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An Update on What Value Means to Your Business

What makes you different and what is it worth?

What makes you different and what is it worth?

Everyone talks about value but what does it really mean? Simply put, it means going above and beyond what is expected. For instance, giving out cookies and hot chocolate during the holidays in your business can be considered added value. Cookies add to the festivities and are unexpected by the customers. Will all customers think they are added value? Probably not the people who are on a diet or don’t eat chocolate chips. Value added is a marketing and sales strategy for your business. It helps customers remember you, build repeat and referral business and build differentiation.

Before you can deliver, you have to know your customers, and what they expect. Yes, customers want to be treated with courtesy, feel that prices are fair for the marketplace and expect your place of business to be inviting. If you can’t deliver what’s expected, how can you go above and beyond and deliver the “added value?”

Once you know who they are, then you can go forward trying to figure out what you can do that they would like.

So added value is something the customer gets and finds delightful. Imagine giving your customers a beautiful winter blanket on a beastly hot summer day. The blanket is worsted wool, with horse blanket fringe as well as being soft and warm. Delivered in the summer, it isn’t valued, in fact, becomes a problem. You might say, “I wouldn’t care when I got the blanket, it’s so magnificent. “ Despite your excitement, many of your customers would not be feeling the same. So treating the customers using your standards may not be adding any value nor getting any points from your customers.

Instead of thinking what’s of value to you, find out what’s of value to your customers. For any of this to work, it must be determined within the context of your customers.  Of course, we all have fixed budgets, but we still have to look at the customer’s criteria. I go into the gym daily. It has become an important part of my health plan. One of the things, besides all the people I know is the coffee that is served free of charge in the lobby. It makes a huge difference to me; it’s always fresh and somehow signals the end of a good workout. So it’s a big deal to me; no, it’s not rational but value isn’t rational.

I know they make a big deal about wiping down the equipment after it’s used in the gym. (They consider this huge value.) Frankly, this doesn’t really matter to me; I know the best thing I can do is go home and change my clothes. I’ve been told the gym is one of the dirtiest places in the world so I don’t think a simple wipe down will help.

In all of our lives, it’s the simple things that make our own world special.

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If you Can’t Change it, How do you Know When to Give it up?

Where are you in your plan?

Where are you in your plan?

I just returned from Coverings; the largest stone and tile show held yearly in the United States. One of my topics was about the millenniums, how to hire and how to motivate them. There is much ado about them; for a group of business owners, the most upsetting information is their apparent lack of wanting to stay in the same job forever. A gentleman said he was disturbed because of his biggest need for installers. A position that takes years to train and would it be in vain? He wanted to know how what could he do to make them stay. He was extremely annoyed at the circumstances and wanted it to change.

I started thinking, what we can do when faced by a situation that is unlikely to change in our favor? Is there a value in forcing the situation?

I asked what he thought his choices might be. I was trying to see if he thought that it might be time to change or expand his business, so he wouldn’t be as dependent on this “disappearing” employee.  In my mind, the problem was taking on a new perspective. Would this mean he should close his business? Instead, I asked if he thought there might be some changes that would have to be made in his business to accommodate this shift. His reply was, “I just need more installers.”

When a shift happens in your life, what does it take to be able to stay still with the uncertainty of a situation until you can come up with alternatives? Sometimes you must live through the situation and actually grieve the impending loss before you can move on. Possibly you should talk with someone you trust who has more information or experience than you.

Not wanting to deal with reality often gets in the way of us seeing situations clearly. To become empowered, we must face fear head on so it has no power to frighten us. When we finally give up being led by fear can we examine the alternatives and make the best choice possible.

There’s no way to control the future; there is only the strength and our willingness to stay present and let the fear dissipate.

Lisbeth has been helping businesses grow and become more profitable through sales and customer service training for the past 25 years. To schedule a consultation, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com. She lives in Historic Hudson Park, Albany, New York with her cat Rainyday. If not out training, she can be found at the YMCA gym in East Greenbush.

