Home » Trust

Category: Trust

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.

New Technology Versus Old School: Where is Your Money Going?

She lived in Jackson, MI, but her folks, family, and friends were all still back on Long Island. After visiting our store, she knew exactly what she wanted for her new baby. With a clipboard in hand, we helped her choose her furniture, bedding, car seat, stroller, and all of the accouterments to go with it. The baby shower, however, was back on Long Island.

No worries. We had a phone. So did all of her guests. One by one they called and bought the items off her baby registry. We wrapped each gift and mailed a receipt and picture to the shower guest. She went to Long Island, had a party to remember, got almost everything on her list, and the gifts were all waiting for her back at her house when she got home.

Now that’s really old school!

We did it all by voice via the phone. Old school.

Earlier today I took a survey about which emerging technologies would have the largest impact on retail for 2019. One of those emerging technologies caught me by surprise …

Voice commerce. New technology.

What is voice commerce? The ability to order something by voice. Gee, haven’t we had that for a few centuries now?

Actually it is a fascinating new technology. At one end there is using voice through Siri or Alexa to order something. “Hey Siri, order my usual takeout from China House.” At the other end is you sitting on your exercise bike realizing your favorite water bottle has a crack, so you call Amazon and speak to a computer to order a new one because it is easier than trying to type while biking.

As I was pondering this new technology, however, several thoughts quickly popped into my head …

  • What if the computer doesn’t understand what you want?
  • What if you don’t know exactly what you want?
  • Will it make suggestions?
  • How much trust and bonding and relationship-building will it do for your business?

I can see on that last question, while many people have bonded with Siri and Alexa, they have the relationship with their device, not your store. Siri doesn’t work for you. Siri won’t curate a selection and “complete” a sale.

That’s my big fear with all of the emerging technologies. They decrease the interaction customers have with employees and decrease the relationships customers have with retailers.

The big chains probably love the idea of fewer interactions with employees, though. That removes any responsibility they might have to actually train their employees. Their don’t-care employees, poorly micromanaged by don’t-care managers, don’t know how to curate a selection or complete a sale anyway.

What if instead of spending money chasing these new technologies you spent your money training your staff? What if you taught them better ways to meet and greet customers that made lasting first impressions? What if you taught them better listening skills so that they could understand exactly what your customers were trying to accomplish? What if you taught them how to better solve problems and help your customers accomplish their goals? What if you taught them techniques that helped them make your customers’ days?

Here’s a better way to put it …

Would you rather go after the market that wants one specific item quickly and efficiently, and if you don’t have the specific item, they’re ordering it somewhere else? Or would you rather go after the market that has a specific problem, has an idea of the solution she thinks she needs, but isn’t quite sure, wants to find a trustworthy source that helps her understand her options, helps her make the best choice to solve her problem, and then brags to her friends about how wonderful you are?

If you want the first one, go after those emerging technologies. If you want the second one, train your staff.

One of the survey questions asked how I would measure the results of emerging technologies. Among the answers were things like Cost and Efficiency. I could choose two answers. I chose “Increased Customer Retention” and “Increased Customer Loyalty.” Those are the ones that truly matter.

Our shower gal not only became a lifelong customer, she bragged about us to all of her friends and brought them in to register for their baby showers. Two of her Long Island aunts continued to call us for Hanukkah gifts for several years after.

When Siri and Alexa can do that, the investment will be worth it. Until then there are smarter ways to spend your time, energy, and money.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Looking for a way to train your team to make the kind of connections that bring you more repeat and referral business? Call me today to schedule the Ultimate Selling Workshop, a power-packed three-hour workshop that teaches you and your team the best way to build those relationships and get those sales. I’ve discounted this workshop heavily this fall so that you can turn this holiday season into your best one ever.

PPS The most mind-boggling thing to me is how so many major retailers are spending huge dollars chasing all of the emerging technologies in this survey from AI to Augmented Reality to 3D Printing to Voice Commerce, when none of them have yet mastered the Customer Service Training they should be offering to their managers and front line employees. At the end of the day, no matter what fancy new technology you have, if your store sucks and treats customers like crap, you’re in the race to the bottom whether you want to be or not.

Closing the Sale with Assumptive Selling

Our realtor turned to us and said, “Now, where would you put your couch in this room?”

