Friday, August 31, 2012

Shopping Local Benefits Salt Lake City

More good news!  Another study has come out showing the HUGE economic benefits of shopping local.

(For those of you who either can't or won't follow the link, the gist of the story is that a study of impact on the local economy in Salt Lake City showed that local retailers recirculate about 52% of their revenue back into the city, whereas chains only recirculate about 13.6%.  For local restaurants it is 79% versus 30% for chain restaurants.)

Shop local.  It helps your local economy.  Remind your customers to shop local, too.  In fact, remind everyone to shop local.  That is the easiest way to turn this country around.

(Gee, wouldn't it be nice to hear at least one politician put that into his platform?)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  But don't think that those economic benefits alone mean that you deserve people's business.  You still need to perform.  All this means is people should try you first.  It is up to you to get them to come back.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What to Do About Showrooming

We all have been showroomed.  The customer comes in, looks at your stuff, then leaves the store only to order the same items online.  Heck, maybe you have done some showrooming yourself.

I had a customer who came in, asked our opinion about car seats, had us show her how they all fit in her car, talked through options, how to install, how to keep the kid buckled in properly, and even how to clean up after a spill.  After several trips out to her car with car seats, she told us she would be back to purchase.  One week later she stopped in to ask if we could help install her car seat.  It was still in the box with the shipping label from the online site where she ordered it still attached!

Some of you are already hopping mad.  I understand your reaction.  I was telling this story to a friend who said her initial response would have been to refuse to install the seat, telling the customer to ask the online website where she ordered it to install the seat.

Here is what we did.

We gladly installed the seat.  We talked through all the options of where to place the seat, what is the safest way to travel with a baby, how to install the seat, how to adjust the straps, and then helped her get it properly installed in her car.  Then we invited her back if she ever needed help with that seat or any other seat.

Some of you might think I'm crazy.  We gained nothing from that customer, yet we spent valuable resources on her (our time, our expertise, etc).  She showroomed us.

The way I see it, she showed up.  She took the time to come to my store - twice!  Now it is my responsibility to make sure she has an awesome time at my store.  It is my responsibility that she gets phenomenal customer service whether or not she makes a purchase at that time.


Because I sell far more than car seats and she will need to buy far more than just that one car seat.  I may have lost the opportunity to sell that one car seat, but since she came back to the store, she has given me an opportunity to sell her other things she might need either today or down the road.

Because I treasure Word-of-Mouth advertising.  She may not have given me the sale, but if I treat her just as rudely as she treated me, she'll bad mouth me to everyone she knows (conveniently leaving out her own behavior).  If I treat her well, at the very least she has nothing bad to say, but more likely she will say something positive about us.

Because I like the challenge a customer like this presents to us.  You have heard the phrase,

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."  
One of my staff told me the other day,

"You can lead a horse to water, and if you can get him to float on his back, then you really have something."  
Customers like these are a great training ground for the staff.  If we can turn them from showroomers into customers, then we really have something.  If we don't, at least we got valuable training on what doesn't get work.

Don't look at showrooming as a problem.  Look at it as an opportunity.  Get those customers to float on their backs, and then you really have something.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  If you don't feel you have the resources to help them or if your resources need to be spent on other customers, then do what you have to do.  But never ever stoop to the rudeness of your rudest customers.  That's a competition you can never win.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Starting or Finishing?

I asked some fellow store owners for their thoughts on the following quote:

"Don't worry about finishing, just get going."

Is this appropriate advice for a retail store?

Their thoughts were quite interesting.

Many people loved it, felt that it embraced their entrepreneurial spirit.  To them it meant to quit worrying about results and just start doing things.  You'll adjust as you go along.  If you don't get going, you'll never finish anyway. Anything is better than sitting still.

Others hated it, felt that starting something without a plan or and end in sight was foolish and a waste of time.  You'll spend far too much time, money and resources without seeing the proper return on investment.  I know one employee who left a retail job because her boss was far more interested in starting multiple projects without ever seeing one through to fruition, which drove this employee mad.

After thinking about it for a while and reading what others had to say, here are my thoughts...

On one side I believe you need to think about finishing so that you don't waste your efforts but on the other side some initiatives just need to get started and then they'll take a life of their own.