 

 

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Innovative Ways for the Flooring Retailer (or anyone) to Become a “Marketeer”

The world has changed, have you?

The world has changed, have you?

You know what it’s like; you’re getting plenty of leads, but no one is following up.

At first, just a few go by, but then they start to stack up. You’re also aware that the sales staff isn’t following up on customers who have come into the store and haven’t made a purchase.

Every business needs fresh customers, but what about those who are good leads or have already been in your store?

If you’re working harder at getting new customers than keeping old ones, you’re spending a lot of money on marketing. Think about it this way; every time a customer comes back or sends a referral, the average marketing dollar spent per customer goes down. Furthermore, a good salesperson will be cultivating customers who have bought before or paying attention to “hot leads.” The competent sales associate knows these are easier to sell.

No matter how you’re gathering your leads, they’re valuable if you’re following up and closing them. If you’re not doing either, it’s like throwing money out the window.

If this sounds like your business, the best thing you can do is start capturing customers’ home addresses and email addresses. Stop entering “Cash” on your invoice where it says, “name and address.” After all, if you don’t have customers and good will, what do you have?

The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently said the only way to steer customers to your business is to help them cut down on their buying choices. One way to do this is to send them small bites of information that is both educational and fun so you ultimately become their trusted adviser. An article on “Tips for finding the right flooring retailer” can help influence a fresh lead or referral to walk into your store.

The smart dealers realize that being high tech is not something for the future—it’s here now. I recently spoke with Cary Cass, general manager of Dolphin Carpet and Tile, headquartered in Miami, Fla. With over 30 years in the business and a member of the NFA (National Flooring Alliance), Dolphin is utilizing many online tools to help the customer stay connected.

We realize that once a customer is in our store, we have an opportunity to both sell them and build a customer for life. Our interactive on-line design center makes it easy for the customer to build a profile of her likes and store her choices with us. We’re also testing software that will automatically contact our customers with timely offers and useful tips. It may sound trite, but its not up to the customer to remember us; it’s our job to be memorable. This is not something we have the time or expertise to do by ourselves.

Being consistent with customer communications is the key. “White House, Black Market” a women’s clothing store targeting consumers age 25 and older, does an excellent job of staying in touch with the customer. By receiving their emails, post cards and phone calls, I feel like we’re old friends. I feel guilty not going in to look at their new styles. I know the communications are automated, but they’re still fun, informative and useful.

follow your customersMichael Vernon, president of followyourcustomer.com, gave me this advice:

The goal of any business is to build relationships with customers. In the article, Why the Zero Moments of Truth Matter More than Ever, Google points out there are endless opportunities a business has to ‘touch’ the consumer. The key is to get her to like you because people buy from people they like. To build top-of-mind awareness, these must be sent least 12 to 18 times a year. If they dont, the customer will go to the competitor. Our system will customize your message and automatically keep in touch for you.

Customers have many choices; why not be their first one?

isbeth has been teaching businesses how to improve their customer service and the customer experience for over 20 years. To schedule a consultation or have her speak at your business, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com. If she’s not in her office, she can often be found mornings at the YMCA in East Greenbush.

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Does Anyone Care You’re Saying? 4 Ways to be a Better Listener

ListeningI don’t know about you, but I like to talk. I don’t know if it’s being a speaker, I doubt that, but I can talk about everything and nothing for hours. I think I’m funny, but I’m not sure if that’s the way to build rapport. What feels worse than trying to talk with someone while they’re texting or playing an online game?

As a child, I stopped being friendly at about 4. At which point my mother told me what I would have to do if I was going to make friends. My dad was very funny, and everyone liked him; I guess that’s how I thought it could be. I didn’t realize it then, but there was more to it. My dad was very empathetic too.

Just because we listen doesn’t really mean we heard anything. These day’s people act like they’re listening, but we know everyone is multitasking. It’s doubtful they heard what you said.