Immediately we started mentally arranging the furniture in the house she was showing. By the time we had visualized the family room, kitchen, and office we were ready to write the offer.

Visualization is the key to getting a shopper to move from gathering information to making the purchase. Realtors know this technique. You should, too.

I have just posted a new FREE eBook on the Free Resources page of my website titled Close the Sale with Assumptive Selling based on the presentation I did for the Independent Garden Center Show a couple weeks ago. The eBook shows you how to get customers into Visualization Mode and also shows you other smart things you need to do at the close of each sale to help your customer solve the problem that brought her into your store.

Today’s post talks about how to teach these concepts and techniques to your front line and sales staff.

(Hint: you should read the eBook Close the Sale with Assumptive Selling before reading the rest of this blog. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

FINDING THE BENEFITS

If you have ever been involved in sales training you have heard about Features and Benefits. You have to show the customer the Features and Benefits to make the sale. While I agree wholeheartedly with that approach, the real problem is that most sales people spend all their time on the Features without showing the true Benefits. Why? Because Features are easy to explain. The packaging often tells you everything a product does. Benefits are a lot harder to determine, especially because the Benefit for one person might be completely different than the Benefit for someone else.

DUTCH AUCTION

The best game I ever played with my staff to get them to think about Benefits was a “Dutch Auction.” I broke the staff into teams and asked each person to pick three items off the shelf. Each team ended up with a dozen items. Then I would call out a Benefit. The team had to bring me one item from their collection and explain to me how that item offered the prescribed Benefit. If they were successful with their explanation, they got a point.

Some Benefits you can use are:

Show me an item that …

  • Saves a customer time
  • Makes a customer healthier
  • Keeps a customer from having to bend over
  • Helps a customer feel smarter
  • Helps a customer feel stronger
  • Will make all of her friends jealous

This game gets your staff into a different mindset away from just what an item does, but how that will help a customer.

A Feature is what an item does. The Benefit is why that is important.

Another quick way to get your team up to speed on the Benefits is to bring your top ten new items to the next meeting and have the staff brainstorm all the possible Benefits of each item. Write up the list after the meeting and give a copy to everyone.

COMPLETING THE SALE

Have a contest at your next meeting. Have each person pick one item off the shelf. When they bring that item back to the group, explain the importance of Completing the Sale. Then send them out to collect every possible item related to the original item that a customer might need. Once they return, tally up the prices and reward the person who had the highest total. (Note: if no one has Completed the Sale to your satisfaction, send them back out with a total amount they have to reach. This will stir their creative juices.)

Follow up: Have each person create a checklist for their item of the complimentary items you’ll want to ask the customer to see if she has. Do that with your top ten items in your store. Those checklists will bring you gold.

TIPS AND HACKS

There are certain items you sell that people often misuse. There are certain items you sell that have a downside to them that sometimes kills the sale. There are certain items you sell that get the most negative feedback post-sale. Identify these items and bring them all to the next meeting.

Assign a different product to each person and have them research how and why each item is misused, mistrusted, or complained about. At the next meeting have them do a quick presentation with two points:

  • Here is the issue
  • Here is the tip you can give to make the customer enjoy the product and get the best use out of it

Nipping objections and complaints in the bud before they even happen makes happier, smarter customers who will return more often and bring their friends with them.

Now you know how to get your team to Close the Sale with Assumptive Selling.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS One Assumption I am making is that you have read and followed the steps in The Meet and Greet eBook I published yesterday. If you Meet and Greet properly at the beginning it is far easier to Close the Sale at the end.

PPS Yes, you can hire me to do these presentations for your organization. You can even hire me to do a workshop with your sales staff using some of the activities I have shown above and in yesterday’s post. A training workshop like the latter takes about 1.5 to 2 hours and will transform the way your staff works with your customers. When you’re ready to make your customers happier to buy more, contact me.

Winning the Millennial Vote

While doing research for a presentation I am making next week on selling to Millennials I came across an interesting statistic …

Only 51% of eligible Millennial voters voted in the 2016 presidential election compared to 63% for Generation X, 69% for Boomers, and 70% of everyone older.

Image may contain: Phil Wrzesinski, smiling, closeupOf course, the young adult vote has always been hard to come by, but even by comparison, Millennials are behind the other generations at this stage of their development. When Gen X was this age, they were voting at 57%. When Boomers were at this age, they were voting at 60%.

