Managing the Customer Experience

/Managing the Customer Experience

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

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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”

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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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If You’re Not Following Your Customer Who Is?

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

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

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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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