fewer interruptions throughout the day to get your work done. Win-win!)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Every now and then a customer will make an outrageous request. It is still worth it to meet that request the first time. If she becomes a repeat problem then you have the right to adjust what you do for her. But since these requests will be so few and far between, they won’t cost you nearly as much as you think. Plus, since you’ll be better managing the way customers feel about you, you’ll have more happy customers than ever before. Instead of worrying about the cost, think of it as an “advertising” expense where you are buying positive word-of-mouth (or at the very least buying the lack of bad word-of-mouth), and the fact you just made a customer’s day. Those are two benefits that will help any business.

How to Learn From the Best

Yesterday, I buried this little gem in the post. Let’s take it out and polish it a bit.

“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.”

There is always that one business everyone believes is the best retailer in town. Several years ago, when I did a full-day workshop on Customer Service in Manistee, MI, a sleepy little Lake Michigan town with a year round population of around 6,000 people and summer visitors measured in the hundreds of thousands, I found their best retailer.

I came into town a day early to check out the shops. I braced myself against the sleet and snow on that cold, wet, wintery March day and made the rounds. The shops were open, but mostly empty. It was off-season, and not the best day to be out on the streets. One store, however—Snyder’s Shoes—was hopping. They had several customers in the store when I entered, but the staff still made a point of greeting me. Even in a sleet storm it was obvious who was the king of retail in town.

Snyder’s Shoes, Manistee, MI

The next day, as the attendees were filing in, I got the confirmation as I overheard one person say, “What is Snyder’s doing here? They’re already the best retailer in town.”

At the end of the day, however, when he was asked what strategies he hoped to implement from the day-long training session, Dan, the co-owner of Snyder’s said, “Every single one I possibly can.”

I feel for the other retailers in Manistee. They aren’t being measured against their competitors. They are being measured against Snyder’s.

Customers don’t measure you against your competitors. They measure you against every retail experience they’ve ever had.

So how do you compete against that? How do you raise your bar that high?

You have to do your homework. Ask your staff to name the stores they think offer the best customer service in town, then plan a road trip to visit them. Watch how those stores interact with their customers. Look for the differences between what they do and what you do.

Visit all the stores your staff named. You can do it in groups or pairs. Take notes. Ask these questions …

  • What do they do better than us?
  • What do they do different than us?
  • What do we do better than them?

The first question shows you what you need to tweak or improve. We all have things we need to tweak or improve. Getting a list by comparing to what other stores do is far better than just trying to brainstorm it yourself.

The second question shows you where you are different. Sometimes different is good, sometimes it isn’t. You have to decide, based on your core values, if you want to change things or highlight the difference.

The third question is your calling card. This is the area where you’re winning in the minds of your customers. If there isn’t anything you are doing better, you have serious work to do. If there is something you’re doing better, find out how to do it BEST. Raise the bar so high no one will be able to match it.

Now is a good time to take this road trip. You have time to visit stores before you get too busy. You have time to implement those changes before the holiday season hits. You have time to tweak your advertising message, your promotions, and your marketing to highlight your strengths and differences.

Two more questions you might also want to ask …

  • What do they do that we can’t?
  • What do they do that we won’t?

The first shows your limitations. The second is your biggest differentiating factor. Both answers give you power and show you where you stand not only in the retail landscape, but also in the eyes of your customers.

“Knowledge is power.” -Sir France is Bacon.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Note: If you ask your staff who is best and they don’t immediately say, “We are!” then you know you have some serious work to do. If they say they are the best, ask them who is second best and go visit those stores.

PPS One more thing you still have time to do … Hire me to do The Ultimate Selling Workshop with your team. You’ll transform your team to the point that when they say, “We are!” you and your customers will nod in agreement.

Change Your Viewpoint to See Your Business Better

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.

PRODUCT SELECTION

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.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

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.)

PRICE

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.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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.

Price is the Default – Change Your Settings

Do you feel beat up over price? Does the business news turn your stomach into knots as you read about department stores like Younker’s going out of business and Sears and Macy’s doing another round of closures? Does it make you cringe every time you hear that Dollar General has opened a new store? Do you want to curl up in the fetal position every time Amazon has a Prime Day?

The retail economists look at all that news and keep coming to the same conclusion …

Price drives all retail.