Some of my other research has led me to a possible conclusion why they vote at such low numbers and it can be summed up in one word—Lies.

Millennials were born into the world of hype. They grew up with marketers lying to them. Their BS Meter is more fully attuned to what they read, see, hear, than any other generation before them. They don’t like being lied to. They don’t like being misled. They can spot the BS faster than the FBI. They’ll forsake you at the first hint of falsehood.

They don’t like politicians in general because of how they constantly twist and mangle the truth.

I believe this is what keeps them away from the polls. If you were to give them a “None of the Above” box to check, not only would more of them would vote, but our candidates would become a lot better.

(Note: I have yet to prove this theory. If you know anyone who already has, let me know.)

As for an election, appealing to the young adult voters is not always the best strategy because they typically are the smallest voting block.

As a retailer, however, this group is the current customers of today and the bulk of your customers tomorrow. How well you reach them now could go a long way toward how well you are doing in the future.

The recipe is simple. Avoid the lies. Avoid the hype. Avoid the misleading statements, half-truths, and generalizations. Be honest, especially about the downside of the product. This group of consumers is savvy. If they don’t figure out the misdirection on their own, their online community will spell it out clear as day.

It might not win you an election, but it will win you a whole lot of long-term customers.

I’ll tell you more of what I’ve learned after next week’s presentation.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Although many generalizations are being made about Millennials, (including the one I made in this blog), I caution you to avoid the stereotypes, especially the negative ones about Millennials being lazy, self-absorbed, and entitled snowflakes. You’ll find an ample supply of those people in every generational group, and plenty of amazing kick-ass-motivated, hard-working Millennials making a difference in this world.

I Thought She Was the Owner

Often someone from my staff would enter my office and say, “I have an idea.” Often I would answer, “Great! Run with it!”

“But don’t you want to hear it first?”
“Is it consistent with our Core Values?”
“Yes.”
“Will it cost the company a lot of money?”
“No.”
“Run with it. I hired and trained you. I trust you.”

In Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive, he shows how “autonomy” is one of the key elements for motivating your staff to do their best. Autonomy gives them a feeling of ownership and a sense of pride. Autonomy also empowers them to make decisions and take care of customers the best way they can.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink

I know. This is scary. But what if they screw up? But what if they don’t make good decisions? But what if they aren’t as good as I am?

Have you ever thought if you hired well and trained well, they just might end up being better than you?

Sure, giving autonomy to your staff is scary, but in the long game it is how you build a winning team.

I was in Athens, GA recently when my tennis shoes died. I went to the New Balance store where Cameron helped me find the perfect pair for my needs. (Did I mention I have odd-sized feet? Oh yeah, yesterday.)

She was smart. She was well-versed on the products she sold. She studied how I walked. She asked questions about what I did when wearing these shoes. She listened, repeated things back to me, asked more questions, then told me why she was suggesting the pairs she suggested. She was amazing!

As I was checking out, I just had to ask, “Are you the owner or manager?”

“Oh no, I just love working here.”

Cameron had the autonomy to make decisions and act as if she owned the place. She was in such control that I believed she was the owner.

That should always be your goal—to hire and train so well that your customers are so impressed by your staff member that they think he or she must be the owner.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Autonomy is letting your team members do the jobs they were hired and trained to do without someone breathing down their neck or constantly looking over their shoulder. Note the word “trained.” Don’t give them autonomy until they are trained, but once trained, set them loose. They’ll make a mistake or two at first, and you’ll help them learn from those mistakes, but in short order they will become the person you expected them to be when you hired them.

You’re Killing the Sale Before it Even Starts

Next month I am unveiling some new presentations at the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago. One of those presentations is called “10 Mistakes that Sideline the Sale – Don’t Let Them Kill Your Mojo!” The blurb for the presentation starts with …

“You know not to say, ‘Can I help you?’ but do you know the other five Deal Killer Phrases?”

Apparently, if this past week was any indication, a lot of people still don’t know not to say, “Can I help you?” I heard this phrase not once, but three times at three different retail locations I visited in the past week.

When the third person asked me that question, I almost answered, “Yes, the first thing you can do to help me is never ask me or anyone else that question ever again.”