More importantly, however, I think this is a good statement for finding out an important character trait of a potential employee. Someone who takes umbrage with this quote might be more apt to do one thing fully to completion, whereas someone who embraces this quote might be more apt to come up with creative ideas and new initiatives.

Most importantly, I think every business needs a mix of the two mindsets, someone to get projects started and someone to see them through to fruition.

Stop.  Think about where you landed the first time you read that quote.  You might want to find someone on the other side of the coin to balance you out.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  I would venture to guess that most business owners fall somewhere to the side of agreeing with the quote.  That's the entrepreneurial spirit in us.  But you do need finishers.  Seth Godin has a term for the person who sees things through to completion. He calls them Linchpins.  If you are not (yet) a fan of Seth's, you might want to check that book out.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Changing a Customer's Mind

About 40% of the population are going to vote Democratic in the next election no matter what.  Another 40% are going to vote Republican no matter what.  Their minds cannot be changed.  These people are easy to identify.  They are the ones posting sound bites and article links all over Facebook.

The real political battle is only over the 20% who may change their minds.  That's it.  Twenty percent.

Aren't you glad you're in Retail?

The National Retail Federation did a survey that said 78% of satisfied customers would shop somewhere else they thought would be more fun (heard this in a presentation, but cannot find survey).  Seventy-eight percent are willing to change their mind on where to shop!  I think the number is much higher.

We all know that Transactional Customers will change their mind on where to shop.  They'll shop wherever they can find the best deal.  But what about the Relational Customer?  What if you are first loser on a Relational Customer's list?  How do you change their minds?

Make it Fun
Start by doing what the NRF survey told you to do.  Make your store more fun!  Sit around with your staff (and a six-pack of beer if you think that will help) and try to envision what "the most fun store" in your category would look like.  Sport Clips is a hair salon for men that figured out how to make haircuts more fun.  They have translated that fun into becoming one of the fastest growing franchises in North America.  Even if you implement just one suggestion from your sit around, you'll probably be more fun than anyone in your market.

We all know the saying, "The customer doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  Take that saying to heart and find new ways to care about your customer.  Find out what concerns she has about shopping at your store, why she might stay away.  Eliminate those concerns.  Find out what you can do to make her feel more welcome, invited, and treasured.  Do those things.  Find out what she expects and then exceed that expectation at every turn.

Seth Godin posted this blog earlier today...

Questions we ask before we trust your new idea
Who are you?
Do I trust you?
Am I afraid of it?
Will this work for me?
Who says it's important?
What will my peers think?

Those are the questions a Relational Customer asks long before they will pay attention to your advertising, your sales pitch, or your staff blather on about facts and data.  You need to answer those questions first.

Two Reminders
You know this... The definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect different results.  If you are not happy with your results, then you need to do something different.

Roy H. Williams taught me that people don't actually change their minds.  They make new decisions based on new information.  And since we all know that the heart wins out over the mind, give the heart of your customers new information so that they can make new decisions.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I was listening to an ad for a national retail chain that mentioned how they were focused on and committed to "customer service", yet they never once told me how.  The rest of the ad focused solely on price.  Is it any wonder I cannot for the life of me remember which chain?  Don't tell me.  Show me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Self Serve Checkout Equals Poor Serve Checkout

I know why stores starting implementing Self-Serve checkout.  It was supposed to save them money and speed up the checkout process.  You could have six lanes open with only one cashier.

Some argued that not only was it more efficient, it also helped Customer Service.  You never had to have a customer leave unhappy because of a slow, poorly trained, surly attitude clerk.

Instead they left unhappy because they couldn't get the self-serve kiosk to work, had to call for help twice, got frustrated and had only an inanimate object on which to take out those frustrations.

Self-Serve Frustration
I hate going to Kroger for that exact reason.  The scanner doesn't recognize all the bar codes, the bagging area doesn't recognize the items I placed in the bags (after finally pulling the bags apart) or doesn't recognize my own bags when I don't want to use their plastic ones.  The checkout won't scan my loyalty card.  The lone cashier serving the four self-serve kiosks is busy with some other fool trying to checkout.  And the sign hanging from the ceiling mocks me with their bragging about having the best checkouts in the grocery world.

