Want to Improve Your Bottom Line? Hold Events in Your Store

27 April 2014 Categories: Advertising, Blog, Customer Service, fun, Managing the Customer Experience, Reaching the Consumer

Proven ideas to drive customers to your business.

I was speaking with a friend of mind that owns a culinary store. “It must have been a tough winter, with all the snow,” I said.

“It was a great winter she said. We started holding cooking classes, and we were swamped.”

I mention her success because holding events has   always been a winner. No matter what your retail store, thoughtful promotions will attract new customers and thank your old ones. Holding events also creates a “buzz” that will have your neighbors paying attention. It doesn’t have to cost much money. It just takes some thoughtful promotions; don’t be  afraid to go all out. The more people you can bring in the better. The purpose of an event is to get people into your store and get to know them. Since 85% of your business is probably referrals, you don’t want customers to forget you.

Anything you do that pleases the customer improves your customer service. The more interesting the customer experience the more the customer will remember you. Customers have so many places to hide online that reaching them  has never been more difficult.

Making people feel special is cheap. Don’t you love getting an invitation to an event even if you can’t attend? It means that someone is thinking about you.

We’re all looking for things to do that aren’t expensive.

Events don’t have to be related to your products. For many retailers not promoting their products seems to be frightening. They’re afraid if they don’t talk about their products, they will lose customers. Actually just having fun with your customers is a way to build relationships. Even though we know it’s a good way to build sales, retailers seem reluctant to hold them.

My advice, “Get over it.”

  1. You shouldn’t spend a lot of money. Having lots of balloons will create a party atmosphere and putting your event on your social media will get the word out. It’s not necessary to advertise in the local newspaper unless you have extra dough. These days social media can do it all for you.
  2. You don’t need a big space. Hold your event during your off season. During the holidays, their is lots of competition for your customer’s attention. With the summer coming, this is a perfect time to have a garden seminar in your parking lot. If you’re a risk taker, have a barbecue at your house. Several years ago, I had a fund-raiser at my house, and it was fun and people just loved coming to my home.
  3. Customer appreciation day always works. David Campbell, owner of Amazing Toys in Great Falls, Montana, holds a customer appreciation in October before the holidays. He also gives reduced prices at his events for Christmas shopping. (Click on the link for information on how to hold a customer appreciation day. )
  4. Have you held an Anniversary party? Why not celebrate your business and share it with your customers.
  5. How about a special “guest” appearance? Every town has local celebrities. Some even have worldwide celebrities. Maybe you can have them make a special appearance. If you can involve a local not-for-profit, you will have a better chance of getting a celebrity to  your business. I remember when we raised money for the special needs program  in our neighborhood; we didn’t have any problems getting Yankee great Phil Razzioto to make an appearance! It was so exciting.

Holding events is the way to bring in customer and build relationships. If you need ideas for events, check out my recently published book, “50 Events to drive Traffic to Your Store.” It will soon be on my website and on Amazon.

Are you attending “Coverings” this coming week? If so, stop into my seminar on “How to Use Events to Grow Your Business” on Friday May 2, 2014, at 9:30-11 A.M.

Lisbeth has been a retail consultant for over 20 years. She specializes in improving customer service and building sales strategies that drive traffic. To have her speak at your store, she can be reached at 518-495-538-.

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5 Simple Ways to Get Customers to Hate You

21 April 2014 Categories: Blog

Have procedures for the common problems.

It’s hard to get customers to hate you, but companies manage to do it.  The other day I was at Best Buy returning my computer monitor. One day while working at my computer,   I heard a “pop” and the screen went dark. The monitor  was less than a year-old, and I didn’t know if I had a warranty. I thought I would just take it back to Best Buy. I’ve bought alot of things at Best Buy and always found them to be accommodating; slow but accommodating.

Upon arriving at Best Buy and getting in the “Geeks” line, I’m asked if I have a reservation. (Table by the window?)

I reply “No” and am given a number. I’m the next one in line, so I’m not too worried. The woman  continues to ask everyone behind me the same question but instead of giving them a number, she decides to solve their problems. Now the fifteen minutes turns into thirty.

