Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Basic to Wow Example

I got a couple emails asking for more examples of Basic to Wow customer service against which you can measure your own business.

Here's one for the simple act of greeting a customer at the front door...

Basic Customer Service: Look up from your station and say "Hello" to everyone who walks through the door.

Good Customer Service: Spice it up with a hearty welcome (and actually mean it).

Great Customer Service: Get out from behind the cashwrap. Greet the customer by name. Speak to their kids.

WOW Customer Service: Hold open the door (especially for people pushing strollers or wheel chairs). Offer to hang up their coats. Greet them like a friend. Chat casually with them, not about why they are there but what's up in their lives. Ask about the previous purchases they have made (what do you mean you don't know?). Customers love to know they have been recognized and remembered. Give them all the time they need to decompress and feel comfortable before getting to the business at hand.

Exceeding customer expectations is your goal. That's what makes people talk positively about you. Simply meet their expectations and at best you'll get a "Thanks". But when you go way beyond what they expect, they'll tell their friends about you.

WOW Customer Service exceeds their expectations every time. It is as much an attitude as a skill.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If your staff doesn't already have that attitude there are only two reasons. Either you aren't modeling and teaching it, or they just don't have it in them. More often than not it's the former. But don't be afraid to cut loose those who don't have it in them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Everyone Thinks They Have It

Every store thinks they have Great Customer Service. Even Wally World thinks a greeter at the door qualifies them for the customer service hall-of-fame. But unfortunately, most stores barely offer the basics.

And even then Great Customer Service isn't enough to move the needle for customers these days. You need WOW Customer Service!

See where your business stacks up in this example of dealing with a Customer with a Problem...

Basic Customer Service: Go find a manager to deal with the problem.

Good Customer Service: Take the customer away from other customers and go find a manager.

Great Customer Service: First attempt to solve the problem before calling a manager.

WOW Customer Service: Own the problem from the start. Apologize and admit you made a mistake. Solve the problem to the satisfaction of the customer. Report your solution to the manager. Follow up with the customer later to make sure she is still satisfied.

It doesn't take much to go from Basic to Great. But to get to WOW requires a dedicated and well-trained team. Ask yourself...

  • Does your management team allow for WOW to happen?

  • Is your staff capable of making WOW happen?
It takes WOW to get WOM (word-of-mouth). Give your customers the WOW treatment and your needle will move. Guaranteed!

Phil Wrzesinski

PS I'm working on a new eBook... "Customer Service: From Basics to WOW" I would love your feedback on what you consider to be WOW service that you're currently using in your store. Any submissions used will get both credit in the eBook and a FREE copy of my book Hiring and the Potter's Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art

Friday, June 24, 2011

The No List

Carole Bernstein owns Get Smart! Carole Bernstein is Smart.

She works on her business as much or more than she works in her business. But she still keeps a pulse on what is happening in her business at all times with a clever communication tool used by all her staff.

I don't know for sure what she calls it, but I call it the "No List".

At the end of every shift her staff are required to fill out a worksheet that includes every request to which they said "No" that day.

Think about that for a moment...

What if you knew every time your staff said, "No, we are out-of-stock"?
What if you knew every request a customer made for a product that you did not carry?
What if you knew about a service for which multiple customers were asking but you didn't offer?
What if you knew exactly what your customers expected but didn't get?

Would you be a better retailer with this information? Of course you would. And Carole just showed you how to get it.

That's why I love attending good conferences and meeting smart retailers.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Not sure how to train your staff to communicate with you in this way or any other way you choose? Check out my free eBook Staff Meetings Everyone Wants to Attend and the accompanying worksheet. You'll have your staff fired up and wanting to learn more in no time at all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Notes From Visual Merchandising & Store Design Sessions

I love attending conferences with excellent presentations and workshops.

At the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association Marketplace this week I got a chance to attend two sessions on merchandising and store design put on by Linda Cahan.

Although I have already published a Free eBook called Merchandising Made Easy, I wrote down a ton of notes from these sessions either as reminders or as advanced ideas from what I already know.