The reality of Self-Serve Checkout is that it encourages smaller transactions.  No one wants to go through the hassle with a cart full of groceries or toys or hardware or home decor.  Albertson's Groceries found that their average transactions went down when they added Self-Serve.  They're pulling those kiosks out.  Ikea is doing the same thing.

Customer Service Neutral
The other issue with Self-Serve is that at its best, it is Customer Service neutral.  It cannot delight a customer by making sure they have everything they need.  It cannot build a connection between customer and store, a personal relationship that makes the trip to the store meaningful.  It cannot offer tips or suggestions on how to use the purchased product better.  It cannot put a smile on the customer's face.

At its worst, it sends customers away.  I don't go to Kroger anymore, even though they sell three food items we love but cannot buy anywhere else in town.  My wife has stopped asking.  Why? Because they rarely have a regular checkout lane operating.  They give you no other option than self-serve.

Make Checkout a WOW
The Checkout is one of the more crucial steps in WOW Customer Service. Because it is the last interaction a customer has with you, it is the part they remember the best.  In my FREE download Customer Service: From Weak to WOW, here is how you can WOW your customers at checkout...

You offer specific suggestions for other products or services that compliment her purchase.  You reinforce her choices with compliments and reassurance that she made a good choice.  You give her tips or suggestions that will make the purchases even better such as creative ways to use the products.  Plus, you help carry her items out to the car, suggest where she can go to eat or to do more shopping.  You get her signed up for your newsletters, birthday clubs and for any special deals or drawings you offer.  And you get her in your Special Customers book.
Make Checkout memorable and your customers will checkout more often.  Even Ikea, the ultimate in self-serve shopping, is starting to think that way

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  When you're done reading the Customer Service: From Weak to WOW download, check out all the other FREE downloads for retailers in the Freebies section of

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thoughts From a Wedding

I attended my sister-in-law's wedding last Saturday out in sunny San Diego and have some random thoughts for retailers from my weekend trip.

Hide the Backroom

The lovely couple did all of their own planning for this backyard wedding including doing all the food themselves (with the help of their families).  I was there to help out for the two days leading up to the wedding.  Although chaos seemed to ensue, and there were a few hiccups along the way, by the time the bride strode down the aisle, everything was ready.  The vast majority of the wedding guests never saw the chaos or mess.  They all had a wonderful time and enjoyed a beautiful event.

More importantly, no one talked about the mess.  We all just focused on making the event special for the wedding couple and guests.  Your customers don't care what it took to make their trip to your store special, all they care about is that it was special.

Complete the Sale

We made numerous trips back and forth to the store.  A good sales clerk eliminates those multiple trips by asking questions, finding out why you are buying what you are buying and making suggestions of items needed to complete the sale.  If you are buying multiple carts full of soda, water and beer, even a minimum-wage clerk should be asking if you need ice.

Know Your Audience

The food, the entertainment, the location, even the service itself were planned not only for the wedding couple but also for what their guests would want.  They purposefully chose to delight their guests by planning a wedding celebration that fit the desires of their friends and family.

Build your store experience around your customers' expectations more than your own and you will delight them more often than not.

Tell the Story

The bride and groom each wrote their own vows.  When the groom started his vows by telling the story of their first date ending with the phrase, "I told [Jason] then, 'I am going to marry this girl,'" he had me hook, line and sinker.

Stories are more powerful than facts just as emotion is more powerful than logic.  Speak to your customer's heart by telling stories that matter and you will make a deeper and more lasting impression.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  There are lessons for retailers all around us.  Keep your eyes open.  The next great lesson or idea may come when you least expect it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How You Lead

My boys (ages 11 & 13) asked me a question about why I was so flexible and accommodating in scheduling my staff.  They figure I could schedule the staff all the worst hours and save only the easiest hours for myself.

They liked my answer.


There are many styles and philosophies on leadership.

Role Model
You can lead from the front, modeling the kind of behavior you want.  Going first into battle, leading the charge.  If you have a staff that needs an example to follow, this is a good approach to take.  Your staff will only work as hard and care as much as you care. Never more, usually less.  But they will watch what you do and work accordingly.

You can lead from behind in a role of service, doing whatever you need to do to put them in a position to succeed.  Many coaches take this role, teaching and encouraging their players to do their best.  If you have hired a staff of compassionate, caring people, they will relish in seeing you sacrifice your needs for theirs.