What’s annoying about this whole thing, is that she’s also the “problem solver!” Another  half-hour goes by and  she sends me to a “Geek” who is annoyed because I don’t have the cord for my monitor.

“Isn’t this  cord store I ask?” Of course, he doesn’t laugh but tells me the cord is unusual, and he will have to go look for it. Fifteen minutes later he comes back without the cord. I suggest I buy one and then return it after he looks at the monitor! Good idea right? I guess not.  Okay so one hour later they tell me I am entitled to a new monitor. Maybe we could have started there and we  could have eliminated the cord stuff.

They finally give me a new monitor; not before they take the cord out of the box!

They weren’t busy they were just inefficient.

Here’s my list:

  1. Don’t ask the customer about their problems. Just assume you know everything and don’t include them in the conversation.
  2. Don’t smile; smiling might make you friendly, and we don’t want any of that.
  3. Share your problems with the customer. I could have cared less about his cord problem. Remember, they are the “cord store” and the “Geeks.”
  4. Don’t make eye contact with the customer. Again, why would you want to be friendly? You might lose if the customer thinks you like them.
  5. Don’t have procedures for your common problems. In this case, a simple “when did you buy this” would have eliminated the cord nonsense.

Common problems are ones that occur frequently.  You can make everyone happier, including yourself if you have the answers to them.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been doing sales training and helping businesses build loyal customers for over 20 years. To have her speak at your business, give her a call at 518-495-5380.

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5 Things You Can Do To Stop Hiring “Dead Beat Employees”

14 April 2014 Categories: Blog, Hiring

Bad employees ruin your culture.

When I go out to train, owners often tell me their employees don’t really care about the business. Somehow or other, it’s the employees fault. Frankly, I think not .Every time you hire someone who is not good, the entire organization suffers. Bad hires not only create customer ill will, but they effect the people who must work with them and manage them.

Or do they? We know if I have a stake in something I will pay more attention. How much do you share with your employees? There are plenty of reasons why they don’t care as much as you would like them to. Here are some ideas for you.

First, you need to hire right.

Don’t get desperate and hire anyone with a pulse!

You know the old saying, “be slow to hire and quick to fire” has some merit. Unfortunately, most businesses hire when they’re desperate. It’s like going into the supermarket when you’re hungry. Everything looks good. Hiring someone is not easy but consider someone who fits into your culture and is up to date. I am thinking that hiring the old guy with the 1980’s suit and attitude is done. You need people who understand social media and can help you build your business. The first question I would ask is “how many Facebook friends do you have and do you have a LinkedIn profile?” You will know immediately if he gets it.

What is your culture like? Is it laid back or is it fast paced? It matters you know.
2. Be clear with you goals. If goals aren’t measurable how will they get done? Many businesses don’t set goals with their employees; no wonder nothing gets done. People have to know where they stand and what’s expected of them. Furthermore, having goals builds self-esteem. You want your employees to get better. What do you expect from your employee and state it’s so it’s measurable?
3. Manage by walking around. This was what Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank were famous for—the original owners of The Home Depot. They would show up in the stores, walk around and thank employees. If there were problems, after the walk, they would note their comments and send them back to the store manager. Too often this is missing in this day and age. Remember you get what you inspect. If you haven’t reach “Built From Scratch” the Home Depot story, you’re in for a treat.
4. Let your employees know what it takes to run your business.  Let your employees know the overhead, and how much you need to take in before you make a profit. Profit sharing programs really work. If all an employee sees is money coming in, it gives them an unrealistic idea of what business is all about.

5. Incentives work. Not everyone responds to money. If you want to know what motivates your employees you will have to ask them. An unscheduled day off during good weather might be worth its weight in gold.

Lisbeth Calandrino helps businesses  develop profitable sales opportunities that will impact a company’s bottom line. To have her speak at your business or develop a custom training program, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Let Me Tell You How To Do This, Managing The Customer Experience

01 April 2014 Categories: Blog, Customer Retention Strategies, Managing the Customer Experience

Happy customer rock. 85% will leave because of bad service and never come back. Can you afford to lose them?

It seems like every day new customer frustrations arise; I swear I never hear about the amazing customer service stories anymore. Frankly, I don’t think there are that many in the naked city.

