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.

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