Instead I said, “No thanks. I’m just browsing.”

I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to say something else. I wanted to break the habit, but it is so ingrained in our vernacular that I said the two worst possible things you can ever get a customer to say in your store.

I said I didn’t want any help and I said I didn’t want to buy anything.

I said it out loud. I said it for the whole world to hear including myself. I told you and myself that I wasn’t going to buy anything. Now I have to overcome that mentality to make the purchase I came in to make. Now the salesperson has to overcome that rejection to make a sale.

Yet, when the salesperson hears, “No thanks, just browsing,” they typically walk away and leave the customer alone.

You’re killing sales with those four words before they even have a chance to start. You need to work incredibly hard with your staff and yourself to eliminate that phrase (and the variations like, “HOW may I help you?”) from your vernacular and work on different greetings.

I once did an exercise with my staff to come up with different ways to greet a customer without asking them a question that turns off the sales process. We came up with thirty-one different greetings. The first four were …

  1. Say Hello
  2. Call the customer by name
  3. Ask, “How are you doing?”
  4. Say, “Thank you for coming in.”

You put those four together into one simple greeting and you have a far better opening with the customer than, “Can I help you?” Sure, asking, “How are you?” also gets a knee-jerk response, but wouldn’t you rather have a customer say “fine” than “no?”

Bob Phibbs, aka the Retail Doctor, adds one more element to that greeting. He teaches that you should walk by the customer with that greeting, preferably with a prop in your hand such as a clipboard or a product, something that signals to the customer that you are busy with something else. After thanking the customer for coming in, you add, “I’ll be back in a little bit to check on how you’re doing.”

Two parts of that approach are brilliant. First, you’ve given the customer space. Some customers, especially men and introverts (that’s 75% of the population for those of you keeping count), prefer a little space. They don’t want a salesperson to pounce on them the moment they walk through the door. Second, the fact that you’re “busy” with something else makes you more approachable. I have seen it several times on the sales floor. The customer would rather go talk to the busy person stocking shelves than the free salesperson looking to help them. The customer feels less threatened by the busy person because that person doesn’t have an agenda.

“Hey Phil, how are you doing? Thanks for coming in. I have to go put these boxes away. I’ll come back and check on you in a little bit. Okay?”

You’ll have to work hard to coax the bad habit of asking, “Can I help you?” out of your vocabulary. It is almost as knee-jerk of a reaction to say that as it is to respond, “No thanks.” But if you want to make more sales, the easiest place to start is by removing the phrases that kill the sale before it even has a chance to start.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I’ve talked about another bad phrase recently, one most often said at checkout. “Did you find everything?” This one isn’t a sale-killer, but it sure is a mood-killer. After the IGC Show, I’ll tell you the other five phrases to avoid.

PPS There are five new presentations—all on the sales process—that I will be rolling out at IGC. I’ll be talking more about them after the show and how they can help your sales team.

Reaching the Unreachable

I was asked an interesting question yesterday morning at a Breakfast Business Boot Camp I’m doing in Oxford, MI. “How do you get past the moniker of this being a ‘business’ program to reach people who could use what you’re teaching but don’t see themselves as a ‘business’?”

The question was asked by a minister who saw value in the marketing & advertising series I am doing in Oxford this month. She has found great value in the first two classes but hasn’t yet convinced other churches of the value of attending these “business” classes (even though they are free and you get fed).

Image result for out of reachThat is a universal problem with all of us. How do we convince people who we know would benefit from our products but don’t identify themselves as a typical customer of our business to become customers?

“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” -Benjamin Franklin

There are two ways to reach those people who don’t identify as your typical customer and convince them to shop with you.

The first is through your Core Values. When your business is transparently consistent with your Core Values through your actions, products, and services, and your website, advertising, marketing, social media, etc. reflect those values as well, people who share those values will perk up and take notice.

They still might not believe you have a product or service they need, but they will think of you first when the time arrives that they might need something you offer.

This is the backbone of all branding and relation-building advertising.

Just understand that not everyone will relate to your core values, whether they could use your services or not. That’s okay. You couldn’t service 100% of the population even if you wanted to. Your best customers will be the ones who share your values. Speak to them. Don’t worry about the rest. There are plenty of people in your market who share your values. If you can convince that crowd, you’ll have plenty of customers to keep you busy.