A friend was telling me about her experience with ordering new glasses. The place: a national chain. The customer: a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is personality, but very nice.

In the course of the transaction, the salesperson owed her 10 cents change. The salesperson remarked to my friend that she didn’t have the right change – in other words, no 10 cents. The frustrated salesperson didn’t seem to have anything else to say, so my friend decided to jump in and help her out.

“So,” she asked, “what do we do about my 10 cents?” This seemed like a logical customer question.

The salesperson replied, “I really don’t know what to do.”

Thinking it might be helpful to offer another scenario to the salesperson, my friend asked, “If the difference was 50 dollars what would you do?”

Her thought process: Maybe the numbers were too small. Why didn’t the salesperson just offer to give her the 25 cents back? This seemed to be even more upsetting, so the salesperson said she was calling the manager.

Now my friend was starting to feel uncomfortable. Why couldn’t she just have her quarter back and then start over? The salesperson told the manager she was upset and didn’t know how to fix the problem.

The manager replied, “I have a headache, so why don’t you give the customer the quarter back, and let’s be done with this?” The salesperson again told the manager how upset she was. The manager replied that, if she was that upset, she should go home.

At this point, my friend had had enough, so she decided to add her two cents. “It’s not the 10 cents or the quarter, why do we have to go through this for me to get my change? All she had to do was give me the quarter back and you would have been 15 cents short.” This met with a look of distain from both the salesperson and the manager, and my friend was really feeling like the bad guy and maybe even a little nuts.

She continued explaining to me: “All I was trying to do was to show the salesperson that it wasn’t that difficult; she just needed to think. I was beginning to realize that I was probably not welcome in the store, and I was beginning to look like a crazy customer—all over 10 cents! Again I tried to explain, it’s not the 10 cents it’s the principle. Damn, I didn’t need the change anyway. It was best I got out of there before I caught a headache.”

The big customer question: Why didn’t the salesperson know what to do? Couldn’t she have looked for a dime in her purse? Hadn’t that happened before?

Shouldn’t a store train their salespeople on common problems, i.e. making change?

 

I know you probably think this is a made up story, but why make up stories when the real ones are so great?

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been helping businesses managing the customer’s experience for over 20 years. To have her work with your employees or speak at your business she can be reached through her email, Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com or 518-495-5380, EST.

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Will Your Salespeople Make The Cut?

26 March 2014 Categories: Blog

Salesperson must be knowledgeable about people.

The new millennium has brought numerous changes that are affecting your business and your sales. Many of these we could have never predicted, which makes them even more intrusive. We have entered a new age of selling and a way to do business. Selling, marketing and buying seem to have melded together. What used to be our competitive advantages are slowly eradicating making businesses vulnerable.
With change comes conflict and opportunity. For global organizations this will continue to intensify and shrink as markets get larger.
If your’ organization is engaged in sales, and who isn’t, these changes will call for an overhaul of your sales force and their duties. Those stores that make the cut will survive those that don’t will fall behind their competitors and eventually fall off the radar screen. In order to make changes in your selling system, here are some trends that simply can’t be ignored.
# 1. Never forget that customers are smarter than ever.
This is the age of the customer not the age of technology. The consumer has disrupted how we do business and how they want to relate to your salesperson. By the time the customer gets to your store, she is more than 50% though the buying process and has a pretty good idea how to solve her own problem. This means your selling system has to change.

#2. Selling is quicker than ever.
This is because consumer’s expectations are increasing and out of hand. If your business can’t keep up the pace, you’re off the grid. Customers know about new products and what’s changing in your world. Your job is to keep up and learn more—quickly.
#3. It’s becoming impossible to have the better mousetrap.
We used to talk about competitive advantage; it’s harder than ever to keep one for very long. Instead, your company needs to be imaginative.

According to Peggy Noonan in a 2011 Forbes Article, “Why Businesses Die“, she notes that half a century ago the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 was around 75 years. Now it’s less than 15 years and declining even further. How long do brilliant ideas last? About 15 nano seconds!

