This month’s blog posts are short and simple because you’re busy. They are also reminders of tips, techniques, and tools you can use to increase sales, increase profits, and increase customer delight. This tip does all three.
Here is tip #9
EMPTY HER HANDS
If you don’t have shopping carts or baskets, your customers are limited to buy only what they can carry. Therefore, it should be a mission for all of your team to help unburden your customers whenever their hands are full.
Offer to take her items up to the checkout station.
This is good for two reasons. First, it frees up her hands to shop for more items. Second, it helps close the sale because when she agrees to your request to take the items up front she is giving her implicit acknowledgement that she has decided to buy those items.
When her hands are free she will shop longer, buy more, and be happier.
Don’t believe me? Believe Paco Underhill. He researched it for decades and chronicled it in his book Why We Buy. If you haven’t read it, ask Santa to bring you a copy.
PS Come up with a system for your team when they bring items up front—put a sticky note with a name on the pile and/or have a designated place for piles—something that helps you keep piles organized so that the wrong items don’t go home with the wrong people.
Keeping it short and simple for the busy holiday season, this next tip may seem minor, but at the end of the day you’ll thank me.
Here is tip #8
CHANGE YOUR SHOES AND SOCKS
This time of year retailers spend for more time on their feet and far more time running back and forth than any other time of the year. By the end of the day your feet are killing you.
Two things you can do to help your feet get through this busy season are:
Change your socks midday
Alternate the shoes you wear
I used to keep a pair of socks in my office. During the Christmas season when I was working 7am to 9pm I would often change my socks in the late afternoon. Just that one act alone made my feet feel refreshed and gave me a little more spring in my step.
Not only was that good for me, it was good for my customers. It is hard to hide foot pain when interacting with other people. Like I said before, your last customer deserves the same level of enthusiasm as your first customer.
Alternating shoes is another way to keep your feet fresh. It gives your foot a different feel because different shoes work the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in different ways.
Encourage your employees working those long shifts to do the same. They will thank you. Their feet will thank you.
PS My routine was to buy quality shoes with, comfy, supportive inserts, change my socks frequently, and switch between my dress shoes and my tennis shoes regularly. At night I would sprinkle baby powder into my shoes to help them dry up and smell fresh by morning. This tip won’t show up in any book on customer service, but it will affect your bottom line when you have more energy to work with those late-in-the-day customers.
Of all the Christmas Quick Tips I will give you, this one will be the hardest to master and quite possibly the most rewarding when you and your team do master it …
Here is tip #7
LEAD WITH THE BEST
Your customer is looking for solutions. Yes, at this time of year we call them gifts, but at the end of the day, they are really solutions to problems.
When you offer suggestions, unless the customer has given you a price range right up front, ignore price altogether and start by showing the best solution you have.
It doesn’t have to be the most expensive. It just has to make the most sense.
The tendency of most retail salespeople is to sell from your own pocketbook and start by offering the cheapest solution. That doesn’t win hearts (or build profits). You can use the cheapest solution as the fallback when they balk at the price of the best solution, but always lead with the best.
A customer will expand his or her budget if the product offered truly fits her needs.
You are a solution provider. Your job is to provide the best possible solution first. Then the customer can decide what she’s willing to compromise to fit her budget.
Teach your team that goal number one is to solve the problem in the best way possible. Always lead with the best.
PS Never open with the question, “What’s your budget?” First, they almost always lowball you well below what they would actually spend for the right product. Second, it pigeonholes you and often keeps you from showing her the right product. She’ll tell you when it’s out of her league, and you can adjust your offerings from there.
PPS Some of my favorite stores have successfully talked me into buying a more expensive item than I planned. I love those stores because in each case the solution was worth the expenditure. On the flip side, there are stores I won’t visit again because they tried to upsell me something that wasn’t the bestsolution to my problem. Always lead with the BEST.
Keeping it short and sweet, here is another simple, easy tip you and your team can do to make the holiday experience a better one for your customers.