You can lead from the side, constantly guiding and overseeing their progress while keeping your own shoes out of the mud.  If you won't be there in the trenches when the action takes place, this might be the preferred role as the staff learns not to depend on you.  Teachers often take this role in preparing their students for life after the classroom.

A smart leader chooses from all three based on the needs of the staff.  It starts, however, with who you hire.  

If you are going to lead from the side because you are leaving the staff on their own, then you need to hire a staff with responsibility and accountability.  If you are going to lead from the front, then you need to hire people who want to be led.  Free thinkers won't flourish in this style of leadership.  If you are going to lead from behind, you need to hire compassionate, service-based people who will respond to the service and sacrifice you give to them.  You also need to hire people who can take the lead, while you support from the back.

Knowing who you hired and why helps you choose the kind of leadership style that will work best for them.  That's a pretty good lesson for a couple young boys to already start learning.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  You probably already guessed that I like to hire compassionate, helpful, problem-solving leaders.  I lead from behind, which means when push comes to shove, I'll more often sacrifice my own needs for those of the staff.  They work harder for me when I do that. (And isn't that the ultimate goal?)

PPS If you aren't sure what leadership style will work best for your staff, think about what leadership style will work best for you, then hire a staff to compliment your style.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stay Above the Fray

Mudslinging and politics seem to go hand in hand.  You've read enough articles about how effective negative campaigning is for political contests that you realize it isn't going away any time soon.

Some of you have even wondered if it will work for your store.

It won't.

Here is why...

When it is a one-time vote between only A or B, you can win votes for B by telling everyone how bad A is.  But retail is not a one-time vote between only two candidates.  Retail includes many candidates including None of the Above.  You don't have the resources to attack each one of those options (including None of the Above) negatively.  And even if you did, the feelings people will have about you will be far from positive before they even step foot inside your door!

In a political election people will choose the "lesser of two evils" mainly because they have no other choice.

Going negative at best only makes you the lesser of two evils.  

The cool thing is that you don't have to go negative to point out how you are better than your competitor.  Take the, "Here is what we do and why we do it," stance.

Talk about your virtues that make you different from your competition.
Talk about why you do it that way.
Talk about how that benefits your customers.

That is the campaign that wins time and again in retail.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Not sure what are your virtues?  Read this short document Understanding Your Brand and do the following worksheets.  You'll know better who you are so that you can be who you are better.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Politics and a Plan

The political campaign is upon us.  Let the mudslinging begin!

Don't you hate when one side criticizes the plan of the other without offering a plan of their own?  Me, too.  But I know why they do it.  It is easier to rip someone else apart, than it is to counter with a plan of your own.

The same is true in retail.  It is easier to blame the _____________ (economy? local government? weather? federal government? competition? customer base? suppliers?) than to develop your own plan to deal with each issue.

"To open a shop is easy. To keep it open, an art." -Chinese Proverb

The best way to be successful is to have a plan.  Have a counter proposal to any obstacle life may throw your way.

Even if all you do is think it through in your head, you are light years ahead of the shops that don't have a plan.

Tonight, before you go to bed, say to yourself, "If _________ happens, our plan will be to do ___________."  Pick one issue every night and think it through.  The next morning spend a few minutes writing it down.  Then you'll be ready for anything that comes your way.

In spite of a bad economy, some businesses thrive.
In spite of the government, some businesses thrive.
In spite of the weather, some businesses thrive.
In spite of the competition, some businesses thrive.
In spite of a shrinking customer base, some businesses thrive.
In spite of supplier issues, some businesses thrive.

Be one of those thriving businesses.  Have a plan.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS If you want to win my vote, don't tell me what the other guy will do.  Tell me what you're going to do (and how it will benefit me).  Wouldn't that be a fun campaign if both sides took that approach?  Yeah, they tell us that will never happen and that is not how to win an election.  But what if...

PPS  Whatever you do, however, don't you start mudslinging your competition.  While it may work to win an election, it never works to win a customer.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Convenience Trumps Price

In case you need more proof that not every customer shops on price, a new study on Back-to-School shopping by WSL/Strategic Retail shows that only 26% of customers are chasing BTS price promotions to do their shopping.