They are missing the true picture. Price is not the driver.

In the absence of everything else, Price is the Default.

At 3:01am EDST Apple opened up pre-orders of their new lineup of iPhones they introduced two days earlier. These phones cost more than the computer I use to write this blog. Yet the early adopters were up and ordering their new phones at full retail prices.

Apple gets what so many retailer do not. There are tons of customers out there willing to shop for some reason other than price. The reason they don’t is that too many stores have given up on giving them something else.

I just read a report that department stores, long mired in a slump, are spending more on television ads this coming fall. It also talked about their other strategies to turn their ships around that included supply chain and inventory management improvements.

Nowhere in the article did it say anything about investing in employees and employee training. Nowhere were the words (albeit overused) Customer Service, Customer Experience, or Sales Training. Nowhere was there a discussion of spending more to surprise and delight customers. The article went on to say that modest growth based on the already growing consumer spending in the US was about the best they could hope for.

Do you know why the traditional department stores are struggling? They have cut their staff and their training back so far that they are just over-priced versions of their competitors. Target, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and other stores like them now have pretty much all the same stuff with the exact same levels of non-existent service as the traditional department stores, but at lower prices.

According to the same article about their TV spending, the only department store mentioned that has a chance of truly thriving is Nordstrom’s. Yeah, the only store still focused on customer service.

There was a survey done by National Retailer Federation during the Great Recession. When asked what would drive people’s decisions where to shop, 41% said “deals and discounts” and another 12% said “everyday low pricing.” That only adds up to 53% of the population. Another 47%—almost half—said something other than price would drive them during a time where money was tight.

Today’s economy isn’t that tight. Although price has become default for more and more customers—mainly because of the lack of service out there—there are still well over 40% of the population that would choose a store for reasons other than price … if they were given that option.

That’s why I am pushing The Ultimate Selling Workshop so hard this fall. You could spend the $2,000 on advertising and maybe drive in a few more shoppers this season, especially if your prices are sharp enough. Or you could up the game of your sales staff, increase average tickets, increase loyalty (without just giving bounceback coupons or discounts), increase word-of-mouth advertising, increase repeat business, and increase referral business not only this season, but going forward into 2019.

Your holiday ads end with the holidays but Sales Training is the gift that keeps on giving.

Millennials are more open to shopping local than any generation before them. They also shop completely differently than any generation before them. Reaching them through advertising and marketing is only half the problem. You also have to know how to sell to them. You’ll learn how in The Ultimate Selling Workshop.

Don’t be a Default retailer. Change your settings to Surprise and Delight. There are a lot of customers who would choose you if given the chance. Call or email me today.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Last year over 100 million people went to Toys R Us even though Walmart had consistently lower prices and Amazon had a much larger selection. Those 100 million customers went for some other reason. If they can draw that kind of business by offering a better “experience,” you have the opportunity to draw some amazing crowds, considering I am sure you can offer an even better experience than any chain store out there. (By the way, just for clarification, Toys R Us went under because of heavy debt load caused by their greedy venture capitalist owners borrowing money for themselves against the company. They were profitable, but not profitable enough to pay the massive interest on their debt.)

PPS If you aren’t convinced yet of the Value of The Ultimate Selling Workshop, next week we’ll do the math.

Connecting Through Stories (Part 2)

For twenty years my mom and I would meet every Saturday morning for breakfast. My dad joined us for several of those years. Occasionally my boys would get up early, too, especially since they loved the French Toast and pancakes at the restaurant where we ate.

For my mom it was a chance to tell me all the things going on in her life. She’d share all her stories from the past week, usually referencing previous stories, too. Some people believe that an event didn’t happen until you share it with someone else. It certainly wasn’t memorable until you shared it. In fact, the act of sharing your stories is what makes them more memorable.

The stories also make you more personable and human. 

When you are a faceless sales clerk, customers feel they have the right to treat you like a subhuman person. When you become more human, the relationship changes.

Image result for dale carnegie you can make more friends quoteOne way you become more human is by sharing your stories. Another way is by listening to the stories of your customers.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie

The way we get to those stories is through a Point of Connection. Find one thing about a new customer through which you can connect. Find something you have in common, something you can comment on, something about which you can ask a question.