How can you listen?

distraction

  1. Don’t distract yourself. Put your phone and the rest of the devices away. This is not the time to check your email or Facebook message. Listening and connecting is an art. Being a good listener is a way for you to really connect with customers and your friends.
  2. Don’t top the speaker’s story. Isn’t it awful when you’re telling someone what happened and without taking a breath, they “up you one better?” If you went to the doctor, they’ve been to two. If you’re going on vacation to New Orleans, they’ll tell you they once lived there and what’s wrong with the place. This is what we call the “me too” habit. Whatever you’ve done; I’ve done it as well and probably better.
  3. Try not to interrupt. I say “try” because when I’m on the telephone I can’t seem to judge when to pause. I’m not sure if I can’t hear, or it’s the connection.
  4. Stop trying to find problems to fix. Are you listening only enough to find a problem to fix?

Don’t be afraid to give your listening skills an overhaul. Like anything else, it takes practice and more practice.

Without customer service, a customer doesn’t have any customers,  good sales don’t necessarily bring back customers, but good customer service does.”

Lisbeth has been teaching businesses how to improve their customer service and the customer experience for over 20 years. To schedule a consultation or have her speak at your business, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com. If she’s not in her office, she can often be found mornings at the YMCA in East Greenbush.

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By |April 6th, 2015|beliefs, Blog, Customer Retention Strategies|0 Comments

“Do You Have Leaving on Your Mind?” 5 Things you can do to Stop Customers from Cheating on you

Customers don't tell you when they're getting ready to leave--they just leave.

Customers don’t tell you when they’re getting ready to leave–they just leave.

I was listening to Patsy Cline sing, “Do you Have Leaving on Your Mind?” She’s asking her lover to tell her if he wants out. Customers rarely tell you their leaving—they just go.

The years 2008 and 2009 were tough years on many businesses. When the dust cleared you found you had lost many of your “regulars.” Sure some of this was due to the economy, but how much of it was due to “negligence” on your part?
The statistics in 2014 are no different than they were 20 years ago.

68% of customers leave because of the treatment they receive and 71% specifically said because they received poor customer service. Here are some ideas for keeping those “cheatin” customers.

1. Make it easy for them to talk with you. Is your voice mail filled to the brim? Do you resist picking up the phone when you’re really not that busy? The nicest thing you can do for a customer is to answer their phone call or at least sending a quick text that you will can back in a few. I love the phone app that sends a text  to callers telling them you’re driving, and you will call back once you reach your destination.

2. Have you noticed them in the “box” stores? After my gym workout, I stop at one of the “box” stores to be nosy. I walk the departments to look for signs of “cheating customers.” You know the type; they’re laughing and getting friendly with the store clerks. They are hanging around making small talk. Good businesses know that small talk can lead to big sales. Maybe the customer just needs a friendly hello?

3. How good are your salespeople at “small talk?” Some clerks are “all business” and forget that before business there’s small talk or building rapport. People still buy from people they like and feel comfortable with.

4. Can you get your customers to follow you—everywhere? If you want to get follow, it should be “around the Internet.” Are customers connected to you in the usual places— Facebook, Google +, Pinterest, Houzz and to your blog? Do they like what you post?

Customers leave because of "perceived indifference"

Customers leave because of “perceived indifference”

5. Be “nicer than nice.” Do your employees have the latitude to go out of their way for your customers or does everything have to be cleared through the manager? As a customer, we all want to speak with someone in authority.

Why not give your salespeople “perks” to share with complaining I was watching an undercover complainer at Zappos. She said she didn’t want the shoes, and the clerk said she should return them, and she would give her a free pair! This might be tough on your business, but a coupon on the next purchase shouldn’t be. Zappos motto,  “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with a WOW!”

RedHotCustomerService“Without customer service, a customer doesn’t have any customers,  good sales don’t necessarily bring back customers, but good customer service does.”
Lisbeth has been teaching businesses how to improve their customer service and the customer experience for over 20 years. To schedule a consultation or speak at your business, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com. If she’s not in her office, she can often be found mornings at the YMCA in East Greenbush.