Here are some of the key takeaways...

Focal Displays
Your store merchandising should be built on a series of Focal Displays that are visually attractive and placed where they will be easily seen. For instance, at the end of every aisle there should be a Focal Display. When a person enters the store, they will typically look straight ahead first. You should have a Focal Display against the back wall directly in front of them.

People also scan a store in predictable patterns. First they look straight ahead. Then they scan from left to right. Therefore you should stand in their shoes and see how many Focal Display areas you have from the front of the store and what are they seeing.

Your Focal Displays tell the story of who you are, your product selection, your core values, etc. Make sure that you are using those spaces wisely. If you have nothing interesting where a Focal Display should be, you are telling your customers that your store has nothing interesting for them. Make your Focal Displays fun and the rest of the store will seem fun.

Light Makes a Difference
Stores with really bright lights and lots of product everywhere are considered more affordable than stores with a mix of lights or bright lights with little product. If you are going for the boutique look, mix up your lighting. If you are going for the affordable look, add some wattage.

The best light of all, however, is Natural Light. Windows, skylights, etc. Natural light makes a store feel cleaner, lighter and more relaxing. It also helps your staff feel better.

Even if your landlord won't let you put in more natural light, you can make a difference just by painting your ceilings light blue with a cloud or two. It will expand the space and make it feel like there is more natural light.

LED lights are the new wave of the future, offering brightness at a fraction of the energy, and they last forever. Get away from the hot halogens, expensive incandescent, and even the fluorescent lights in favor of LED when you start switching out your light fixtures.

Round is a Shape
Get rid of your sharp corners. If your cashwrap sits in the middle of the store and has corners, soften them somehow. Put a plant or a round fixture at each corner. Use round tables instead of square tables for displays. Sharp corners are irritants, not only dangerous physically, but also psychologically. Rounded corners and rounded fixtures are much more comfortable and pleasing.

Thanks to Linda for these great ideas (and so much more). I know there are some things I need to change.

How about you?


PS Check out Linda's book 100 Displays Under $100 (not an affiliated link, just a shout out to say thanks for two wonderful presentations)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You Get What You Pay For

A friend of mine's wife was teaching a dance teachers workshop and one of the participants asked her how she was able to get such good musicians for the program.

She replied, "Pay them!"

The universal truth is that you get what you pay for.

It especially applies to your staff.

There are two management approaches you can take towards your staff. Either they are one of your largest expenses or one of your largest assets.

The business owner who approaches payroll as an expense will try to cut it to the barest minimum, keep pay as low as possible to keep labor costs down.

The business owner who sees the employees as an asset will invest in them and do whatever necessary to get the highest possible return from those assets.

Either way, you will get what you pay for.

Choose wisely, my friends, choose wisely.


PS Need help getting the right assets in place? Buy my book Hiring and the Potter's Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art. It will make a difference immediately.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How I Am Marketing the Birthday Club

Thought it might be insightful to show you all I am doing to market the launch of our Birthday Club at Toy House.

  • Facebook - This is where I did a lot of research and also where we first announced it.

  • Email - I use Constant Contact to manage my email list. This particular email was the most-opened email I have sent.

  • Press Releases - I have 80 email addresses just for press releases; newspaper contacts, radio, TV, business leaders, people who publish newsletters, local organizations, etc.

  • TV - I am the daily sponsor of the JTV Birthday Club on the Bart Hawley Show. They put up a slide on the air at the end of their Birthday Club segment telling people to sign up for our Birthday Club. Plus, I will be making a live appearance next week on the show to talk about it.

  • Local Message Boards - my wife posted the announcement on two local message boards and they both immediately had positive reactions.

  • Radio - I will be doing a couple interviews on local radio soon to talk about the Birthday Club. Part of that is because I do a lot of radio advertising. Part of that is because I have cultivated relationships with our local deejays. I might run a radio ad later, but only if I think I need the extra publicity.