#4. Look out, generation Y is on the move.
By 2025, the majority of the workforce will be these tech-savvy workers who not only think differently than your veteran sales force but interact differently. Combining them with your present workforce will present challenges. Training will be more important than ever especially team building for this inharmonious grouping.

Consider scheduling some team building.
#5 Start planning to make your business a destination, or you will be history.
Shopping is not what is used to be; by 2025, 50 % of the malls will be closed. Only those that come up with a new reason to exist will make it. Jose de Jesus Legaspi and his Plaza Fiesta Malls has changed the malls into a destination for Hispanic families. His malls contain great food, doctors and dental services and entertainment.
How will you make it? Future success will be predicated on rethinking how your organization functions—and making serious changes. Some of these changes will have to be radical. Over the next few weeks, I will talk about what might be on the horizon for you.

Lisbeth Calandrino helps business build Loyal Customers through Customer Retention Sales and Marketing. To have her speak at your business, call her at 518.495.5380, EST.

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3 Things You Can Do To Improve Employee Customer Engagement

19 March 2014 Categories: Blog, Customer Retention Strategies

Customer engagement is all about deepening your relationship with your current customers and establishing new, high-value customer relationships.

Remember the Carnival cruise ship Triumph? If I were a crew member, I’d probably also flip out, though the crew of the Carnival Triumph has been praised in the media and by guests, for remaining attentive, friendly, and professional.  This is not something you might expect from a massively diverse group of underpaid and standard overworked employees. How did it happen? It happened because the crew was engaged and understood the Disney mission.

An often-cited Gallup study from 2011 showed that only 30 percent of U.S. workers employed full- or part-time are engaged in their work and workplace, while approximately half is not engaged. Nearly one in five was actively disengaged. What does this really mean?

Your salespeople are on overdrive and not really engaged with their customers. How do you know? They don’t ask for emails, send customers thank-you notes,  or follow through with customers who don’t buy.  If you have a type of loyalty program, they don’t take the time to explain it to the customer or don’t know how it works. Remember 85% of your business comes from referrals so everyone in your store is important. Referrals don’t just come from past buyers. They come from anyone who has been in your store and had a great experience. How many times have you been in a store, unhappy about the salesperson and then tell your friends, “Don’t go there.”

Everyone who is connected to your business is part of your brand promotion and connected to your customer’s loyalty. Often times these front line people are in the lower pay bands and may not be very happy with their jobs. Their attitude is carried over to your customers. I say your customers because this group doesn’t see them as “their” customers.

In an interview with LoyaltyTruth, Paul Hebert, a lead consultant with Symbolist and an expert in the behavioral arts and employee engagement, believes it’s unrealistic to aim for fully engaged staffs, but feels stores should “begin measuring — with whatever tool you find helpful — and then start working to move the needle.”

Instead of trying to constantly “engage” employees, first you must find out why they are “disengaged.” If you’re not sure what’s going on in your store, have someone “mystery shop” the areas where customers have the most contact. Salespeople are one part, but in their case, niceness pays off. Most stores have many employees aren’t paid for being nice; they get paid for doing their job. There’s a difference.

In order to be engaged with customers, employees need to understand how it works and the payoff to the company.  If you want better engagement, here are a few things to consider.

  1. Reward employees who show make exception contributions to your customers. Things like saying “please” and “thank you, ” and offering to do something extra for the customer like carry a package to the customer’s car.
  2. Build job structures for all employees and a career ladder. Many companies consider some jobs “dead-end” in their business, so they assume people are going to quit. If they were smart, they would realize that an employee, who does their job successful and considers their job important, is a candidate for a job promotion. It’s hard to judge honest with a new employee; it’s easier if one has “shown” loyalty.
  3. 3.    Teach employees new job skills. Job skills can be taught to most people; why not teach them to people who have a good track record with you. This will improve their self-esteem and make them better at their job.

 

Helping employees understand how to engage drive’s results to your bottom line.

Lisbeth Calandrino develops training programs that teaches employees how to provide better engagement with their customers. She can be reached at 518.495.5380 or Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

 

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The Devil is in the Details

08 March 2014 Categories: Customer Satisfaction

Every little thing matters.

