Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gardening, Training, and the Three Bears

The rains have been pouring down here at my store. Last night the river crested to the highest I have seen it in over 20 years. It touched the back corner of the building.

My wife reported that all of our potted plants at home were swimming in their pots.

That's not good for potted plants. Almost as bad as no water at all. Everyone knows that gardening requires continued diligence; a little watering, a little weeding, a little pruning done consistently and continuously. You can't just do the weeding and watering once and expect the garden to thrive.

Yet isn't that what we often do with our staff?

They show up. We give them a name badge, show them where the restroom is, teach them how to run the cash registers, and set them loose. No follow up, no continual training.  No additional information. If they're motivated, they'll learn it on their own (or at least that's what we tell ourselves).

Then we wonder why there is no growth.

Training is like gardening. It needs to be consistent and continuous if you want your staff to grow to their full potential. A little training, a little evaluation, a little polishing, a little pushing.

Just like the Three Bears, you also have to find that "just right" amount of training. Too little and they don't get the skills they need, too much and like my potted plants at home, they cannot absorb it all.

Staff training should be a lot like how we water the potted plants. Pour some water in. Wait until it is absorbed. Pour in a little more. Keep checking back, pruning, weeding and watering. Add in a heaping amount of sunlight (praise), and watch them grow.

Are you tending to your staff garden?

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Thanks to my wife for this powerful analogy. Thanks to Mother Nature for this awesome display of her power. And Thank God that the water receded back to normal levels rather quickly. Forty seven years on the banks of the Grand River and that is the first time the water touched the building.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What Can You Get for $99?

What kind of return would you get if you learned one new technique that cost you nothing, but delighted customers even more than you do today? How would that impact your business for the remainder of the year?

What kind of return would you get if someone revealed to you the secret to consistently getting Word-of-Mouth referrals? How would that impact your bottom line?

What kind of return would you get if you replaced your worst employee with a clone of your best employee? How would that affect your profit & loss?

What if you did all three?

Put a number on it. Guess if you have to. How much more would your business make this year?

One thousand dollars? Five thousand dollars? Fifteen thousand dollars?

What if someone offered you five thousand dollars in return for ninety-nine dollars? Oh, and four hours of your time? Would you jump at that chance?

You can!

In two weeks (Thursday, July 11) I will be offering a Summer Business Boot Camp on Shareworthy Customer Service (thanks, Tim, for that wonderfully apt word). 

In the class you will learn the truth behind what makes customers talk about your business. You will create two Word-of-Mouth techniques that you can use the very next day. You will learn how to step up your levels of customer service beyond what the customer expects and learn how to delight her at many different points in the transaction. You will learn how to hire and train employees that fit your culture and delight your customers all the time.

It only costs you $99 and four hours of your time. I'll even throw in a free lunch.

All you have to do is call the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce (517) 782-8221 to sign up.

Only four steps to get an incredible Return on Investment.

  1. Pick up the phone. 
  2. Invest your $99. 
  3. Do what you learn. 
  4. Reap the benefits. 

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I'll be doing another one in August specifically on Marketing and Advertising. The two together will rock your business regardless of whether you are a retailer or service provider. Make the call. Invest your time and money and I'll make sure it is worth your while.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Herds, Flocks and Gaggles

When a lioness approaches a herd of zebras, she searches for the stragglers, the loners, the ones who have strayed too far away. She isn't attacking the whole herd. There is safety in numbers and the zebras know it.

When a flock of birds flies in formation, they can fly farther than a solitary bird alone. There is strength in numbers. Predators do not disrupt their formation.

When a gaggle of geese starts honking, the message is clear. Stay away. Stay far away. Maybe they are protecting some goslings. Maybe they are just protecting themselves. There is strength in numbers. The predators would much rather go after a solitary goose than attack the gaggle.

Herd of zebras, flock of birds, gaggle of geese, crash of rhinoceros (one of my favorite group names), obstinacy of buffalo (my new favorite). All animals know there is safety in numbers. Stay in the group and you're safe. Stray from the group and you may be attacked.

What do you call a group of sales clerks? 

A clucker of clerks? A chattering of clerks? A confusion of clerks? Or my other favorite group term (works with every type of animal), a “whole mess of” clerks?

By any name, the rules still apply. There is safety in numbers.

Stay close to the group and you won't have any customers attacking you looking for help. You won't have the boss singling you out for a project. You won't be under the glare and spotlight.

You'll be safe in the group.

Or will you?

We aren't talking about a lioness hiding in the tall grass looking for the weakest member. We're talking about a customer needing assistance. We're talking about projects needing to be done. We're talking about the work your clucker is supposed to be doing.

The point is that you aren't the prey. You are the pride of lions, who only rest and play after the kill. You hunt alone. You are not the Leap of Leopards, just the lone Jaguar ready to pounce at the chance to accomplish and do more than expected. You are not the convocation of eagles, just the single eagle ready to take flight and soar.