The second way is through Word-of-Mouth. Only when their friends tell them about your business might they even consider becoming a customer of yours.

To answer the minister’s question, first, there will always be people who need what I’m offering but won’t ever see themselves as my “customer.” Second, part of my business model (and yours, too) is to understand that you can’t reach everyone, but if you surprise and delight your current customers, they will help you reach the unreachable. Some of those unreachable will become customers. I am hoping I have done that with this minister and that she will bring some friends to next Wednesday’s presentation.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you are in the Holly, MI area and would love to get some free ideas, tips, and techniques to drive traffic through your door, into your store, onto your site, or sitting in your pews, I am doing the same presentation at noon today at the Holly Village offices (Marketing and Advertising on a Shoestring Budget) I did yesterday morning in Oxford. Next week I’ll show you how to Make Your Ads More Effective (Oxford on Wednesday at 8am, Holly on Thursday at noon.)

PPS Yes, this post is as much about Market Share and Customer Service as it is about Advertising. You got that, right?

Self-Checkout – The Best, Worst Thing About Retail

I hate the self-checkout. When Kroger first introduced it in Jackson I had a couple of the most frustrating checkout experiences of my life. I swore I would never go back to Kroger again. (I already hated the narrow aisles and the not-so-intuitive location of everything in our Kroger store. This was the icing on the cake!) On top of my own frustrations with using it, the self-checkout was eliminating workers. One employee could now service six checkout lanes at once. I didn’t like that, either.

My argument against the self-checkout isn’t just because of my own incompetence at using them or the employee issue. I see them as a wasted moment in the store for an employee to surprise and delight the customer one last time. It is the last impression you make on your customer and, at best, a self-checkout station can only be neutral.

The closest a self-checkout ever came to surprise and delight for me was the first time I went through one without a hassle. Unfortunately, that instantly raised the bar of expectation, at which the self-checkout has fallen miserably below on several occasions.

I do use them—especially in big-box stores—for a couple reasons. First, when you only have a small load, they are often the only “express lane” options now, and no one wants to be stuck behind a couple full grocery carts for families of six. Second—and this is the reason so many customers actually “like” self-checkout—most stores have poorly trained, horrible service at the checkout. There is no surprise and delight because no one has taught them how to surprise and delight. Neutral beats poor every time.

THE CUSTOMER’S EXPECTATION

To understand how to surprise and delight a customer at the checkout, you first have to understand what a customer expects. Customers at checkout are far different from customers who are shopping.

Time is mostly immaterial to a shopper. She will take all the time she needs to hunt for solutions, compare options, and make a decision to buy. But once that decision is made, time is now of the essence. She wants to check out quickly, accurately, and with as little hassle as possible.

Speed, Competence, and Attitude are the three attributes you need to be great at the checkout.

Unfortunately, you rarely get all three. More often than not, you only get one of those attributes in a cashier. I have been in lines where none of the three attributes were shown. Those stores are killing their customers, driving them to the self-checkout lanes, and more importantly, driving customers away for good. Since self-checkout can never be more than neutral, it can’t make up for all the horrible encounters a customer has had with a live cashier.

I understand why the big box stores do it, though. It isn’t just the cost-savings. They know that neutral is better than their cashiers can perform on average, so they’ll take the trade-off.

For your store, however, the checkout is your chance to make a positive lasting impression and cement the trust, loyalty and word-of-mouth that comes with surprise and delight. You just need Speed, Competence, and Attitude.

SPEED

A customer at checkout doesn’t want a sloth. You put your energetic people at the register who move quickly, whether running things through a scanner, typing in numbers on a screen, or handwriting a receipt. The customer recognizes people who move slowly and that gets them feeling impatient. Evaluate your checkout process to see where you can speed it up and where your cashiers can give the impression of speed through energy and enthusiasm.

COMPETENCE

Your cashiers have to know their registers inside and out. They have to know how to handle and fix problems quickly and easily. They have to know how to handle themselves whenever a surprise does happen to show that they are completely in charge of the situation. I understand that bigger stores often don’t trust their cashiers, so they limit what problems the cashiers can solve without a manager’s authorization. You need to authorize all your cashiers to be able to fix all problems, solve all issues, and make changes at the register right away. With the size of your staff, if you don’t trust your employees that much, don’t put them on the register (or maybe you shouldn’t put them on the schedule at all). 