Customers are the foundation of any business. With customer satisfaction, more often than not, it’s the smallest details that make the biggest difference. There’s an old saying, “The Devil is in the details.” What better place to see the truth of that statement than in the way a business interacts with its customers?

Here are a few stories to help illustrate the point that it’s the little details that really make a lasting impression in a customer’s mind. And that impression, even if it doesn’t result in an immediate sell, can lead to valuable referrals.

Friendly Help at the Airport

In mid-December 2002, Uncle Sam had me on a plane headed for Japan. I left the American landscape – square, expansive fields, straight lines, and uniformity – and flew off into the unknown. After more than ten hours of flight, the massive plane dipped below the clouds, revealing a landscape full of mountainous, tiered farmland; rice fields; and a multitude of irregularly shaped plots of land.

My first real customer service interaction there was in the airport, where a group of five flight attendants patiently endured my attempts at communicating – I essentially butchered their language – as they tried to assist. If they were annoyed, it didn’t show. They seemed more grateful that I was trying than irritated with my ineptitude.

Let’s contrast this with my experience at the airport when I returned to the U.S. a few months later. Jet-lagged, craving a cigarette, and too tired to navigate on my own, I asked the nearest staff member where the bathroom was. He pointed to the sign, adding a polite “What, you can’t f***ing read?” Now that’s what I call good old U.S. customer service. It’s those “little things” that count.

A Warm Welcome at the Seven-Eleven

If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Japan, one thing you’ll surely notice is the reaction of the employees at nearly any establishment you walk into. As you enter, the people behind the counter all say “Irasshaimase!”, which can be loosely translated as “Welcome!”

At first, it’s a little startling, and maybe a bit odd, but think about it. What better way to make customers feel welcomed than literally yelling “Welcome!” at the top of your lungs when they walk through your doors?

Five years of living there and that warm-and-fuzzy feeling never wore off. The point here isn’t to say that American businesses should do exactly the same. It is, however, to say that it doesn’t take much effort to find simple ways to make your customers feel welcomed and important.

In closing, here are three tips to improve your customer service practices:

  • Be friendly. Sometimes the best customer service is as simple as just being nice to your customer.
  • Show your appreciation. Without their business, you would be out of yours, so thank them for it.
  • Don’t rush. Take the time to show you truly care about his or her needs. Customers don’t enjoy feeling like they’re on an assembly line.

Created by James Allen, james.r.allen2011@gmail.com

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“Skyrocket Your Profits With Stellar Customer Service!”

04 March 2014 Categories: Blog

Customer Service can make you money.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a telecast but when Jim Armstrong called me I couldn’t refuse. Jim is a columnist for Floor Covering News and specializes in turn-key marketing strategies for flooring dealers.

Customer service used to be kind of boring; now it’s connected to sales and marketing! It can actually improve your bottom line. By the way, the telecast is free.

Do you realize that customer service can make you money? The old customer service department was  like the principal’s office. You went there when things were bad! Now customer service is more interactive and can actually make customers love you you–if you do it right. Customer service is also linked to social media. If you don’t handle your online problems you might become a star on Twitter.

For more about the event and the times, connect to this link,http://jimarmstrongevent.com/lisbeth . The date is March 10, 2014.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been coaching executives and designing sales and customer service training programs for over 20 years. She can be reached at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Most Salespeople Can Sell Anything to Anybody at Least Once

02 March 2014 Categories: Blog, Sales

The “one hit wonders” It isn’t in your client’s best interest to chase you down, it is in your best interest to follow up with them regularly.

We all know the “one-hit wonders. They sell the customer and then disappear.  Their paperwork is a mess, and they want nothing to do with the follow-up. Often times they are great salespeople and businesses depend on them. I had a business owner ask me what he should do with his best salesperson. The salesperson could sell anyone but after that he was nothing but trouble. He made mistakes in his estimates, and his paperwork was all over the place. The owner didn’t want to get rid of him because he brought in so much business, but everyone had to clean up after him.

I suggested he explain to the person how much it was costing them to do his follow through.  Why not use part of his commission to pay for an assistant, (he was that good), and then he could do what he did best, sell.  He decided to “clean up his act’ because he didn’t want anyone to have any of his money.