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Three ways to Build Your Relationships, One Customer at a Time

Wellness Center

Wellness Center

The world has changed more than we know. I went to my favorite supermarket and saw this sign in front. More businesses are wearing “new hats” so they can compete. Hannaford also has a wellness center that is part of CHPHP and the YMCA in East Greenbush. I still think that’s a slam dunk. I met someone involved in this association, and she said this brings exercise and wellness to people who might not be able to afford the gym. It’s free, and the programs can compete with any of the gyms in town.  They’re trying to build relationships with their customers.

It’s time to think creatively. Many of you are holding events in your stores to bring in customers. Your business should be considered your home and having an event says, “Welcome. “I hear people saying but we didn’t do any business, and we didn’t have many people show up. This is not about doing business, but it’s about building relationships. If you didn’t get many people that you don’t know how to throw a party. If you want people to come you’ve got to tell them why they should come, tell them again, and then go pick them up! I know you’re saying it’s too much work, but building relationships is work. It means showing an interest in someone else and putting your own agenda on the “back burner” as they say.

I remember when we had an event in our store for contractors. Our biggest contractor said he didn’t want to drive the 40 miles to come to the party—I didn’t blame him. I said a car just left and would be there to pick him up at six! He said he was so embarrassed, but he showed up.

Sometimes it just means paying attention. Today in Pilate’s class a woman came up to me to talk about the class. She was very out of shape and said she wanted to talk with me about a weight-loss program I had mentioned. I knew the class would be hard for her, but I suggested her not worry and do what she could. I told the instructor about her who was kind enough to give her a little extra attention without embarrassing her. She felt special and signed up for the weight-loss program after class. I was so glad I took the time to talk with her; I knew she was serious.

  • Show that you care about others. Instead of waiting for people to talk with you, reach out. What do you have to lose?
  • Be genuinely helpful to others. That doesn’t mean doing it for them, it means noticing when someone needs you.
  • Just listen to someone. Sometimes just listening, without providing a solution can be very comforting.

 

Summer is around the corner; what’s next?

 

Lisbeth had been helping businesses build relationships with their customers for the last 20 years. Need some new ideas?

Lisbeth can be contacted at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Why do we Care What People Think About us? 4 Ways to get Over it

The sassy soprano with no talent.

The sassy soprano with no talent.

Most of us care what other people think; I would say it’s just human nature. However, some people are actually paralyzed by it. Are there people who really don’t care what people think and follow their dreams despite what anyone says? There seems to be one Florence Foster Jenkins, who fits that description.

Capital Repertory Theater in Albany, New York.

Capital Repertory Theater in Albany, New York.

Last night, we went to see “Souvenir, A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins.” Florence Foster Jenkins, she always went by the three names, was born in Philadelphia, in 1898, studied singing and piano starting at the age of 7. Her parents stopped funding her hobby (no doubt they realized she had no talent) but she eventually went out on her own teaching piano and voice.

Her singing was absolutely terrible; she didn’t understand pitch or rhythm. Despite this “handicap,” she believed she was gifted and continued to sing. When her parents died, she inherited sufficient funds to get her long-delayed singing career off the ground. She took voice lessons and became involved with many social clubs in Philadelphia, which she funded. She became director of music for many of them and founded the Verdi Club.

She started giving recitals in 1912 and was always the main character of any event. People cheered her on, most likely because of her huge investments in the club. According to what’s written about her, she was convinced she was brilliant. Her accompanist, piano player Cosme McMoon was quite talented and somehow stuck it out with her. If he  tried to correct her, she would tell him the piano was out of tune. Every time he wanted to quit she would remind him he would be a star if he stayed with her because he could publish his own works.

At the age of 76, her fans convinced her to give a public recital at Carnegie Hall. The tickets’ sold out quicker than any other events and more than 5000 people were turned away. Up until this time, no public critics were allowed at any of her concerts but this was a public venue and the reviews were scathing.

Florence Foster Jenkins was devastated but vowed to continue her career. Unfortunately five days later, she had a heart attack in her favorite music store and died.  She is considered to have a cult like following of young and old.

puppetHow can you turn off those voices inside your head?