Nothing derails a checkout like a cashier who doesn’t know what he’s doing or constantly needs help to fix problems. If you’re going to do your cash register training on the floor, there better be a competent person standing right over the trainee’s shoulder at all times to keep the register humming.

ATTITUDE

I’ve had cashiers with speed and competency, but the attitude of a dead fish. It didn’t leave me all warm and fuzzy. Cashiers need to be happy people, especially because if someone is checking out, that means bills can get paid. Cashiers need to be engaging and friendly. They need to say Hello. They need to be observant. If the customer has just placed all their items on your cashwrap and is standing there holding her wallet, please don’t ask, “Are you ready to check out?”

I actually had a cashier at Kmart ask me that question as my items were rolling down her conveyor belt. In my best Bill Engvall Here’s Your Sign impression I said, “Nope, these items just looked bored. Thought I’d give them a ride.”

Another dangerous question to ask at checkout is, “Did you find everything?”

The typical response from a customer will be, “Yes.” First, she doesn’t want to hold up the line by saying no and having you or someone else go search for her item. Second, she is secretly afraid that if she says no, nothing will happen, which would be even worse. Third, she may not have found everything because she discovered you don’t carry something she wants, but she doesn’t want to rehash that whole conversation out a second time. So when you ask that question, you’re potentially putting your customer in the position of having to tell a little white lie. That isn’t surprise and delight.

Your cashier has to be observant. Your cashier cannot ask, “Did you find everything?” but she can ask, “Do you need (fill in the blank) to go with (something the customer already has)?” In fact, that is the one area where your cashier can stand tall is in making sure no customer leaves without having everything she needs to Complete the Sale.

Another thing your cashier can do is Praise the Purchase with phrases like, “Oh, you’re going to love using that,” and “I had one of those, it was great!” and “Those are really neat.” They must be sincere phrases (which is why you always want to encourage your employees to use the products you sell), but when used properly make your customer feel smart and confident and happy about her purchases. You’ve validated her and she will remember that. She’ll love coming to your store because it makes her feel smart.

Along with Praise, a great cashier will Give Out Tips for better usage of the product. “That’s a great stroller you’ve chosen. Did the salesperson show you how the wheels snap off easily so that you can clean them when they start to squeak? I recommend a silicone spray. It works better on the plastic.” Not only does the tip make the purchase more enjoyable, it gives the customer confidence in the purchase and eliminates one potential negative (a squeaky wheel) that might cause the customer to be disappointed in the purchase later on.

The cash register is also a place to make sure people are signed up for your email newsletters or loyalty programs or Birthday Club or any other services like that. It isn’t the most ideal place because it takes time (and speed is of the essence), but if your register process isn’t the fastest, it can be a good way to occupy the customer while you’re ringing things up.

Finally, there are two other questions your cashiers might ask …

  • “Do you need help getting those items out to your car?”
  • “Do you have more shopping to do today?”

The first question applies in certain situations, but is an easy (and under-utilized) service to offer when most of your customers are in your own parking lot. The second one is especially important for downtown shops. You can often steer customers to another local store if they have more shopping to do, or to a local eatery if food is next on their agenda. You can even offer to hold their purchases while they go next door for a sandwich (if possible). That would certainly surprise and delight a customer.

To recap, a great cashier will …

  • Complete the Sale
  • Praise the Purchase
  • Offer Tips for Better Usage
  • Sign the Customer Up
  • Help the Customer Out the Door and on with her day

A self-serve checkout cannot do any of those five. That’s why it can never be more than neutral, and often simply a convenient nuisance that saves us from something worse.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yeah, that’s a lot of training you may need to do to make your cashiers great. Then again, if you hire helpful, friendly, confident people in the first place, all you really need to teach them is how to run the register and what your products do (which you should be teaching to everyone on the team anyway). They’ll take to the rest quite easily.

PPS Attitude trumps the other two attributes. A positive, friendly, engaging attitude keeps the customer occupied so that they often don’t notice that you aren’t that fast at the checkout. Similarly, a can-do, I’m-in-charge, attitude gives customers confidence even when mistakes are made and need to be fixed. “Hold on a second, let me get this straightened out,” imparts far more confidence than, “Oh my god, oh my god, what do I do now?” Confidence breeds Trust. Trust leads to loyalty.