GIVE THE COINS BACK FIRST
If you’re a regular, you know this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. It shows both a lack of caring and a lack of training when the cashier hands me the bills first and then dumps the loose change onto my already occupied hand. The coins inevitably spill and now I’m wasting time on my hands a knees for a couple dimes.
The best thing you can do is teach your staff to “Count Back” the change.
The second best thing you can do is to at least have them place the coins in the customer’s hands first, followed by the bills.
Please, please, please teach and do this. Not only will you avoid those awkward hands-and-knees moments, you’ll subconsciously make your customer’s day (or in my case, you would consciously make my day and I would probably let out a rebel yell of joy!)
PS Yes, I do think it is a big deal. There are little things that have bigger meaning. This is one of training and caring. A cashier taught the right way instills far more confidence than one who is bumbling around and making you drop stuff.
Since your time is tight, now through December 21st I’m keeping these blog posts short and simple with tips, tools, and techniques that make a difference.
Here is tip #5
START CLOSING AT CLOSING TIME
Yes, you’re tired. Yes, these are long days and you want to go home. Yes, waiting until closing time to wash the counters, count the change, empty the wastebaskets, etc. will make you have to stay a few minutes later.
Yes, your last customer of the day deserves the same enthusiasm as your first customer of the day.
Make it taboo for anyone on your team to mention how tired they are. This is your moment to make hay. This is what your whole year has been built around. You’re supposed to be tired at the end of the day. Just don’t let it show.
Treat the last customers with the same enthusiasm as the first customers. Don’t go around the store closing things down and making them feel unwelcome. Instead think of them as the icing on your sales cake and give them the red carpet treatment.
Even if you have to fake it.
It not only pays now with bigger sales at the end of the day, it pays down the road as a customer treated well is more likely to come back than a customer treated like a nuisance.
PS I was guilty of this far too often. It is the one mistake I wish I could go back in time to fix. Yes, they are long days for you. Have you ever considered it has also been a long day for your customer? Treat her with kindness and enthusiasm and not only do you get the sale, you just might make her day.
You’re busy. I’m busy. Our customers are busy. So in the interest of time, I’m keeping all the posts from now through Christmas short and sweet.
Here is tip #3
SIGN THEM UP BEFORE CHECKOUT
If you have a loyalty program, birthday club, or email list that you normally ask customers to join, you need to get in the habit of doing that long before they get to check out.
By the time the customer gets to checkout, they are in a hurry to leave. Anything you do then to slow down the line is an aggravation and leaves a bad taste in their mouth. They are not in a sharing mood then.
The best time to sign someone up is duringthe sales process. Not only are they in a friendlier mood, they are in less of a hurry and more willing to say yes.
Once you get them to say yes to your program, you make closing the sale that much easier.
Now is a good time to farm for your lists. Hire a seasonal person to wander your store with a tablet and/or clipboard and sign people up for your loyalty/birthday/email list. You’ll get more takers, close more sales, and keep your registers humming at optimal speed.
PS If you don’t have enough salespeople to have them all doing this job as part of their sales process, hiring a seasonal person for this will more than pay for itself down the road. Plus it gives you one more person on the floor to direct customers where to go and deter shoplifters.
It’s the busy season. You don’t have time for a lengthy blog with stories and explanations. So to make your life easier, now through December 21st I’m going to post simple, quick tips you can use and share with your staff to raise the bar for your customers. (Don’t ask questions. Just do these things and it will make a difference.)
Here is tip #1 …
SAY THANK YOU
Remind yourself and your staff to always say, “Thank You,” to every customer. Never say “Here you go,” or “No problem.”
Even when a customer says Thank you to you first, you respond with a thanks or use Chick-fil-A’s, “My pleasure.”Say it and mean it. Those customers have choices and they chose you. Be sincerely thankful.
One study showed that 68% of people switched loyalty in stores because of indifference. Be grateful and you’ll never have that problem.
While I know I should probably avoid the drive-thru restaurants, I don’t. I go even though I don’t particularly like the drive-thrus. It isn’t the food. It is the experience, or more accurately the final moments of the experience.