Instead they are shopping based on Convenience.  Seventy five percent are going to stores where they believe they can get everything all at once, regardless of the price.  Sure, most of them are going to a big-box discounter, but that isn't the issue.

The key word here is Convenience.  What are you doing to offer that to your customers?  Do you have services like online shopping with same day delivery?  Do you offer a wide selection that covers everything your customer needs?  Do you have an easy-to-get-to location? Front door parking? Delivery?  Personal shoppers?  A fast checkout?  Free gift-wrapping? (Heck gift-wrapping, period.)

Convenience comes in many forms.  The convenience stores that dot every other corner were designed to make shopping quick and easy when you only needed an item or two.  You paid more for a roll of tape or a gallon of milk, but you saved time and hassle.  

Personal shoppers used to be a sign that your store was expensive.  But what is the fine line between a helpful employee and a personal shopper?  You already have the helpful employees. (Right?)

Convenience trumps price.  That is why people will pay more for a bunch of screws at Wal-Mart than at the local hardware store - because they were already at Wal-Mart for BTS shopping.  

You have convenience built into your model in many ways.  The study shows that now is the time to play them up.

Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Not all conveniences are the same.  Be specific about how you are convenient, and more importantly, how it benefits your customers. (We offer free giftwrapping so that you are never late for the party.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Yes, I Forgot

The first phone call this morning was a guy wanting to know more details about the play we were hosting this afternoon.

Play?  You sure you're calling the right place?

He was.  A month or so ago I had agreed to allow the Michigan Shakespeare Festival's Shakespeare for Kids program to do a performance of Snow White here at the store.  I wrote it down in my calendar but forgot all about it.  I never mentioned it to the staff.  I never put up flyers, sent out emails, posted it on Facebook.

I forgot.

At this point some store owners would panic.  Some would fret about the missed opportunities.  Some would beat themselves up over it.  Some would wallow in the mistake.

I'm not that kind of guy.

I went to the grocery store and stocked up on waters.  I printed a few quick and simple signs.  I got on Facebook.  My staff posted the signs around the store, made a special display of Shakespeare books, and made a stage and seating area for the performance.

Before too long, the phone was ringing off the hook.  By 1pm we had a few dozen children sitting on the floor, another couple dozen adults sitting in chairs, and three fabulous actors putting on a wonderful show.  The kids laughed, made bird sounds, became trees and a few even got recruited to be dwarfs.

Parent after parent came up to thank us for the event.  There was a line to sign our Guest Book.  And the kids had a ball!

Lesson?  Sometimes you make mistakes.  Sometimes you forget.  When you do, you can take two paths, one of woe or one of WOW.  Yes, we might have gotten a bigger crowd if I looked at my calendar more often.  More importantly, those customers who were in the crowd had an awesome time and never knew of the mistakes I had made.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  No matter what, never lament the customers that aren't there.  Celebrate the ones who are and make it as special for them as you can.

PPS  And always look at your calendar at least a few days in advance.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Customer Service Story You Gotta Read...

My friend, Cynthia Compton, owns 4 Kids Books and Toys near Indianapolis.  Her store, as many toy stores do, offers to host birthday parties.  The kids come in, do crafts and activities, have fun and (hopefully) spend some money in the store.  Yes, there is a fee the birthday family must pay.  But the true hope in a service like this is to get the kids (and their parents) into the store, a chance for them to try out the store's products, and to make the kids and their families feel good about the store.

In another word - Branding.

"You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him." -James D. Miles

But what do you do when the customer wants a birthday party not at your store, without all those benefits?

In Cynthia's own words...

 Just got back from a "remote" birthday party. We offer on-site parties to our customers if they want us to do them. This family has two autistic kids, and the noise and stress level of our store is too much. So I did a party in their living room for the boys and 2 friends. I whispered for two hours. It was a very nice time...

...we had a rabbit party. I borrowed some rabbits from a kid who raises them for 4H. We spread a tarp on the floor, and I brought a bunch of cardboard boxes to make tunnels. I had two big fat white rabbits that were used to handling, and then a hutch full of little grey babies. The boys made salads for the bunnies, we rolled balls for them to chase, and we ate carrot cake cupcakes. Oh, and I had short white lab coats with their names embroidered over the pocket, and I borrowed some stethescopes so we listened for rabbit heartbeats. It was really fun. Something I couldn't have done with a lot of kids, but 4 was perfect. One of the birthday guys is pretty hard to reach, but he let us put a rabbit in his lap, and hold one of the babies up to his cheek. Mom was pleased, the bunnies were good, and no one got bitten (which was my nightmare on Friday night.)

