Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Getting Smarter in Retail


Resourceful retailers are finding creative ways to reinvent themselves and transform their business into something that entices and keeps customers. The more creative a retailer is, the more that business is going to last. Even in an economic down-turn, 50% of consumers will often pay more for a better customer experience.

While filming Smart Retail™, I saw some pretty clever retailing and it brought to mind all the opportunities that are out there for independent specialty retailers in this threatening economy. What it all boiled down to was unique customer experience and exceptional customer service.

Times have indeed shifted and retailers had to cut back to basics. Interesting that basics included customer service, isn’t it? This means that, in many cases, retailers had once dropped out the fundamental action of servicing their customers in better, more competitive ways.

The days when retailers could just sit back and watch customers come in because of location or brands or nice merchandise are over. Now retailers need to get on the ball and drive customers in with offers or gimmicks and keep them coming back because of something exceptional.

That something exceptional falls into customer service.

I once came across “the Japanese way” of customer service, which is giving customer-service representatives time for long conversations with targeted customers and tuning into the customer needs.

One time I was at an electronics store and was being serviced by an employee who was interrupted by another customer needing assistance while helping me. The employee got on his walkie-talkie and got another service representative over to assist the other shopper without making either one of us feel ignored. He then proceeded to give me his full attention again showing me this and explaining that and taking the time to make sure I could make the right decision on a product.

Servicing a customer is similar to how we want to be treated by our friends and family. We like the fact that our friends and family know us, know what we like, and treat us with more warmth than a stranger might treat us. It feels good to know they care and, in turn, they earn our loyalty and love.

When a wife prepares a gourmet meal for her family, sets the table nicely, and presents the food in a lavish manner, this is an over-and-beyond way of preparing a meal. It expresses that she cares and this transmits to her family who are experiencing something other than an average meal.

One of the retailers we filmed put on a party event, which they do every Thursday night at their store. Elaborate bouquets of flowers were arranged on tables, tasty snacks were laid out, wine was poured in nice wine glasses, and employees were greeting every guest as if they knew them for years. You would watch people walk in and stay for hours browsing around, talking, and just enjoying themselves.

Many of those people were already loyal customers who showed up as if they came to visit friends. Others had never been inside the store before and it was pretty certain that they left as a new loyal customer.

That came about because of customer experience.

And then there’s a specialty sports shop that specializes in skate boards which holds regular skate board events in their store, making the customer’s experience a fun one. Most of their customers are the type that wouldn’t think of shopping elsewhere and many of their younger clientele even tell the employees that they work to shop there.

One café turned their struggling business around based strictly on kindness. As local businesses closed down, their patrons vanished, until the owner promoted a campaign around kindness. Soon, the café was filled with people who came from all over town to experience participating in acts of kindness.

I myself have dined at particular places because of the experience I get when I go there, even though I may prefer another food menu choice. The employees that serve me treat me like a good friend has just come to visit, and we’re on “How’s the kids?” terms.

Many hair salons have loyal customers coming back for years and years. One salon cut her prices to a customer who suffered a pay cut at her job. She would never have known this happened to her customer if they didn’t get on a personal level with each other.

A suit shop really had an over-and-beyond approach for helping customers who hit hard times. They promoted that they would give money back to their customer if they lost their job, and let them keep the suit.

I keep finding and reading stories every day about exceptional service and care. An apparel store irons a shirt for a customer who needed it for a meeting that day. A hand-written note was sent to a customer thanking them for shopping there and commenting on the outfit they purchased. A dress was sent to a tailor to make it fit their customer better. Drinks were offered at an upscale men’s store while they shopped. A foot massager was positioned at a comfortable chair for a shopper’s companion.

I could go on and on but, bottom line is to get to know your customers, know what they want, treat them with exceptional service and show you care. The way you do that, the way you provide an experience for them when they come to your store, is the way you’ll bring them back.

By Scott Kreisberg

Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/scottkreisberg


Post a Comment