Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tell Me About a Time When...

I'm doing interviews for seasonal staff. Since actions speak louder than words, my favorite questions tend to all start the same.

Tell me about a time when...

...you went above and beyond the call of duty on your last job.
...you received customer service so great you had to tell someone about it.
...you had to work with another person to overcome a difficult obstacle.
...you were so proud you were almost embarrassed.
...you made a lasting impression on a customer.

Asking about a specific experience helps in a number of ways.

First, if they cannot think of anything, then they haven't done anything. Don't hire that person.

Second, details matter. The more detailed they are, the more the event stuck in their memory, the more they will create memorable moments.

Third, you get to see how they define those terms. If their answer to the second question was, "I got an extra discount on my clearance items because I complained about the stitching," you can get a pretty clear picture of how they will treat your customers.

Past performance here is an indicator of future performance. Ask questions that draw out what they have done. The answers are telling.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS As important as it is to ask about their experiences, it is their character that you need to hire.  I use those questions above to look for particular character traits. In the case of today's round of interviews, I was looking for compassion, drive, problem solving, and friendliness.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Date Change

We changed the dates on the Shareworthy Customer Service class that Tim Miles and I will be teaching at Wizard Academy.

The new dates are now Tuesday and Wednesday, January 29-30, 2013.

Plan on being there.  It will be the best investment you make in your business next year.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  What will it take for you to make an extra $2,500 in profit next year?  An extra $25,000 in sales?  That's the break even if you take this class (class fees plus travel expenses).  This year.  The stuff you learn will grow your business next year and the following year and the year after that, too.  Go sign up today.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mixed Message

I was in Louisville, KY last week for the ABC Expo, the biggest trade show for the juvenile products industry. A trade show this big deserves decorations just as big. And sure enough, right outside the Expo Center was a twenty foot tall rocking chair...

...with an unfortunate sign in front of it.

This was the first thing we all saw when we arrived at the show.  This was our first impression.

They might as well have said "Go Home!" or "Unwelcome!" or "Stay Out!" 

That sign was not there the first day. My best guess is that someone tried climbing on the chair which prompted someone from the organization to draw this crudely lettered five foot tall sign. Don't you think it could have been handled in a far better way? Maybe a couple small signs attached to the legs for anyone who got close enough to think about climbing on the chair? Maybe better wording like, "For display purposes only," or "Do not try this at home,"?

There are two lessons in all this.

First, go outside and walk up to your building. Be a customer. Look around you. See where you might be giving off a bad first impression. Fix it now.

Second, make sure everyone on your team knows the message you want to send. Make sure everyone knows the Core Values that drive you. Make sure everyone knows the impression you want to make. Even the most bottom person on your totem pole should know enough not to make this kind of mistake.

Yes, the little things like this do make a huge difference.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Managing your Brand means managing the impression a customer has of your store. When you send out a mixed message, your customer gets the wrong impression. Control the message and you control the way people feel about you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Two Days to Take Your Customer Service to Shareworthy Levels

I've written about Wizard of Ads partner - the incomparable Professor Tim Miles.

He wrote the e-book on Shareworthy Customer Service. He also wrote a book called Good Company. He's tall. He's smart. He makes up (really cool) words. And he knows more about how to improve your Customer Service than most people walking this planet.

In fact, he is teaching it to businesses all around this planet right now and they are posting growth numbers that would make you blush.

I've done my own writing about Customer Service. Most of you have already downloaded my free e-book Customer Service: From Weak to WOW! Some of you have seen the live presentation. Many of you have found new ways to raise the bar in your business because of it.

Tim likes what I'm doing to raise the bar.  I like what Tim's doing to take the bar galactic.  So we are combining forces and taking what we know to Wizard Academy!

Announcing a new class!

January 29-30, 2013
Austin, Texas

Two full days of instruction from two likable guys who have been transforming businesses through better customer service for years.  (Click the link above to read a full course description.)
Two full days of a true Wizard Academy experience (which in its own right is more than worth the price of admission.)
Two full days of learning what, why, where, who and how to make your customers' experience so memorable they write books about you and your company (and you don't have to give either of us the credit!)

Go sign up.  The investment is deep.  The return is deeper.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  If you're one of the first people to sign up for the class, you get FREE LODGING on campus at Wizard Academy.  That is soooo worth it! Soooooooo worth it!! Soooooooooooo worth it!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Don't Hide Your Agenda

I was about to write a blog about the importance of the little details, like a clean bathroom, and how even those small things need to be consistent with your branding, your Core Values, otherwise they could undermine all the good you do.

I saw a headline and a survey that said 62% of customers think a dirty restroom is a sign of poor management.  Odor, dirty or clogged toilets, and bathrooms that looked old were the three most common problems.

Then I read the source... A plumbing supply company.  Made me pause for a moment.  Made me wonder if there was some sort of bias in the survey.  Made me wonder if there was a hidden agenda.

You, too?

And that, in a nutshell, is why consumers don't trust us.  They think we have a hidden agenda.  That Hot Toy list that Toys R Us recently published? I watched it get trashed in a blog for being self-serving.