“I love your shoes! I used to have a pair just like them. Where did you find them?”

I did an exercise with my staff where I posted a series of pictures of different people and asked them to find a Point of Connection. If it was a parent with a child, the child is an easy connection. The two things we love to talk about the most are ourselves and our children.

“Oh what a cutie-pie. He reminds me of my son at that age. How old is he?”

If it is a person who has some shopping bags from another store, you can ask about her previous trip.

“I see you’ve been to Toy House. I love that store. What did you find?”

If it is someone wearing the colors of their college, you can use that as an opening.

“A Michigan fan. Go Blue! My son goes there now. Are you going to the game this weekend?”

There are several ways to find that Point of Connection and it is an easy staff training to do. In fact, you can start each meeting with a quick Point of Connection quiz by popping up some photos on the screen and having your staff blurt out the Point they see. Within a few meetings they will be doing this automatically.

Now let’s break down the actual phrases used above to see how they incorporate storytelling.

First, each greeting starts with the point of connection. I love your shoes. Oh what a cutie-pie. A Michigan fan.

Second, each greeting has a (very) short story from you. I used to have a pair just like them. He reminds me of my son at that age. I love that store. My son goes there now. Yes, those all qualify as stories.

Third, it asks a question to get to her story. What did you find? How old is he? Are you going to the game?

Those three elements in that order change your relationship from customer/clerk to customer/human. 

The first part makes the connection and gives you the opening. The second part, sharing your short story, makes you human. The third part, by asking her about her story, makes her more interested in you. The more of her story she shares, the more you will remember her, which makes her next visit even better. The more of her story she shares, the more you will know what she is trying to accomplish. The more of her story she shares, the more likely you will find the best solution for her.

Once you get her sharing, keep it going. Keep asking open-ended questions. You can share your own (very short) stories along the way as long as you end with a question about her.

By the way, this isn’t a gimmick or trick. Dale Carnegie taught us this technique decades ago. Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is a way to create relationships and friendships. (If you have children going off to college who struggle to make new friends, teach them this simple technique. It will change their world.)

When you get your customers to tell you their stories, the connection becomes real. The event happened. (And it is going to happen again and again and again.) That’s how you connect through stories.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from American Author Alfred A. Montapert … “All lasting business is built on friendship.”

Go make some friends today.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Do you know people who seem to make friends easily? Watch them. They employ this technique effortlessly, subconsciously, likely without any understanding of it and why it works so well. I am one who has to work very hard on this technique because I know I have a tendency to dominate conversations. Because of this character flaw, however, I can testify how well this technique works.

PPS The more you get your customer to talk about something not business-related, the more likely she’ll tell you her business-related problem she came in to solve, without you ever having to ask those deal-killing questions like, “Can I help you?” You’ll learn this technique plus a whole lot more in The Ultimate Selling Workshop. Sign up by the end of the month for the best price on this intensive, power-packed, hands-on presentation. It will be the most profitable three hours you spend with your team.

A Retail Lesson From 9/11

I was in the office this day seventeen years ago. My dad was there talking on the phone with my sister. It was in the morning just after 9am. She had called to wish him a happy 58th birthday. She had CNN on in the background and asked my dad if he had heard about a plane flying into the World Trade Center. No, he hadn’t.

While still on the phone, he turned and asked me if I had heard about it. No, I hadn’t.

I immediately got on my computer.

By early afternoon we had seen the last of our customers for the day. I had sent home most of the staff by then, too. I’ll never forget that day.

The next few days, however, were a blur. We had customers, but even they were somewhat in shock and not sure how to react or what to do. It took about a week before business came back to normal levels. Surprisingly, it still ended up being the second busiest September in the history of the store.

One fascinating memory I have from that month was how the relationships seemed to change. It felt like we were closer with our customers than we had been before. Whether that was a result of all of us going through a shared tragic moment, or if it was because it was our core customers who were the first to return, or simply because we put a premium on relationships after those attacks, I’ll never fully know.

It just felt different.

I felt a similar difference in 2014. My overall training goal that year was on Relationship-Building and Selling.

We started in January talking about Repeat and Referral business. Repeat business comes from giving great customer service (doing what the customer expects). Referral business comes from doing more than the customer expects, so much more that she has to tell her friends.

