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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Customer Service in the age of Shoppertainment!

I opened my retail craft store about ten years ago. There was only one similar store in my area and the owner had a well earned reputation as a curmudgeon. The staff was comprised of family members and each seemed grumpier than the next. It wasn’t difficult to steal customers from this store. Heck, all I needed to do was refrain from snarling and I was ahead of the game.

A whole lot has changed in 10 years. The internet has altered the way that we shop. The economy has changed the amount we spend when we shop. A quick Google search makes it easy to compare prices from the comfort of our living rooms. Consumers have more choices than ever before.

What is the Crafty Retailer to do?

You can go to the store each morning and hope that business walks through the door, or you can take the steps necessary to guarantee it! Focus on Customer Service and improve your Shoppertainment Quotient!

If I need a bead or a skein of yarn, I can easily get it online. So what makes me hop in the car and take the time to go to a retail store? Shoppers buy things to reward themselves, to make a statement, or even boost self-esteem. Face it…retail therapy is fun. Are you doing your part to turn Shopping into SHOPPERTAINMENT? It really doesn’t take a whole lot of time or money to WOW your customers. Start with the baby steps.

The Greeting. Imagine walking into a yarn store. You start to peruse the merchandise and a sales associate looks up from the register and says in the requisite monotonous sales voice: “Let me know if I can help you with anything.” Do you feel warm and fuzzy? Nope, not really.

If it doesn’t work for you, don’t think it is going to work for your customers. In fact, at your next sales meeting please issue a moratorium on the phrase. No good sales person should be permitted to utter that lame greeting ever again! Seriously. A better alternative would be to ask about the shopper’s craft interest. Is she looking for an item to complete her current project or is she jumping into something new? You already have something in common….you are both crafters…now build on it!

The Image. Dress the part. You are in a creative industry. Wear it on your sleeve! You knit? Adorn yourself with amazing sweaters. You bead? Wear jewelry that will turn heads! A year or so ago I called upon a store that was well stocked and well staffed. Unfortunately, every single employee wore clothing more suitable for a sweaty workout than a business establishment. The store is no longer in business. The sloppy attitude carried over into other aspects of the store. Speed of the leader, speed of the pack. Set the standard! Your associates should dress and act like the professionals you pay them to be!

Communication. Keep a bulletin board in a prominent place. Use it to announce current store specials and sale items. Announce happy customer news…birthdays, new babies, etc. You are creating a community culture!

Answer the phone within three rings. It sometimes helps to assign phone duty so that there is no question as to who will “own the phone.” There should be a uniform store greeting that everyone must use when answering the phone.

Take responsibility for mistakes and fix them---FAST---even when it is not your fault. People like to forgive … give them an opportunity to do so!

Go the extra mile. It really isn’t too hard to stand out from the crowd. We have all stood in line for too long while the sales girl had a private conversation on her cell phone. We've scanned the aisles to find a sales person---any sales person--- only to find a whole pack of ‘em talking together in the electronics department. Sigh. You know what I mean…those moments when you are smiling on the outside but screaming in your head.

It only takes a bit of extra effort to WOW your customers. After all, when you do something positive and unexpected, it makes people feel good. They remember it. They associate those feelings with you and your store. Make the effort … it will come back in spades!

RANDOM PROMOTION IDEAS: Create a promotion that causes commotion! You want your promotions to create a buzz in the community. Think outside of the box...the promotions need not even be related to your industry. Anthropologie, the high end clothing and accessories chain, recently generated a great deal of excitement when it sponsored In Store Craft Workshops to repurpose and refashion clothing. Think about it. A store that SELLS CLOTHES had a workshop teaching customers how to "UPCYCLE" THEIR OLD CLOTHES. What a concept. The publicity that this promotion generated was priceless. This is a perfect promotion for any craft store...start working on your press release now! The "Green/Recycle" angle will appeal to your local newspaper and garner attention. Go for it!

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