Two things happen far too often at the end of a drive-thru experience that shouldn’t. One is partially my fault. One is simple training that would make the experience far more pleasurable.
Don’t you just hate when they give you your change?
They always stack the bills on your hand first and then drop a wad of coins on top of those bills. My only hope is that when the coins start sliding off (as they always do), they will slide into my vehicle and not on the ground.
The second problem is making sure I got the right stuff. I don’t want to hold up the line so I rarely ever check the bag. Sometimes they are polite enough to tell me what they are handing me. Sometimes they aren’t.
Yesterday, however, I found a third reason to be annoyed.
This picture is the dollar bill I got in change for my meal yesterday. I actually flattened it out some for the picture. It was pretty crumpled. I was afraid to put it into my wallet.
All I could think about as I drove away was why wasn’t this drive-thru cashier instructed to put the nasty, slimy, crumpled, torn, barely readable dollar bills at the bottom of the stack and only give out the good ones as change?
You do that, don’t you?
If there was anything I was OCD about at Toy House, it was clean dollar bills in the drawer. Every morning when I counted out the drawers I held back the nasty ones for the deposit and put the clean ones in the drawers. I used to beg the teller at the bank to give me the clean bills whenever I bought bundles of ones. (She used to hold the better bundles aside just for me—that’s customer service!)
It seems like a silly, minor thing, but it is those little details that set you apart from your competition.
Your customers won’t notice you did it, but sometimes the best customer service is doing something nice they don’t notice rather than having them flame you on Yelp for something not so nice they did notice.
Teach your staff to give back the right kind of change the right way. It quietly makes a difference.
PS Oh, I would love to go into a fast food joint and whip them into shape. After giving back change, the other thing I would teach them to do is to put the lettuce in the sandwich, not in the outer folds of the wrapper. I would have taken that picture of me becoming a salad yesterday if I wasn’t driving.
PPS I was in a Chick-fil-A restaurant once where the cashier handed me back change the right way. It was so refreshing that I had to thank her. She said it was the way she was taught. See? It can be taught. While that isn’t the only reason why an average Chick-fil-A restaurant does over three times in sales of the average KFC, staff training is definitely a major contributing factor.
I was looking at the Free Resources page on my website yesterday. There are nine eBooks on Marketing & Advertising, twelve on Customer Service, and five on Money. You can download any and all of them for free. No strings attached. No limits to how many or how often you can download them. No limits to how far or wide you can share them. I don’t even ask for your email address first, just credit for having written and produced them.
Yeah, pretty stupid to give it all away like that for free.
Yet, if you read yesterday’s post, you would understand why I do it. Of the three questions and the fifteen answers I gave yesterday to why I am doing what I do, the last question about the problems I want to solve and the last five answers were the easiest.
Helping other businesses succeed drives everything. It is the starting and ending point. If these eBooks can make a difference, you should have them.
You’re more likely to download them if you don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops.
You’re more likely to read them if they are short and to the point.
You’re more likely to share them if they are smaller files that you could even print if you wanted.
“A man who doesn’t read has no advantage over a man who can’t.” -Mark Twain
My sales staff got a copy of everything I had written about customer service at that time either through a staff training or by printing copies for their handbooks. (That included Generating Word of Mouth which is technically a Customer Service issue even though you’ll find it under Marketing & Advertising.)
While the stats counter shows how many times each gets downloaded, it doesn’t tell me how you’ve used them.
Would you do me a favor?
Drop me a comment on this post or an email and tell me which eBooks you’ve used and what, if any, difference they have made for your business. I’d like to know which ones have been most useful and which ones need to be revised, revamped, or removed for better content.
Those first four make up the basis of the new half-day workshop The Ultimate Selling Workshop. (They also stand alone as great Breakout Sessions!) Yes, the live event for any of these eBooks is a far cry better than the eBook, itself. You get more stories and examples. You get the whole presentation tailored to your specific industry or region. If it is a session with owners and managers, you also get tips and techniques for teaching it to your staff. If it is a session with the staff at your business, you get hands-on activities to really drive home the points. While I encourage you to hire me for a live event, please keep sharing and using this information. Together we can tilt the playing field back in your direction.