  1. Stop over thinking the situation. Most of the time when you think, people are judging you, they probably aren’t. Really unless you’re a huge public figure or movie star, why would they care?
  2. What they think about you is “none of your business.” You don’t have any control about what they think about you so why bother? It’s more important that you get a grip on what you think about yourself and do something about that.
  3. Give yourself the freedom to be who you are. You can’t be liked by everyone. It’s your life, enjoy it. Be confident in yourself and stop second guessing yourself.
  4. Learn to control your emotions and respect yourself. Building confidence comes from setting goals and achieving them. Not everyone will agree with you or like what you’re doing. But really whose problem is that? We should all have a little of Florence Foster Jenkins in our head.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been helping businesses improve their sales and customer service for over twenty years. She believes it all starts with their employees and teaching them how to be more confident and better communicators. To schedule a consultation with her or have her speak at your business, she can be reached at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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By |March 15th, 2015|Blog, Blogging, Building a Brand|3 Comments

Does Asking for Help Show Your Power?

You're only as smart as the people you surround yourself with.

You’re only as smart as the people you surround yourself with.

How many times do you ask for help for do you think you should do everything yourself? I’m one of those who pride myself on being able to do most things. That was until yesterday when my car had a major problem, and it will take two days to get the part. I’m getting ready to go on vacation and have lots of last minute things to do, plus I can’t get to the gym. While I was walking home from the garage, I started thinking about my plight. There was an event I wanted to attend, and I was without transportation. I realized I don’t mind helping others, but I don’t like asking for help.

lifeIf I can do it, myself does that make me smart? On the other side, if I can’t do it, does that make me stupid? It probably doesn’t do either one, but we make up our own definitions. If I let you do it for me, does that make me stupid, and you’re smart? Do I take away from my own smartness if I allow you to do it for me?

Now that I’ve listed the downside of asking, what about the upside to asking for help? Why wouldn’t I want you to be smart? I pride myself in having intelligent friends so why not let them be who they are?

By allowing your friends to help, I am empowering both of us to show our value.

It felt funny to ask for a ride to the event, a ride to pick up cat litter and a ride to go to lunch. No one hesitated to help, in fact; they seemed to enjoy it.

Why does the opposite of strength have to be weakness? Understanding the strengths of others just allows me to know them better and what that person brings to the table. I get to value the diversity of my friends and also know what I can depend on them for. I have a friend who is afraid to drive out of the neighborhood. Because of her scare, her world is shrinking.  I have often felt she was weak, according to my standards, but I realize on many other levels; she is very strong. I just need not to judge her by my standards and realize what gifts she has to offer.

If you own your own business, everyone has a part to play. When you do their job for them, you actually steal their education. Are we also stealing their self-respect?

I never realized I would learn so much from not having a car!

Lisbeth Calandrino has been helping business owners get smarter for over 20 years. To schedule a consultation or have her speak to your employees, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com. She lives in Historic Hudson Park, Albany, New York, with her cat Rainyday.

 

 

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By |February 28th, 2015|Blog|3 Comments

If You’re Not Following Your Customer Who Is?

It makes it easy for you to stay in touch with your customers.

It makes it easy for you to stay in touch with your customers.

Everyone knows they should be following up on sold customers but how many do? It’s not just sold customers; what about customers who have been in your business and haven’t decided to purchase? Maybe you made one phone call and then got busy. We talk about managing the customer’s experience; how can you do it if you’re not in touch with the customer? You must stay in touch with your customers if they are to remember and refer you.

It’s not that we don’t want to do it, we just get busy. Salespeople have a tendency to be motivated by “shiny objects” called new customers.  It’s the hunt. Can I close them, how much money they will give me, this is exciting.

It's pretense.

It’s pretense.

