Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Building Customers by Making Friends

Your friends are those with whom you have a relationship. Everyone else is just an acquaintance. No matter how many times you see someone, if you don't interact, you aren't friends.

So have you made friends with your customers? (Or if you are a customer, have you made friends with the stores where you shop?)

We have. In fact, at Toy House it is expected. We want to know you and we want you to know us.

Yes, it sounds a little nosy, even a little scary when I put it like that. I believe, however, that building friendships is the best way to build loyal customers.

So how do you build friendships?

Be Honest: You are honest with your true friends. You tell them how you feel. You share your secrets. You admit your faults.

How many stores are willing to say, "Yes, we screwed up. It's our fault,"? Yet, during a recent staff training we discussed how even if the customer actually is at fault we need to apologize because that means that somewhere along the way we didn't communicate clearly enough to prevent the customer from the misunderstanding.

Listen: Your best friend listens to all your stories, positive and negative. And you listen to theirs, as well.

The best stores have a staff that listens, that repeats back what a customer says and asks questions to clarify everything so that there is no misunderstanding. We may not be the best listeners all the time, but we're working on it. Would you be surprised to know that the last ten staff trainings were on communication?

Share: Your best friend lets you try on her clothes, shares her french fries, mascara, or book collection. You and your friends share ideas, experiences and information.

The stores that make friends also share. They share ideas and experiences, they share products through samples and hands-on displays. They offer loaners when applicable. Have you played with the wooden and electric trains, Rokenbok, Calico Critters, Wedgits, puppets, playhouses, teaser games, knights, animals, or any of the other toys on display? Have you told your child's classroom teacher about our Teacher Loaner Program - products that teachers can use in the classroom for free? Yes, we like to share. Plus, we are all parents or grandparents ourselves. We know what our kids and grandkids have enjoyed. And believe me, we aren't shy about sharing what works and what doesn't work.

Laugh & Have Fun: Isn't that what friendship is all about?

Do you have fun where you shop? What makes it fun? If you're like most of the customers I see, it is the interactions you have with the staff that have a major impact on your fun. We have fun here. But we should. We work in a toy store. The cool thing is that our fun is not exclusive. We are always looking for ways to include you in the fun.

Some people wrongly accuse me of being in the "toy business". The reality is that we're in the friend business.

Wanna be our friend?

-Phil

PS We're not exclusive in our friendships, either. We have lots of bff's and plenty of room for more.

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