In February the topic was the greeting, how to say Hi and welcome the customer to the store. In March we worked on listening skills. In April we worked on how to decipher what was in our customer’s mind. What were her fears and objections? What problem was she trying to solve and how could we help her solve it? What questions should we be asking and what answers should we be listening for?

The next three months were about closing the sale including Features & Benefits, Visualization, and Assumptive Selling.

Those six months of training were the basis for the presentations I did last August and the five new eBooks posted on the Free Resources Page. Those six months of training are now an integral part of the new presentation—The Ultimate Selling Workshop.*

I think the feelings we had with our customers in the fall of 2001 were a combination of the relationships we were building naturally and the common tragedy we all had experienced. That year was the biggest year in sales in our 68-year history.

In 2014, however, the relationship-building was intentional. Even as our market was in serious decline, 2014 was our second most profitable year and one of the more rewarding years I’ve ever experienced. It was the closest we felt to our customers since 2001.

The best stores build relationships with customers all the time. It starts by hiring friendly people who love to meet and help others. If you only do that, you’ll still be doing more than most of your competitors. The true excitement, however, happens when you teach those friendly employees how to intentionally create the lasting relationships that keep your Repeat and Referral rates at all-time highs, while, more importantly, making life better for both you and them. That’s when you’re no longer compared to your competitors because you’re on a level all your own.

It is all about the relationships you build. That’s the retail lesson from this day.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

*PS The Ultimate Selling Workshop is a three-hour, hands-on session that takes the best elements from the breakout presentations The Meet-and-Greet, Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling, and How to Push for “Yes” (Without Being Pushy) and wraps them up into one power-packed event that includes training activities for your staff, hands-on activities that drive home each point, and a map to guide you to better selling. You’ll learn how to build long-term relationships, get the most out of every transaction, and even how to attract the best, most profitable customers to your store. If you sign up now through the end of September to do this workshop this fall, you’ll get the special introductory rate of $2,000. (Call me October 1st and you might be able to talk me down to $3,000 for the same workshop—and it will still be more than worth it!)

Another Example of Winning – Chicago Style

Have you ever had a meal ruined by a kid at the next table? Half of the time you’re wondering why the parent doesn’t do something to fix the situation. The other half you’re wondering why the parent brought the child to this particular restaurant in the first place. Some kids are too young for certain restaurants. Some parents are too inexperienced to bring their kids to restaurants.

Yet we do take our kids out to eat at inappropriate places all the time. Sometimes it is the only choice we have. It might be cheaper to take the kid than get a sitter. it might be a gift certificate you have to spend before it expires. It might be that you just don’t realize what a nuisance your kids are to others because you’re used to their antics (and/or find them cute).

Whatever the case, if you are a restaurant owner, you’re going to have children in your establishment who might potentially ruin the experience for other guests. Yet, you’re the one who gets ripped on Yelp.

Unless you’re proactive and have planned for this contingency.

I was in Chicago yesterday doing presentations for the Independent Garden Center Show (#IGCShow) at Navy Pier. After my last class I headed out to meet a fellow toy store owner and dear friend for lunch. She directed me to Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market in the Lakeview area. It is both a Fish Market and a Seafood Restaurant. It is apparently run by a smart person who is either a parent or someone who has been annoyed by children in restaurants too often.

Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market, Chicago, IL

Seafood restaurants are typically the kind of restaurant you don’t take young children. They often haven’t developed the palate. While some seafood restaurants offer kiddy meals and other options, this restaurant took it to a whole new level.

You see the picture with all the cereal boxes. That’s only about 35-40% of their wall of cereal. Yes, you can quiet your children with a bowl of cereal. (You can even have one, yourself. They offer a substantial breakfast menu—not all seafood.)

I want you to look more closely at the bottom of the picture, though. Yes, those are children’s books. Books you can read to your children while you wait for your meal. Books your children can look through while you eat your meal. Books that keep kids quiet and occupied.

Kiddy meals are expected at restaurants, but a Wall of Cereal and Books to keep the kids occupied is certainly Surprise and Delight.

My hat is off to you, Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market, for taking it a step above your competitors. My guess is that the children LOVE to go to the fish market with their parents which means they are more willing to behave in the first place. Plus, it increases the average ticket for the restaurant and just might get those kids to develop a taste for seafood at a younger age.