When Cynthia was asked how she came up with this idea, she replied...

I met the kid with the rabbits at the farmers market this summer, and so the bunnies have been on my mind. She brings them every week to her family's stand (we get eggs from them) and usually has a different hutch of babies. I've been wanting to do something with them, and this opportunity just presented itself. The birthday boys don't have any pets, and bunnies are quiet..... It just kind of came together. It was probably a huge business risk from a liability standpoint, but we all survived the day.

She didn't get the kids into her store.  She didn't get the kids' friends and their families into her store.  She didn't get to show off any of her products.  But tell me... Do you think that family will sing her praises and promote her store to everyone they know?  You bet!

That, my friends, is WOW Customer Service.  How far are you willing to go to make a customer's day?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  I know Cynthia and, yes, she is simply that nice and helpful.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's All in the Packaging

Joshua Bell is a world-class violinist who demands $100 or more per ticket for concerts at places like Carnegie Hall.  As a social experiment he played in the Washington, DC subway to see if people could tell the difference between a virtuoso and a street musician.

As expected, most people walked right by him and his $3.5 million Stradivarius violin, not recognizing his talent in the halls of a subway.

It's all in the Packaging.

Our city council passed an ordinance to collect a fee for rainwater management.  It has received huge opposition because it looks and smells like a tax.  The county government is even suing the city government over the legality of the fee, claiming it actually is a tax.  Few are arguing whether city needs the money.  Mostly they are arguing about how the city went about getting it.  Had they called it a tax, promoted the necessity of it, and asked permission, it is hard to say where the vote would have fallen.

It's all in the Packaging.

There is a retail store I know that is closing.  After a lengthy struggle with their city council over the sign ordinance, they were two years in business without a sign.  During the closing sale a customer remarked, "You would have been more successful if you had a sign up." (Facepalm)

It's all in the Packaging.

Two cake mixes sit side by side on the grocery store shelf.  They have the same ingredients, probably even made in the same factory.  One has a recognizable name, a woman who has symbolized fine baked goods for decades.  You instinctively reach for that package, even though it is 35 cents more than the unknown box sitting next to it.

It's all in the Packaging.

Packaging makes a huge difference in the way people perceive everything around them.  Packaging drives purchasing decisions.  Packaging drives value decisions.  Packaging drives voting decisions.  Packaging makes the difference between good idea and great success.  Packaging is the single most influential element of business.

How much attention are you placing on the way you Package your business?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Replace the word Packaging with Branding and go read this post again.  Get it?  Here is a quick way to understand how to re-Package your business for long-term success.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

It's Our Policy

When you hear a sales clerk say they can't because "it's our policy" don't you just want to throttle them?

Cinda Baxter of The 3/50 Project wrote a wonderful blog on exactly that topic and called those the three worst words to say to a customer, based on an experience that many of us will find all too familiar.

I started to comment on her blog about how I train my staff to deal with such issues and decided it was worth sharing to everyone.

You have policies.  You teach them to your staff.  You ask them to follow those policies.  You even have reasons for each of those policies.  But every now and then a customer makes a valid point for bypassing those policies.  Before your staff blurts out those three bad words, do you empower them to make policy exceptions on the fly?

I do.

I teach my staff our policies, especially the why behind each policy, but then I let them make adjustments to meet our one and only true goal - to make the customer smile.  The only thing I ask is that if they bend a policy to get a smile, they have to report back to me what they did.

Sometimes they absolutely nail it and do the right thing by the customer (and because of it I sometimes have to adjust the policy).  Sometimes they do things that I wish maybe they hadn't done.

Either way, I always praise them for first making the customer smile.

Then I praise them more for taking initiative.  Then I praise them for what they did right.  Then, and only then, will I offer suggestions for how they could have done it differently.