If there is one universal truth in retail it may well be this …
The hottest product on your shelf last year will be on everyone else’s shelf this year.
Every year in my two-and-a-half decades as a buyer I would watch another vendor cross over to the dark side and start selling their goods in the big-box discounters and Toys R Us. Proud brands that had grown and flourished in the independent specialty channel were cashing in with the big boys, who would undercut our prices and ruin a fine brand.
This happened Every. Single. Year. And the reaction was always the same. A lot of crying, complaining and gnashing of teeth on the part of the indies while we scrambled to find suitable replacements.
I never took part in the gnashing. Maybe it was because I had seen it happen enough times to come to expect it. Maybe it was because I grew up in the industry before that delineation between mass and specialty product channels even existed.
My grandfather had two utility bills at our building on Mechanic Street. He got that second bill so that he would have “proof” of a second address separate from the retail operations. He did that for one reason only—to set up a “distributorship” so that he could buy certain toys he wasn’t able to buy directly from the manufacturer. Back then you could only buy certain lines through distributors, so he became a distributor just to get products. He didn’t care who else was selling the product. If it was a good product, he wanted it in his store.
He knew he could sell it.
In the 80’s and 90’s that mindset changed. Indie retailers shied away from products sold in the mass-markets and created what we called the “specialty” market. Some of that was to protect profit margins. Some of that was because we bought for different reasons than the mass-market.
In my industry the mass-market bought toys for quick turn-around—toys that had name recognition, shelf-appeal, and were backed by advertising. We bought toys for play value—toys that spurred the imagination and creativity in a child.
Once the specialty market built up a brand into a recognizable name with enough money to advertise, the mass-market would swoop in and snatch them away, sending us off again in search of the next great “specialty” line.
Today, however, the lines are once again blurred. In the toy industry especially, with Toys R Us out of the picture this holiday season, all kinds of retailers are popping up with all kinds of toys. There is no differentiation between “specialty” and “mass” in terms of products or distribution. Nor will there be for the foreseeable future.
Everything is now sold everywhere. Nothing is “special” anymore.
The only thing “special” about the specialty stores is You. How you run your store, the people you hire, the relationships you build with your customers, the involvement you have with your community, the events you host, the teaching you do—that is the Special part.
I tell you this to remind you that pop-up stores are about to start popping—not just in toys, but in all categories. Some of them will have products you sell. Don’t fret about that. Here is one other universal truth in retail …
No pop-up store will ever be able to sell products as well as you can.
Their staff doesn’t have the training. Their leadership doesn’t have the passion. Their business doesn’t have the connections. When you play up the parts that truly make you Special, you cannot be beat. (Hint: it isn’t the product that makes you special anymore.)
The best way to protect yourself from pop-up stores and the loss of specialty brands is to double-down on your training right now. Download the Free Resources on Customer Service. (There are several good ones in there.) Go over this stuff with your team. Role Play the scenarios and look at how you interact with new customers. Talk about how to be better at curating a selection. Learn the benefits of your new products and better ways to close the sale. Practice using new phrases to eliminate the deal killer phrases we all use.
The products come and go. The relationships build your business and make you truly Special.
PS Some of you are going to have stellar years without any extra training. Don’t get lulled into a false trap. Every boat rises with the tide. Consumer spending is up. The economy is relatively strong. But if you’re watching the news, you know a lot of shuffling is going on in retail. The stores with the strongest relationships with their customers will find the greatest success in the long run. Consider that another universal truth. Make you store truly Special this holiday season. The gains will last well into next year.
PPS Heck, simply teach your staff to do what my grandfather listed as the number three part of his Sales Plan—“Listen to customer until customer is clearly understood. Do not interrupt.”—and you’ll be doing more than most retailers out there.