Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Customer Service - Why stores fail and close

 The apparent and sad truth is that a person or company that provides average to above average customer service is considered amazing. When in reality, it should be a standard or average. We have come to accept crappy service in what we do everyday. From restaurants, retail, wireless, banks, sales reps, etc, etc, etc. I will actually spend a little more for the right customer service, because it's that important. We spend money where we feel welcomed and appreciated for our business. So, if you're a business that is sales driven whether retail or wholesale, it would be in your best interest to make sure your customers returned. Repeat business is the difference of thriving for years to come or eventually closing your doors(you'll blame someone else for it like Nike SB or someone).
 What does great customer service actually mean and include? It's the easiest possible answer you can imagine.... EVERYTHING. Everything from store appearance to merchandising to organization to inventory to product knowledge to attitude and so on. I'll go over a few reasons below.
 If your business isn't clean, well lit, and shopable it doesn't matter what your selling, it feels like low quality crap. Right or wrong that is the customer's perception of the product based on environment. Taking minutes a day to make sure light bulbs work, stuff is put away correctly, vacuum/swept, dusted/wiped down goes a long way in the perception you care about the product and the customer, therefore it must be good enough. Plus, stores that aren't cleaned like that are actually at higher risk of theft, both internal and external. How could you tell if your place is a mess?
 The biggest and common mistake a small business makes is merchandising the store. I'm referring to both visual and product merchandising. First, product you choose to carry in your store/business is about ONLY 1 person, the customer. You have to be more objective to what the customer is buying and wants to buy. This isn't about your ego or personal choices, because you aren't paying your bills, the customer's money is. The customer generally comes in with an idea of what they want to buy, you don't have it, they go to someone who does..FACT. The customer could care less about your personal angst against Nike SB, Microsoft, Apple, big business, and soap box stand on with them. They want that item, they'll spend their money elsewhere. It's not selling out, it's keeping the doors open to your business and food on your table. I'm not saying to change your personal beliefs and buying habits, but realize those don't pay your bills. If you don't care and end up closing shop, remember to only blame one person, YOURSELF, you made the ultimate decision. Now visual merchandising can really boost sales on products, if it can't be seen, it won't sell. The VM is your free salesperson that speaks louder than you do. Also, goes back to store appearance as well.
 Last ones tie together too, Attitude and product knowledge. If you don't know crap about the products you carry how in blue hell are you going to sell it? Plain and simple, gives the customer actual reasons to buy the product and trust in you and what your trying to sell. Keep a pleasant attitude, Joe Customer doesn't care about your bad day and don't need to be subjected to it. Treat them like crap they'll leave to a competitor that won't and spend more doing it. Then trash your business to friends, who tell their friends, put it on Facebook and Twitter. Remember, bad news ALWAYS travels faster than good news. Don't over promise something you can't deliver, you set yourself up for failure. Always best to under promise and over deliver, blow the expectations, you come out looking like a hero.
 That's it for now... I'll leave you with something I learned when I first started out in retail 23+ years ago and have never had a store lose money year over year.

The customer isn't here for us, we are here for them
The customer shouldn't feel grateful we are here, we are grateful they are.
The customer is the one who writes your paycheck and allows us to be open.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

First and final impressions in Skateboarding and Life

 I think we've all heard the phrases "leave a lasting impression" or even "he/she left a good/bad first impression". Took me a few too many years to figure out how important those phrases are in life. Leave a bad feeling behind and you may never get a second chance to show who you really are or can be. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm NOT saying to be someone you're not or even kiss anyone's ass. Just be a genuine human being to yourself and others around. Where am I going with all of this drivel? When you are younger, you are laying the foundation for the world of the person you are and want to be. Be an asshole enough and eventually you are standing by yourself, alone, and desolate inside(Ask Ritchie Incognito how being a dick is working out for him).
 I see a lot of young and large egos in skateboarding and elsewhere. Which a large ego can be confused with confidence and quite often is the case. The path I want to touch on, is the over inflated ego. I think it's amazing and necessary for a sense of confidence in ANY person, period. It enables you to push not only your own limitations but also perceived public possibilities and social stigmas. Example, there is a kid that can flat out skate his ass off and create new levels of tricks and style, pushing skateboarding forward. Same kid thinks he's too big for humility or common courtesy. He either ignores or belittles someone not as good trying to learn a trick he knows, gets on social media and balls of stone and talking to crap to people with a difference of taste or opinion. The kid he teased either gives up believing what he heard or tired of what he heard, people he harassed online think he's the biggest douche bag on the planet. Either way, he doesn't know who those people are or could have been. He was making fun of the next Rodney Mullen and being a douche to the owner(or friend of the owner) of one of his flow sponsors that drop him and then people hear why and distance. Similar types of excommunications have happened to people before, not all got second chances. Basically, it all has a lasting rippled effect that is infinite. How do think stereotypes gain any traction?
 How do you want to leave your mark in this world? Are you the kid who laughs with friends and helps the next person up? Or, the asshole that everyone avoids and if sponsored, avoids your products?
These are easy choices to make, A or B. The conscious and educated choice is yours to make. Try watching the movie "Pay It Forward" to better understand the ripple effect.

Good Luck

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hypocrisy and money in skateboarding

 I hear and read every single day and several times a day, people getting on a tirade about big business raping skateboarding and skateboarder owned businesses. Then I have to laugh at them wearing Vans, DC, Globe, Diamond supply Co, etc.... The previously listed are yes, once skater owned groups but are now are what everyone pisses and moans about. They all sell to gigantic retail conglomerates as fast if not faster to the local skate shop, and giving the bigger retail doors a bigger bulk discount the shops can't afford to receive. Therefore your double standard of money allocation and attention.
 Speak some honesty with your money if your going to bang that drum. There are dozens upon dozens of new companies by skaters starting their dreams in order to give back to this industry. Want a more independent shoe company, try Fallen Footwear or Servant. Instead of Diamond hardware(which sucks now, anyway) try, Knowgood Hardware. Instead of Grizzly(Diamond affiliated) use Filmbot instead. Some others would be SML Wheels, Elephant Brand, BrenGuard Skateboards, Chance(Canada Only), or your local Shop deck.
 Ideology isn't a bad thing as a whole, it's necessary. It will lose all meaning and validity though when spoken behind hypocrisy and money trails. I am in no way endorsing or encouraging people to give up on companies or ideals, just be smarter about the drum they bang next time they hop up on a soap box. Nor am I "hating" on any person making a ton of money, that's what businesses are supposed to do.
  I don't bang any drum or scream injustice about any of it. Maybe it's because I've skated since '84 and been in retail since '90 and understand the art of business a little more than the average bear on the street(no, I don't claim to know everything). Yes, I do try and support my local(Westside) as much as I can.
 Curious about my current personal choices? I use(d) Elephant, Real, Blind, Mystery boards... Spitfire F4s & Bones STF... Bones Swiss bearings... Knowgood Hardware(diamond before I found Knowgood to be tons better)... Mob & Filmbot are preferred, used Grizzly and Paradox... Indy and Thunder(hopefully soon Theeve).... I skate Nike SB and Fallen Footwear only anymore. Etcetera project insoles only. These are current preferences, but really looking forward to trying new and possibly better brands out there.
 All of this done and said... at very least, give the new guy/brand a go and you may be impressed and find a new company before it became big. You'll also help foster growth of someone's dream and passions. That's the ONLY way we can continue to grow and develop skateboarding.