By doing it that way I continually empower them to take initiative.  I continually empower them to make our customers happy.  I continually empower them to think on their feet and make smart decisions.  The praise is the key to the empowerment.  Fear of criticism is what holds most people back.  Heaping praise on them makes them want to do it more.  Heaping praise on them followed by suggestions for doing it better makes them want to do it more and do it right.

The end result is that the only time my employees every say the phrase, "It's our policy," is in response to, "Wow, you guys are all so helpful!"

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Policies are really only guidelines.  Remember that the most important goal of any transaction is to earn another transaction down the road.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Get the Wizard for FREE!

You all know I am a huge fan of Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads.  I have trained at Wizard Academy and owe much of my success to the lessons I learned there.  I am also a devoted follower of Roy's Monday Morning Memo.

For me it all started with his book Wizard of Ads, the first in a trilogy that I read cover to cover to cover to cover to cover.  Best set of business books I have ever read. Period.

Right now you can download all three books in pdf for FREE!  Yes, FREE!  (Don't ask me why.  The Wizard did not tell me, nor do I get anything for telling you.)

Just go to...


-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  If you want the printed version, go here.  It will cost you $25 plus shipping.  Either way, your ROI is through the roof on this.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Are Your Staff Experts?

Of course they are experts!  You trained them to be experts.  Here is an easy way to prove to your customers that your staff are experts.

I saw this at The Harvard Book Store.  Each staff member made a recommendation including a little card with a reason why they suggested that particular book.

Two things impressed me about this.

First, they have a lot of staff with a wide variety of backgrounds.  I knew just from looking at this display that I would most likely find someone that could help me.  Trust is a huge factor when you are going after the Relational Customer.

Second, the staff knew their stuff.  I only had a few minutes to spend in the store and I spent most of it reading their recommendations.  They had excellent reasons for each book, which only added to the trust factor for me.

Staff recommendations are a simple way to prove your mettle to your customers.  Just be sure to do it right.  Here are four things to do when setting up a staff recommendations section in your store.

  • Make sure everyone on the staff does it.  Go big or go home.
  • Make selections from a wide variety of departments.  Give every customer a reason to stop and see.
  • Give good reasons for each suggestion so that a customer will know instantly if that is the product for her. Explain who will benefit from the product and what those benefits will be.
  • Make sure the items are in stock.  Quick way to destroy trust is to get a customer sold on a product you don't have.

You have spent hours training your staff to be experts.  Make sure your customers know how smart (and helpful) your staff can be.  Staff Recommendations are one easy way to do that.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The only downside to this display was that it was tucked out of the way.  I only found it because I was getting out of another customer's way.   It was up front, right by the door, but tucked behind two big poster signs for new book releases.  Make sure yours is easily visible.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I Went to Harvard

Well... umm... I went to Harvard yesterday... while I was in Boston visiting another toy store owner.

I thought about applying to Harvard when I was in high school.  I had the grades.  I had the test scores.  I had the extracurriculars.  I only needed to take three more tests and I could apply.  Problem was, I knew that even if I got in, I wasn't going to go there.  I had already been accepted to the University of Michigan, which meant I had season tickets for football.  Plus, I didn't want to take any more tests.

But it sure would have been nice to say...

"Yeah, I turned Harvard down."

Today, however, those same grades and test scores and extracurriculars probably wouldn't even get me into the first cut in the application process.  The stakes have gotten higher.  The bar has been raised. What I did in the early 80's isn't enough in 2012.

The same is true of your business.

The stakes are higher.  The bar is raised.  Your customer service has to be amazing and unexpected.  Your product knowledge has to be over the top and relevant.  Your inventory control has to be fine-tuned and adaptable.  Your marketing has to be refreshing and memorable.

What you used to do isn't good enough anymore. 

I was thinking all of this while walking around the Harvard campus knowing that I was smart enough to go there 28 years ago. But I better get smarter if I want to be able to compete with those kids today.  Being smart back then isn't enough in 2012.

What are you doing to get smarter?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  The one thing I do have over that kid back in 1984 is that I am a much better student today than I was back then.  I had the grades to get in to Harvard, but I'm not sure I had the study habits to stay there.  Now I'm trying to learn everywhere I go.  And I promise to share what I learn with you right here on this blog and in the Freebies section of my website.  Maybe we can all get into Harvard some day.