That’s winning times four!

What can you do to take it to the next level?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

Check out their Bloody Mary!

PS The New Orleans BBQ Shrimp was fabulous! I highly recommend it!

PPS There are little things we do to appease the reluctant tag-along to our primary customer such as the “man seat” near the dressing room in a women’s clothing store. How can you take that to the next level? (Magazines? TV? Beverages?)

How to Not Frustrate Your Customer

I don’t fit in this world very well. My body wasn’t made for standard sizing. I can’t fly certain airlines without being completely miserable, cramped, and in pain. There are some cars I just don’t like to drive because not only does the seat not adjust to my size, the blindspots hit in all the wrong places. And clothing shopping, while nowhere near as crazy as it is for women, is often a struggle for a long-torsoed, long-armed, small-but-wide-footed, heavyset guy like me.

(There’s an opportunity for a women’s clothing manufacturer to start making more custom-fitted clothing instead of the archaic even-numbered-fits-no-one sizing they currently use, but that’s another post for another day.)

I currently own shirts that are XL-Tall, 2XL, 2XL-Tall, 3XL, and 3XL-Tall. Yet my pants and shorts are typically XL. My head is XL, too (I don’t think that’s what people mean when they tell me I have a big head, though.), but gloves and socks are either medium or large. I keep telling myself I will know when I’ve “made it” because I’ll be buying custom-tailored shirts.

One frustration is going to a store, finding a style I like, yet they don’t have it in stock in my size. Either that or the department is such a chaotic mess that I wasn’t going to find the one item left in my size without an army of hunters. That happens often.

Another frustration is not finding a style I like. I’m not very picky, so that only happens occasionally, but there are simple things too often missing in men’s clothing like pockets in the right ergonomic places. (I prefer function over fashion. Keep it simple, stupid.)

The third frustration is not finding someone to help me when either of the first two frustrations happen, or at the very least, not finding someone knowledgeable enough or willing enough to help me. This, more than Amazon or the Internet, is what is killing department stores these days.

Saturday I found a store free of frustration. I’ve talked about this store before because their advertising is a case study for how to advertise right. In fact, it was their advertising that got me into their store. (Sadly, there isn’t one in Jackson, so this trip took way longer than it should.)

The store was Duluth Trading Post. Their shirts have an extra 3″ in length so that they cover and prevent “cracking.” Their 2XL fit me better than any t-shirt I have tried in any size. They even had the same sized shirt in six different styles and dozens of colors.

In fact, for all of their clothing, they had several styles, all deeply stocked in several sizes. If you’re looking for casual men’s clothing, they eliminated the first two frustrations perfectly (plus, if you’ve looked at their ads, they are answering many of the style frustrations people like me who prefer function over fashion desire).

On top of that, they took pretty good care of that third frustration, too. The staff was friendly, helpful, and available. Not pushy, not bored, not preoccupied with other tasks that kept them away from helping me. They were all busy straightening and stocking, but ready to drop what they were doing to answer a question, find another size, or make a suggestion at a moment’s notice.

One major component of a successful advertising campaign is when the experience you have in the store matches the expectations set by the advertising.

In this case, they blew me away. I expected the product to be good based on the ads. I didn’t know the store would be this well staffed and trained, too.

Here is a sign I saw posted throughout the store. Even the way they advertise for help-wanted goes a step above the normal.

When I told the guy I wanted to take a picture of the sign, he said, “Oh, are you going to come work for me?” I told him I didn’t think I could help him much. The company seems to have figured out a lot of what I teach all on their own.

While it is easier to show you what not to do (because there are so many examples out there), it is fun to show you when a store gets something right. Want to do something fun with your staff? Take them on a staff-training field trip to a Duluth Trading Post (they have women’s clothing, and free coffee and water, too.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS When I say the experience should match or exceed the expectations caused by the ads, just be cautioned that you shouldn’t go out bragging about your top-notch customer service. That’s a quick recipe for raising the bar of expectation too high to be able to meet it consistently. Instead of telling me you’re great, show me examples of what you do differently. Let me make the determination of how great you are. (And if I believe you are truly great, I’ll tell everyone about you like I just did for Duluth Trading Post.) Fair enough?