  • Website - Our web guy put it up on our website in conjunction with the launch. Thanks Steve!

  • In-Store Signs - We have signs all throughout the store advertising the Birthday Club.

  • This Blog - Sure, it's more of a backdoor way of marketing, but I have customers and local people who read this blog and have learned about the Birthday Club from it.

  • Word-of-Mouth - The buzz both online and in person has been huge.
Sure, that might seem like a lot of work. But much of it is simple enough to do. And all it really cost was time.

Results? Over 150 sign-ups in the first three days.

You don't need a big advertising budget to market your business. You need some time, some ingenuity, and a great message.


PS To learn other affordable ways to market your business, check out my three free eBooks
Main Street Marketing on a Shoestring Budget
Baby Store Marketing on a Shoestring Budget
Non-Profit Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

If You're Gonna Do It, Do It Better Than Everyone Else

Today at Toy House we launched our Birthday Club.

We looked into what our competitors were doing and figured out we could do a whole lot better.

Our biggest competitor offers a small gift certificate of $3.
So we offered $10.
Their gift certificate had a strict time limit.
Ours has (virtually) none.
Their program ends when the kid turns 10.
Ours has no limit. Yes, even adults can sign up!

Then, for fun, we installed a Birthday Bell in the store. When a Birthday Club member comes in, he or she gets to ring the Birthday Bell to let everyone in the store know he or she is celebrating.

Oh sure, we have some ulterior motives in all of this. All such programs do. Here are the benefits we hope to reap.

  • More traffic in store. You have to come in to sign up and you have to come in to redeem the gift certificate and ring the bell.

  • More information. You have to give us your mailing address and there is a place to opt-in to our email list, too.

  • More fun and excitement. Ringing the bell in the store adds to the in-store experience for everyone.

  • More memories. Will you remember a $3 gift? Heck, some of our Facebook friends said it wasn't enough to even get them in that other store. A $10 gift certificate means you can get something of value. Add it in with other money they received and the gift becomes even more special.

  • More sales. Yes, we expect to reap some incremental sales from this. The kid with birthday cash can go anywhere. The kid with birthday cash and a Toy House gift certificate is coming to see us.

  • More exposure. Word of mouth? You bet! Plenty to talk about. The size of the gift certificate. The Birthday Bell. The fact that adults can join (and the added benefit of reminding people that we carry toys for all ages.)
We could have copied the other store. But that isn't us. We're bigger than that. We're better than that. You are too!

Is your competitor doing something positive that you aren't? See how you can do it better than them, and blow them out of the water.


PS If you would like details of how we're running this program, how we're marketing it, or anything else regarding it, send me an email.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Importance of Fun

Are your employees having fun?

Do they enjoy coming to work every day? Do they smile, laugh and play? Do they make the tedious jobs seem fun and exciting? Do they brighten up the entire store?

Or do they drag themselves to work at the last possible moment? Do they start each day with a bitch session about last night's issues with the kids, or yesterday's customers, or just life in general? Do they roll their eyes when you suggest something to keep them busy?

If you're a retailer, you have to have a fun place to visit. There are too many options for customers to have to go to someplace they dread. And that fun attitude starts with your staff.

Here are some things you can do to foster fun amongst the staff:

  • Hire fun people. Seems obvious, but are you willing to fire the sourpusses and start over?

  • Encourage fun on the job. Have games for the staff to play. Get products out for the staff to demo. Help your staff become experts by making them use the products you sell. Do something unusually fun on the sales floor, maybe even out of character for your industry like a TV in a jewelry store.

  • Encourage fun in the training. Make meetings and trainings fun by finding fun ways to teach. Have surprises, pleasant surprises, at meetings and trainings such as prizes, guests, food, or just unexpected activities.
Yeah, for me it's easy. I have a toy store. It's supposed to be fun. But even in a toy store I have to foster that atmosphere of fun consciously. And the more I foster it, the more fun it becomes.

Make fun a priority in your store and your customers will respond. And that's the most fun of all!


