A tale of two stores
Recently, I was on the hunt for a specialty item I didn’t know much about, but had to buy.
I walked into Store 1. It was dark, cramped and grubby. I stepped up to the counter and waited for assistance. And waited and waited and waited.
And then waited some more.
Yes, it was a busy day; three people rushed behind the counter and another dodged down the aisles, fetching merchandise.
But not once did anyone acknowledge I was there. Not once did anyone catch my eye to indicate that he knew I was waiting. Not once did anyone say, “Be with you in a minute.”
To make things worse, several people who came in after me were waited on before I was and left the store with their purchases.
I was right behind them — without spending a penny.
Store 2 was bright, airy and clean, with wide aisles. The gentleman behind the counter looked me in the eye, welcomed me with a smile and asked if I needed help.
I gave him my requirements. He told me about two products available, recommended one and showed me a couple of low-cost items that he said would help me complete my task. (He was right.)
He gave me a few tips, explained the warranty, thanked me for my business AND carried my purchase to the car.
Here’s the take-away from this experience:
- Store 1 lost an immediate, $100 sale.
- Store 1 lost all my future business.
- On top of that, all my friends and colleagues will hear about my experience. (And yes, Store 1 WILL be named; there are no innocents to protect here.)
- To be more attractive to women, Store 1 needs to be gutted, pressure cleaned, improve its lighting and open up its aisles.
- Store 1 needs to immediately invest in customer-service training – before it has no customers left.
Obviously, Store 2 got my money then and will in the future. I praised the counterman for his helpfulness and wrote his boss about the great service his employee provided.
Store 2 “gets it” about women customers, in several areas.
- Women prefer to buy at stores with wide aisles with products within easy reach.
- They want their stories to be clean and well-lighted. While these qualities are not necessarily big priorities for men, they appreciate them, too. That’s like getting two customers for the price of one.
- Everyone wants to be treated with respect. No one likes being ignored or talked down to. Ignorance is not stupidity.
Why worry about women customers? How about the fact that they reportedly control $20 trillion in global consumer spending a year? Not only that, women account for about 85% of all consumer buying, and heavily influence buying decisions made by men.
How do you treat your customers?
Walk into your shop one day and look at it through the eyes of a customer. Do you like what you see? Is it welcoming, a place where you’d want to spend money? How are your prospects treated?
Then ask yourself: Which do you have, Store 1 or Store 2?
Of course, you don’t need to operate a bricks-and-mortar business to have good (or lousy) customer service. Here are some pointers for those who have an online business presence.
- Answer your emails within 24 hours, if immediate response is not required. If you are freaked out by the idea of letting an email go unanswered that long, create an auto-responder message along the lines of “Thank your for your email. I will respond within one working day. If this is an emergency, please call XXXX.” Remember: Every time you answer a call or text, or dip into your inbox, you are allowing other people to establish your priorities.
- Make sure your website is clean, accurate, up to date and responsive – meaning its design adjusts to the device your customers are using – and the links work.
- Establish and maintain regular working hours. Your website is your 24/7 storefront, not your physical body. Yes, you will have to work more hours some days than others, but train your clients to respect your personal time. This avoids unhappy experiences and bad online reviews as well as preserve your health and sanity.
- Do what you say you’re going to do when you’re going to do it. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver than vice versa.
If your business needs refreshing, create a plan for improvement. If you want to be sure your plan is put in place, coaching can help. It’s also important to consider the needs of the customer.
Listening to customers’ feedback about their buying experience can help you out too. By fixing their issues, you lessen the chances of others experiencing them. The more positive experiences customers have on your website, the more likely they are to return and recommend.
What’s your best advice to businesses on how to improve customer service? Please add in the comments below.