What if the plumbing supply company said... Hey, we're in the bathroom supply business so we did a poll to see what the main complaints were that people had about public bathrooms.  Not surprisingly, smell and odor was number one.  We also learned some other interesting information about bathrooms.  They make a big impression on your customers, both good and bad.  Sure, we're telling you because we want your business.  More importantly, we're telling you because we want you to stay in business.  Without you, there are no public bathrooms for us to update.

Wouldn't seem so self-serving, would it?  Just by being up front and honest about being self-serving, they sound less self-serving.  Ironic? Yes. People trust an open agenda.  They distrust a hidden one.

How can you be up front and honest so that you don't seem to have a hidden agenda?  Here is one way we do it.  I constantly tell customers that we will help you install your car seat no matter where you bought it.  I then tell them up front that I have an ulterior motive for doing it.  If the car seat is installed safely, your child is safer.  If your child is safer, your child lives longer.  If your child lives longer... wait for it... you have to buy more toys.

Always gets a smile (we're here to make you smile, remember?).

Be honest about why you do what you do.  Tell your ulterior motives.  Tell the downside.  It helps build trust instead of destroy it.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS But please be sure to clean your bathrooms!  It does make a difference.  In the book Retail Superstars George Whalin talks about the bathrooms as a positive feature in a number of the stores in the book.

Monday, October 8, 2012

No One is Buying the Hype

Greatest (biggest, best...) ever!

As soon as you hear it, you dismiss it.  You've been burned too many times.  If it sounds too good to be true, you know it probably isn't.

Hype is dead.  Hype has been laid to rest.  People aren't buying it anymore.

If your advertising campaign is built on the next biggest, greatest thing, good luck with all that.  You'd be better served to drop all the overblown hyperbole and talk about the downside.

Yeah, the downside.

One of the easiest ways to instill trust in your customers is to be open and honest about what you or your products won't do.  As in... "This bottle claims to eliminate gas in your baby's stomach.  We all know that ain't happening.  Your baby will need to burp no matter which way she feeds.  But here is why you really should think about this bottle versus that other one.  If you are nursing..."

In other words, be honest.

Everyone knows that every product has an upside and a downside.  If you don't show the downside up front, the customer will wonder what you're hiding.  They will look for that downside and form a strong distrust of you in the process.  But if you show that downside right up front, first they begin to trust you and second, they are far more willing to listen to everything else you say.

At the end of the day, it is all about Trust.  No one trusts the hype.  No one trusts the salesperson who hides the downside.  So drop the hype, tell the downside.

I'm waiting for the furniture store to run this ad.

"This isn't our biggest sale ever.  In fact, we'll probably have another sale next month.  But the items we are selling today won't be in that sale.  If you're looking for a great deal on a couch, wait til next month.  But if you need a dining room set, we have a few closeouts we want to move off our floor.  Nothing wrong with them, just not a style that sold well at regular price..."

I think it would resonate far better than the current hype with the circus tents and balloons and shouting MC's.  Especially to anyone who wants a new dining room set.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  Not only should you reconsider your hype ads, make sure you are training your sales staff to tell the downside first.  Be upfront and honest in your advertising, marketing, and in your store.  Your customers will trust you far better.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Third Time's a Charm

I did a new talk for the Monroe Chamber of Commerce's Business Summit three weeks ago called "Better Your Business by Being Your Business Better".    It is a mix of lessons and case studies of companies that are staying true to their Core Values and reaping the benefits.  Works well as a keynote or workshop.  Full of stories to make you laugh, make you cry, make you understand how Values play a key role in your success.

The audience loved it!  I have received multiple requests to do the same talk to other groups.  In fact, I've already done it twice more since then.

As much as I liked the first presentation and the positive feedback it received, there were a few rough spots the audience didn't notice but I knew were there.  There were a few transitions that needed polishing, a couple slides that were unnecessary, and a few stories that needed tweaking.  I made some changes and the second presentation received equally strong praise.  But I knew it still wasn't where it could be.  More tweaking followed.

The third time I knocked it out of the park!  The crowd was completely into it.  They were laughing out loud.  They were nodding in approval.  They were clapping and carrying on.  They were getting all the inside jokes.  They were in tears.  They were fully vested.  Every transition flowed perfectly.  Every story and lesson fit like a well-cut jigsaw puzzle.  Yes, the third time was the charm.

Don't get me wrong.  The first two were pretty darned good.  One person told me after the first presentation that it was the best thing he had ever seen.  So unless his bar was really low...

I could have stopped there and left the presentation alone.  Good enough.  Both of the other groups would have been every bit as pleased seeing the first version.  But I didn't.  I knew I could do better.

I think many business owners, myself included, are guilty of this.  We know we are already pretty darned good at what we do.  We know we are already doing a better job than our competition.  We know we are giving the customers a really good experience.  Why try harder? Where is the return on investment?  Will the customer even notice?

Here is the nugget of truth... Good enough is only good enough today.  Right now.  Tomorrow you have to be better.  Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton reminded us "...the gold-medal performances of today are just the compulsory exercises next time."  Yes, the customer will notice. So you better take notice, too.