PS Fun can work in any retail situation. What it would be like for the guys if the jewelry store had a TV showing sports channels and all the sales people were having a good time? How about a grocery store with tasting stations and experts on grilling techniques that had serious passion and a light-hearted good nature? Or a hardware store where you could swing a bunch of hammers to see how each one is different while the staff egged you on to hit harder?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

How to Remain Special

The independent retailers are often called Specialty Retailers because rather than carry a wide swath of departments, we specialize in one or two general niches.

Specialty was also a way of saying we offered a little more in the way of a shopping experience, something special that the discounters couldn't offer, that the department stores couldn't match.

Our stores truly were Special.

  • Special products not found everywhere.

  • Special services not matched by our competitors.

  • Special experiences enhanced by our staff.
Of course, those last two things cost money. Thanks to the margins on the first item, our special products, we could afford them.

But those margins are disappearing fast. The product that used to be found only in specialty stores is all over the Internet. Some of it is even on the shelves of gas stations and pharmacies. While the cost of those goods continues to rise, the retail price holds steady or shrinks.

Without that margin many specialty retailers are finding it hard to afford those services that made them special. But to compete, we have to hold the line. We have to find ways to keep our stores Special.

The best way to remain Special is to focus on your staff, on the frontline folks who make or break the experience for the customer.

It starts with hiring great people. It moves forward by constantly teaching and training them, never getting complacent.

Whatever you do, don't give up being special. Start by making your staff special and the other stuff will fall into line. And don't worry about the special products and lost margin. This is just a cycle we're going through. They'll be back soon enough.


PS In the meantime, there are some simple things you can do to make your prices look better and help you move some more merchandise. Check out my free eBook Pricing for Profit.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Smoothing the Rough Spots

Wow, what a fun ride!

Last June I published my first book, Hiring and the Potter's Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art. The book has received wonderful praise from store owners and HR people alike.

And sales have been phenomenal! I have shipped copies all over the world.

I set a pretty high goal for myself, to sell enough books in one year to pay for all the expenses of printing and design. And I'm really close. I only need to sell 10 more copies of my book by June 22 to reach my first year goal.

Anyone responsible for the hiring and training of others will benefit from reading this book. Plus, it makes a far better and more useful Father's Day gift than a tie.

To whet your appetite, here's another excerpt from the book...

Chapter 14 Lesson #7 Smoothing the Rough Spots
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.” – Frances De Sales

As Mary smoothed the rough edges of her bowl she pondered what lesson she could learn from this step in the process. “If I’ve put them in a safe place to use their skills, what roughness will be left?” she thought. A smile came to her face. “Evaluations! I’ve got to make sure there is time for evaluations during and after the safe zone period. Even though they are using their skills, there will still be rough edges needing smoothing.

“I know,” she thought, “I can take the training skills checklist and do follow-up evaluations on each skill just to make sure there are no bad habits, no rough spots. Oh yes, and the evaluations must be completely positive – show them what to do right, rather than harp on what was done wrong. They’re still fragile at this time. Yes, fragile. That’s what Peter meant. The bowls, while dry, are still fragile and need to be safe. The trainees, while trained, are still fragile and need to be in a safe environment where they can learn from their mistakes. It all makes sense,” Mary concluded.

Peter wandered the room checking up on everyone’s bowls, looking for missed rough spots. By the end of class he deemed every bowl to be ready.

“Okay, put the bowls safely on the rack. On Wednesday we fire them for the first time.”

“The first time?” Mary asked.

“Yes,” Peter replied. “On Wednesday we are going to do what is called ‘bisque-firing’. This will harden your bowls so that they won’t be so fragile.

“By the way,” Peter continued. “We will not be meeting here. All of you are invited to my studio. I’ve put the address and directions on these little slips of paper. Unfortunately, the directors here at the YMCA will not let me build a kiln inside the Y, so we’ll use my kiln at the studio. See you Wednesday.”

Get your book today!


PS All orders online will get a signed first edition. (So will books bought in the store, as long as I'm working that day:-)