In actuality the new customer is all about “smoke and mirrors.” No one knows anything about them and that seems to be the allure. What about the customer who purchased twenty thousand dollars of tile from you three months ago? At one point they were the “allure” and now they’re among the missing. You might be tired of hearing this but 90%, it’s gone up from 80% two years ago, of your customers come from referrals. It’s the customer who you said “Thank you so much to,” and then shoved out the door. You promised yourself you would send them a thank you note, remember their birthday and swore you would call them. But then the “shiny object” came through the door and you were off and running.

The customer can’t refer you unless the remember you. While they are tethered to their tablet and cell phone you are the last thing on their mind. If it matters to you, make it a priority.

What about the customer whose home you measured but never closed? After you got over the fact that they dumped you again you ran after the next new customer. Maybe they didn’t dump you after all but if you don’t follow up how will you know. Another lost opportunity.

goldI’m telling you, the gold is in the sold customers. But, what are you doing about it?

Greg Incardona from Followyourcustomer.com and I had the opportunity to have an interview with Dave Foster about sold customers.  If you would like to do a better job with this, listen to our  audio  interview with Dave Foster. http://bit.ly/18eZd7c.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been consulting with businesses for the past twenty years about sales and customer service. If you would like her to speak at your business or schedule a consultation, reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com. She lives in Historic Hudson Park, Albany, New York with her cat Rainyday.

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Nike Offers Personal Training in Store

Run, Train, Live

Run, Train, Live

I just read this article and thought I should share it with you. Why has it taken  so long for Nike, or anyone else, to add this concept. “It’s called, try it and buy it.” Notice the new slogan: Run, Train, Live.

I know everyone thought JC Penney was crazy when the offered Yoga in their stores but the concept was solid. It was the execution that was a little off base. This article is from Chain Store Age and thought it was worth the space on my blog.

New YorkFitness buffs can shop and also get in a workout at Nike’s new women’s store at Fashion Island, in Newport Beach, California. The 6,000-sq-ft. plus space combines the best of the company’s women’s products with an in-store fitness studio. The glass- and wood-paneled studio, the first for Nike in a U.S. retail location, features free group or personal fitness training sessions. It also enable customers to try out training and running footwear and apparel. The store offers an array of specialized services, weekly programming and special events. In-store services include run analysis, bra fitting, footwear trials and pant hemming. Programming includes the Nike+ Run Club, Nike+ Training Club and yoga classes. “Our women’s business has never been stronger and this new store is the ultimate expression of our commitment to women who run, train and live the look of sport and fitness throughout their day,” stated Amy Montagne, VP, general manager of Nike Women. I suggest that businesses hold monthly events for their customers but few rarely do. What better way then to show your customer you care then sharing something special with them? Nike is building communities with their customers.

February Heart Month

February Heart Month

February is Heart Month which offers so many ways to engage your customers. It’s about building a competitive advantage PAST your products. It takes more than products to build a competitive advantage. Products are everywhere; the  key is to present your products in an atmosphere that makes them interesting. This is what Nike is doing. Here are three  ideas:

  1. Ask yourself, how many times in my customer’s lifetime will they need my products? If you’re selling homes, it may be very few. Maybe that’s the reason why realtors forget who you are after the sale. If you’re good at what you do, why wouldn’t your customer refer you to someone else? 90% of your business is now referrals; it’s up from 80% two years ago!
  2. Talk with your customers,  what charities do they support and ask if you can help with a fund raiser. This is a great opportunity to bring in other vendors and access their data bases. If your vendors can bring in new customers to see your business, you’ve won the game. Raising money for a charity will also help you be remembered.
  3. This is the age of transparency: don’t worry about how silly or ridiculous your event is. Who knows it might turn into a reality show!
  4. If you need information on how to run and event; let me know and I’ll send you a copy of my book, “50 Events you can Hold to Bring in More Customers.”

I  would  love you to tell me about your event. Lisbeth Calandrino has been a Coach-sultant for the past 20 years helping businesses engage their employees and building strategies to impact their bottom line. Lisbeth lives in Historic Hudson Park in Albany, New York with her cat Rainyday. When not training, she can be found at the gym. Reach her at Lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.   

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