In other words, watch how you congregate. That chattering could be costly.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Here are some of my other favorite Animal Group Names...
Congregation of Alligators
Shrewdness of Apes
Quiver of Cobras
Cast of Falcons
Implausibility of Gnus
Scourge of Mosquitoes
Gaze of Raccoons
Rhumba of Rattlesnakes
Congress of Salamanders
Ambush of Tigers
Wisdom of Wombats

Friday, June 21, 2013

Insurance Agents Don't Understand Customer Service

I was in a company store to make a few changes to my cellphone plan (got a new phone for my 12 year old son, which is a whole 'nuther topic). Got there about thirty minutes before they closed. They were busy. At least six sets of customers in the store at this time. I had to wait about ten minutes to be helped.

My helper was extremely helpful. Friendly and engaged, he understood everything I wanted to do, He did it all flawlessly with good humor. It was a painless transaction, even for one that lasted about thirty minutes past their closing time.

The pain was in watching the woman in tears right outside the door.

Her crime? She showed up one minute late.

This store has a company policy dictated by the insurance company. Lock the doors at closing time. Let no one else in. No one. Not even a woman who had driven six hours in a frantic hurry to get there on time only to find out she was sent to the wrong store and had to cross town in early evening traffic only to arrive one minute too late.

One minute late.

There were still five of us customers in the store.



Now there are only four. One guy, after watching the way they treated this poor lady, put down his iPad purchase and walked out before they swiped his card.

My helper explained that he would lose his job if he tried to help her. Insurance company said it was a liability issue they wouldn't cover. With cameras everywhere, the employees feared losing their jobs more than helping a sobbing lady pick up a phone they were holding for her.

I hope the cameras picked up the fact that this one lady will cause them to lose more business and more money than any liability issue for delighting a customer one minute too late ever could.

Don't let your insurance company dictate your levels of customer service. Delight your customers. The only crying should be tears of joy.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS My apologies to all the insurance AGENTS out there. The title really should have read "Insurance Companies". But I wanted to get you to read this. Maybe you can talk to the principles at your agency to make sure you don't do this to your clients.

PPS Want to create a culture that consistently puts the needs of the customer first and relishes in delighting them? Start by reading Customer Service: From Weak to WOW! (free download).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Tore Up My Office Yesterday

I freely admit it. I am not an overly organized guy. I hate filing papers away. I would rather just push it aside for later.

We all know later never seems to come.

Back in 1998 I moved into the office I currently occupy. Before then I had a desk on the sales floor in our baby department. But now I was Vice President and I needed to be in the office. We bought some new office furniture and built a desk in the corner of my dad's office. Yes, I sat with my back to him all day working on my computer, etc.

Dad retired in 2005 and I took over as President. We moved his big desk to his man cave and replaced it with the round table that had previously been in the corner where my desk now sat. I stayed put, tucked in the corner with my messes piled all around me.

Soon my messes spilled over to the round table. Once every month or so I would bring in a big box and purge everything I could, clean up the piles and file/recycle as many papers and catalogs as possible. While cathartic, it was really only a stop-gap. The books in my library were still stacked two feet high. Piles from previous purges sat mocking me. Worst of all, a couple slips of urgent papers always seemed to go missing.


Until yesterday.

Yesterday I blew it all up. It was time to get out of the corner. I removed the round table. Replaced it with a long, rectangular table that will serve as my desk for now. Moved my computers and printers. Cleaned and dusted. Put an old hutch on the credenza behind my desk. Filled it with books.

Today I will be going through every pile, every drawer, every nook and cranny. A place for everything and everything in its place. I don't expect to have everything done today, or even this week. But eventually I will have a newly organized and newly designed office.

Will I be more organized going forward? I can't say for sure. But I knew I would never be more organized doing everything the same old way. Albert Einstein gets the credit for this simple thought...
If you want a different result, you have to do something different.

I'm doing something different.


-Phil Wrzesinski

PS The lesson in all this is to evaluate everything you are doing and the results you are getting. Not getting the results you want? Do something different. Not getting the traffic you expect from your marketing? Market differently. Not getting the kind of referral business you expect? Train your staff differently. Not getting the margins you want? Price your products differently. Not as organized as you want to be? Set up your organization differently.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What Do You Struggle to Train?

In a couple weeks I will be doing a workshop at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) Marketplace & Academy.  This is the big gathering of the specialty toy industry where many of the best independent toy stores will be attending.

The workshop I am doing is on Staff Meetings & Trainings Everyone Wants to Attend.  I will be teaching them the techniques I use to plan fun, interesting and sticky training events to teach my staff what they need to know.

The attendees of this workshop will be sitting at round tables and one of the activities will be for each table to develop a training event around a specific topic such as Closing the Sale, Answering the Telephone, Thinking Like a Boss, or What to do When Business is Slow.

I need your help.

I need about a dozen topics for this workshop. What topics do you struggle with? What topics do you wish you had a better training for? What topics do you wish someone could create a training event for you to use in your store?

Leave a comment or send me an email.  Anyone who offers a topic I use in the workshop will get a copy of the training we develop.


-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I would also love to hear about the most fun, interesting or unique ways you have trained your staff on different topics. Send me pics if you have them. It is always better to have examples of what others have done when teaching this technique.