One hit wonders,  razzle/ dazzle the customer and go on to the next one.  To them, the only customer who is important to them is “the new one; “follow-through is not their strong point. This salesperson, likes the excitement of “capturing” an unknown customer. To them when it’s over, it’s over. It’s the hunt that they like.

Unfortunately, your ability to follow through and keep in touch with your sold customer will determine whether you get a referral. Referrals are the lifeblood of any business and 85% of your new customers will come from referrals. If you disappear after you sell the customer, where will you get your referrals?

I’ve been a salesperson my whole life; I understand the “thrill of the hunt.” When I was in the flooring business, I went from retail to the commercial end of the business. I loved growing the commercial business. The profits were bigger; the customers were more complex, and I had to work hard on building relationships and “stealing” customers. I gave up retail selling because the retail customers all seemed the same.   Follow-up was key and referrals within a company came from doing a good job. When I was writing my book on Commercial Flooring (which is out of print) I interviewed Donald LaDuke, the original  owner of Barry, Bette, LeDuke, from Albany, New York. I asked Donald what made a good subcontractor and Donald replied, “One that I’ve never heard of!” In other words, this was someone who did their work and didn’t cause a problem.

Here are three things you can do to build great follow through.

Remind yourself how valuable your customer is and how they will help you build your “personal” business.” Come up with a strategy for staying in touch after the sale.

Find out what makes each customer unique. Then decide how you can continue to build the relationship. It may be their field of business or their community connections.

Work hard at maintaining your connections. It will be easy with some customers and more difficult with others. Once they’re sold ask how you can stay in touch on line through social media or through emails. All of this has to do with two skills that I wrote about on the Albany Times Union: Communication and Connections.

Lisbeth has been helping businesses build retail strategies for over 20 years. To have her speak to your staff or develop a sales/customer service  training program, she can be reached at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Are Your Salespeople Missing in Action?

16 February 2014 Categories: Blog, Customer Service

Sales people must always be on alert for new customers.

The client’s journey begins long before they set foot in a retail store. They are talking with friends, researching products, and looking for testimonials, all before they determine which store to shop. What’s missing? The salesperson.

 

Most stores are  having their salespeople sit around and wait for the client to come into the store.  The customer is in command. This used to work but these days the customer is in control.

 

Why would you want your salesperson to sit around and wait when they can be influencing clients to come into the store? Why are they waiting for the customer to make the decision when they have the opportunity to influence their decision? Why not have them be proactive and go online connecting with the “potential customer?”

 

I know that many business owners are concerned about what their salespeople will say online. Will they insult the customer? Will they be unprofessional? What will be the outcome of their conversation? If this is your concern set some parameters.

But people still buy from people they like and trust. Technology has changed our lives, but it offers the opportunity to for the consumer and salesperson to build their relationship online. The salesperson had to wait until the consumer came into their store to get to know them.  Now they have tremendous opportunities to build important relationships.

If your salespeople could connect with potential customers before they even walk through the door, you would have an advantage over everyone else in the business.

Google (check out this video)  suggests to connect effectively, you must know who your customers are, where they are “hanging out”  and what you’re going to say to them when you find them .

Who knows your customers better than your salespeople?

So it just comes down to what they’ll say. This is a matter of training and policy. Ignoring the potential pitfalls of online communication doesn’t make them go away,it just provides another challenge. A challenge that can be easily managed.   Why not determine the parameters  and dynamics of your salespeople’s conversation? Train them in how to market themselves and the business. This way you can  humanize your marketing, and make your salespeople more attractive to new customers.

The internet is about building relationships; start building yours.

 

These days, a good salesperson has to be a good marketer – there are those of us who think marketing has replaced sales. They must also understand their customer and always be “customer service focused.” Connecting on line is “great” customer service.

 

Social media is not going away nor will customers decide to stop making the Internet their first stop in determining where to shop. The sooner you determine your online policies and how you’re going to have your salespeople connect, the quicker you will increase your customer base.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been doing sales and customer service training for over 20 years. She believes that technology is the key to doing business and salespeople need to be marking and connecting with customers before they come into your place of business. For training or a consultation on the “new selling,” Lisbeth can be reached at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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