Good Idea, Poor Execution

I need new tires for my vehicle. I’ve been through this process before. It used to be easy. I had a downtown Goodyear Tire place. I went there. Supported my fellow downtown business. They always took care of me. Knew me on a first-name basis. It was only two blocks from Toy House. No worries.

They’re closed now.

Image result for goodyear assurance tripletred all-seasonSo I did what a lot of people do these days. I went online.

Let’s face it. Tires are scary. There are so many different makes and models. Each vehicle has its own requirements. Without trust between buyer and seller, it is easy to feel afraid of being ripped off. I wanted to know more about tires before I set foot in a store. I wanted to research different models, check prices (last time I got tires there was a $250 difference between the tires I got and a couple other places offering the same tire), and be prepared.

I’ve always been a fan of Goodyear, probably because of the Goodyear store downtown, probably because there used to be a Goodyear plant in Jackson that spent a lot of money at Toy House both as a company and the individuals that worked there. I found myself on the Goodyear website comparing different models the right size and style for my vehicle.

The website was good. It had side-by-side comparisons, reviews and ratings, plus all the specs like warranty, fuel-efficiency, season, comfort, etc. I narrowed it down to a couple choices and felt a whole lot smarter.

GOOD IDEA

Then the website took it a step farther. I had the ability right then and there to purchase the tires online and have them installed locally. Before I clicked, however, I went to a few local tire place websites to compare prices. No one had the tire I wanted as an offering, but their pricing on the other Goodyear tires was similar to the Goodyear site. I felt a little more confident that I was getting a fair deal.

The good idea at Goodyear was to get the purchase right away. Don’t let me go to a local shop and have them sell me on some other brand. When I clicked on the purchase button, it then gave me a choice of shops in the area where I could get those tires installed. Even better! I knew most of them, but didn’t have a relationship with any of them, so I chose the place closest to my home.

Then the Goodyear site let me choose an appointment time. It had to be two days or more later. That made sense to me, since the shop might not have the tires in stock. I chose two days later at 10am, paid for my tires, and got my confirmation email.

I will be willing to bet this website drives a lot of traffic to these tire shops because of people like me shopping online.

POOR EXECUTION

This morning I arrived for my appointment. No tires. The delivery truck doesn’t arrive until the afternoon. Plus, even if the tires were there, the shop had already booked all their bays for the morning. The shop had only received the email from Goodyear about the shipment and appointment this morning.

The guy at the shop was quite apologetic. He said he has this problem with Goodyear all the time, even though he has called them several times trying to get minor changes to their program like scheduling out three days instead of two so that he was sure he would have the tires on time and be able schedule installers. They tell him, “Sorry, that’s the way we do it.”

Fortunately for this shop, and for me, I have a wide open schedule this afternoon. So does the shop. As soon as the tires land I’ll be back and they’ll be able to get me right in. But just imagine the person who had to work their whole schedule around this appointment.

Maybe you had to drop off the car before work and find someone to take you to work, then pick you up after. Maybe you had to get a babysitter because you didn’t want to take your two-year old to sit in the waiting room of a tire shop. Maybe you had a business meeting out of town in the afternoon and really wanted those new tires before making a two-hour drive. Maybe you were leaving on vacation and were waiting on another paycheck to afford the tires, scheduled the purchase as soon as possible, but now had to delay your entire vacation a day because of this fiasco?

Can you imagine any of those people being completely upset and irate? Can you imagine any of those people taking their frustrations out on a tire shop manager for something that was totally out of his control? Can you imagine any of those people writing bad reviews of the tire shop on Yelp?

VENDORS ARE PARTNERS

As a retailer, I understand the flow of products. If I had called this shop directly, placed the order, and made the appointment, only to find that morning that they didn’t have my tires, that would have been one thing. But these guys were at the mercy of Goodyear (and, by my guess, the mercy of Goodyear’s web guys not knowing how to add holidays into their calendar).

I applaud Goodyear for taking the steps to offer this service online. That’s what a good partner does—drives traffic into your stores.