What are you doing pretty darn good today that you can make better tomorrow?

I'm already working on how to make the fourth version of this presentation (which is already booked) even better.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS   Better Your Business by Being Your Business Better is now up on my website under Speaker for Hire.  If you are looking for a talk that will motivate, get people to take ownership, and teach everyone two lessons that they can take to the bank, this 50 minute presentation rocks!  Works for owners and employees.  Works as a keynote or as a workshop.  Works with twelve people or twelve hundred.  Get in touch.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Every 80 Years

"The reason history must repeat itself is because we pay so little attention to it the first time." -Blackie Sherrod

Go back in time to the early 1940's.  What was happening?  Easy question... World War II.

Go back another 80 years to the 1860's.  What was happening?  Another easy question... The Civil War.

Go back another 80 years to the 1780's.  What was happening?  If you said The Revolutionary War, you get an A for history.

See a pattern?

It goes back for centuries through the Western World.  1700's? Great Northern War. 1620's? The Thirty Year War and so on...

Every eighty years, like clockwork.  In fact, there is a well documented pattern of a shift between two general mentalities of the population of the Western World, a shift between the two extremes of "Me" and "We" that has been swinging like a pendulum for the last 3000 years.  It takes eighty years to complete a cycle from one extreme to the other and back again.

We're currently heading toward the peak extreme of another "We" generation, one that has caused wars and conflicts for centuries.  Knowing these two extremes, how we get there as a population and what to expect as we approach another peak is possibly the most important information you can have.

I want you to have this info.  

I have been studying this pendulum swing since the first time I heard about it from Roy H. Williams at Wizard Academy in 2005 and the evidence blew me away.  I've seen it in the toy industry, in the baby industry, in retail as a whole.  I've seen it in politics, in advertising, in the movies and music.  I've seen it in our schools, in our homes and even online.  Now Roy has teamed up with Michael Drew to present you with two ways to understand this pendulum shift and how it affects the world around you better than ever before.

The first is their book which launched today - Pendulum (link to Amazon order page but don't go there until you read the next paragraph).

The second is the creation of the Pendulum in Action website.  Follow that link and it will take you to a special offer where you can get the book for only the cost of shipping ($7) and also get access to five modules/presentations on the Pendulum Swing and how to understand it from the perspective of your business.

Talk about ROI?  Those will be the best seven dollars you spend.     Ever.      Go click that second link now.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS  If it isn't the best $7 you spent on your business, tell me why.  I'll send you something else also worth more than $7 to make up for it.  Yeah, I believe it that much I'm willing to stand behind someone else's work with my own money.

PPS Yes, the pattern says in the 2020's we could most certainly be at war.  I'm not trying to sound apocalyptic or anything, but the pattern has existed for millennium   Knowing it and knowing what to do about it are the first steps to preventing the worst from happening.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I'm Gonna Raise Your Sales 300%!

I was at a conference where one of the speakers promised us he could raise our sales 300%!

Yeah, like me, you're all laughing at him.  Huckster, Snake Oil Salesman, Liar Liar Pants on Fire and other derogatory terms crossed your mind.  But after further review, I think his plan was solid and would probably work.  Short term.

His plan was simple.*  Slash your prices by 50%.  Increase your advertising by 400%.  In short time your sales will be 300% greater than the same period last year.  You'll be broke and filing bankruptcy, he was quick to note, but you'll be happy because sales are up!

And therein lies the problem...

Ask any retailer, "How's biz?" and they'll either be happy because sales are up or sad because sales are down.  Folks, we're tying our mood to the wrong numbers.  It isn't about Sales.  It is about Profits.  Sure, increased sales make it easier to be profitable.  But they don't guarantee it.

I'm still waiting on the savvy retailer, who when asked, "How's biz?" tells me, "Awesome! I was able to cut three points off my COGS and finally got a handle on expenses.  Profit this year is well ahead of last year."

Then again, I think most retailers are not even calculating such numbers.  They are just waiting until the year end when the accountant tells them if they made any money or not.

I get that.  Retail accounting can be scary.  Even though I've written a book on the complete financial analysis of the typical toy store and have also written an easy guide to reading your financial statements (those reports Quickbooks and all other accounting software can print with just a couple clicks), I'm still constantly trying to wrap my head around our financials.

But that is far better than putting my head in the sand and ignoring those numbers.  Especially now with the 4th quarter finally under way.

Now is the time to figure out a new pricing structure that might increase your gross profit.
Now is the time to figure out which expenses are out of whack and need attention.
Now is the time to figure out what inventory isn't moving and needs to be marked down.
Now is the time to figure out where are the holes in your training program.

-Phil Wrzesinski

*PS  Don't try his plan.  Please don't try his plan.  Even he didn't want anyone to try his plan.  He was just trying to make a point (and I was, too).  If you try anything, try measuring your financials once a month.  Yeah, it's more work on your part.  Yeah, it's way more rewarding when you do that work right!  Waaayyy more rewarding.