I chide Goodyear, though, for not understanding the levels of frustration and complaint they also cause their retailers because they don’t listen and adjust the system to fit the retailers. I hope the tire shop makes their full margin on these tires, if nothing else but for the hassle of having to work around Goodyear’s “system.”

In fact, I’m going to ask if that’s the case so that next time I need tires, I can find a way to make sure my local stores get what they deserve.

If you have a vendor who is truly your partner, driving traffic into your store, thank them and support them!

If you have a vendor who is causing your customers to hate you because of things out of your control, send them this blog post. 

If you are a vendor, recognize that you can do just as much damage as good, especially when you don’t listen to your retailers.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Just a cautionary tale for vendors … I have known several vendors over the years who have offered programs to try to drive traffic into stores, but either didn’t consult the retailers first, or ignored their suggestions. The programs always fell flat and often turned the retailers off from buying their products. Many of those vendors are now out of business.

PPS This goes for retailers, too. You are a partner with your customer. Before you start offering something you think is good for the customer, you might want to first ask your customer exactly what she wants. I’ll tell you a tale tomorrow about what I learned when I asked my customers questions.

The Internet Isn’t Winning

You’re losing.

Case Study #1

Image result for a5 scooterMy son wanted to buy a scooter for getting around campus. Not an electric scooter, mind you, but a simple two-wheeled scooter similar to the one he had as a child but with higher handlebars and a larger weight limit. He is a college student with Amazon Prime. He researched it online as do most kids his age. He could have bought it and had it in two days. Instead, since the website said Walmart had it, he asked if I would take him to Walmart.

Two stores later, no scooter, no sign of that scooter having ever been in either store. Guess where he’s going?

Case Study #2

A friend needed a specific type of blood sugar test strips for the machine she got. The store where she used to get them had an empty slot on the shelf for over a week. Two other stores she tried didn’t have that style. Another store had them but for over double the price.

Guess where she went?

Case Study #3

I went shopping with my other son. He has particular tastes when it comes to pants. The last style that he liked has been discontinued. After trying several stores and pants we finally found another style he liked at REI. They had one pair—in one color—in stock in his size.

“You can get more colors and sizes online,” said the clerk.

Case Study #4

Another friend was in Dick’s Sporting Goods. She found a pair of shorts she liked but not her size. The clerk, after telling her they didn’t have her size, didn’t even offer for her to go online where she not only found her size, but also found they were on clearance, even though no one had bothered to mark them as such in the store.

Case Study #5

Another friend told me she stopped shopping at Younkers because the prices at the register never matched the prices on the shelves. Sometimes the prices were higher, which meant she had to get someone to go look at the shelf tags while customers lined up at the register behind her, and then fight for the right price. Sometimes the prices were lower, which, had she known, she would have bought more than one. Either way, each trip to the checkout was fraught with anxiety and stress.

I could go on and on about several times the customer service was so poor, the selection so lacking, or the experience so frustrating, that the best solution is to avoid going shopping in brick & mortar stores at all.

When I moved back to Jackson in 1993 the Jackson YMCA was transforming one of its squash courts into a rock climbing gym. Because I had led rock climbing trips before, they hired me to supervise it. When I met with my new staff for their first day of training I explained to them that there were NO regulations guiding how rock climbing gyms should be run, mainly because these gyms were relatively new and there hadn’t been enough injuries or accidents or insurance claims to force those regulations.

I told the staff that we would NOT be the cause of any such regulations. Our gym would be run at the highest standards of safety. We only had two incident reports in eight years and no major injuries.

Today you need to have the same conversation with your staff.

Your store will not be the cause of driving anyone to the Internet to do their shopping.

  • Your store will have the must-haves in stock.
  • Your store will have the merchandise properly displayed, priced, sorted, and available.
  • Your store will have a staff that knows the products inside and out including not only what you sell, but the most popular products you don’t sell (and why you don’t sell them).
  • Your store will be the store that offers solutions to problems.
  • Your store will be the store that makes checkout a breeze.

That’s what keeps people in the store and off the Internet. That’s what winning in the store looks like.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS My son is living proof that even today’s youth still want to shop in a store. The stores just aren’t doing their job of making it worthwhile. Worse yet, each poor brick & mortar experience reflects poorly on all brick & mortar stores, especially when it happens at an indie store that is supposed to be the pinnacle for customer service.
Don’t be that store that brings everyone else down.