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Monday, May 17, 2010

Customer Service, Anyone?

One of my earliest blog posts focused on some outstanding customer service that I had experienced while shopping at a trendy New York boutique.  I was on a vacation with my daughter and the visit to this shop was one of the highlights.  It was a great trip:  lots of was money spent, a copious amount of mother/daughter bonding took place, and there was even an "extortion worthy" picture taken with the Naked Singing Cowboy...yes, a good time, indeed.

However, this one particular Manhattan Boutique really stood out for both of us.  The clothes were amazing, but it was more than the clothes---after all, there are lots of cool shops in the City.  It was all about the customer service!

We had been walking for a long time, we were hungry, and we were carrying lots of shopping bags.   We were trying to do more walking than cabbing so that the cab fare money could go to our clothing budget.  We were tired and grumpy...and we wanted to get to the hotel NOW.  Forget the savings....it was time to hail a cab.   No more shopping, no more delays.

We were making our way along the street, trying to hail a cab, when we stopped in our tracks.  OMG!  Look at that window!  Clothes that appealed to teen and mom were displayed in a captivating window.  Our feet no longer hurt, lunch could wait....we had our second  wind!

We spent a minute taking it all in...display after artful display...then we got down to business.  We were happily gathering items to try on and a beautiful woman appeared with an armful of items for me to consider.  She had been watching us...saw what we were attracted to and got busy.  Her guesses as to sizing and style were spot on.  She was charming and knowledgeable.  I assumed that she was the shop owner because her behavior was so professional and proprietary.  I was wrong....she was a sales clerk.  Wow.  Sometimes sales ability comes naturally, but most incredible sales people get there through proper training!

Sadly, it has been over  a year and I have encountered nothing similar since.  The customer service I received recently is more typical:

I was in the check out line with a friend.  There was one customer at Register One, which was staffed by a young man.  There was an employee filling out paperwork at Register Two.  A third employee, a teenage girl, was standing between the two, leaning on the counter and staring vacantly into space.  Although the sale had concluded, the  young man at the register was having a lengthy "nice weather we are having" conversation with his customer.  Vapid girl continued to be vapid----there was no smile, no eye contact, no nuthin'!  The third employee was engrossed in her paperwork and was clearly not going to let customer service interfere with her agenda.   It was kind of odd, but not completely atypical.  This went on for about five minutes.  Five long annoying minutes.

My friend had several plants and I was carrying a 50 pound block of chicken feed.  It was getting heavy and I was starting to get impatient.  The guy at the first  register finally concluded his weather dissertation  and the lady at the second register appeared to complete her paper work.  They simultaneously looked up with big bright smiles.  They were talkative and engaging.  Even the vacant eyed teen girl came to life with a smile and eye contact.  It was really, really weird.  It was like we were invisible until it was "our turn."

A Twilight Zone moment.

Where does your sales staff fall on the Customer Service Continuum?    "Speed of the Leader, Speed of the Pack."  You are setting the bar!  Are you doing a good job in training your employees?  Communication is critical, and yet it is often very difficult for women business owners to communicate effectively with their staff.  Many shop owners have such a innate desire to be liked that they find it difficult to be assertive.  They are worried about appearing "bitchy."  Get over it!

You are not being a bitch by making your expectations clear; rather, you are only being a bitch if you act like one while you are communicating your expectations.  Be a STEEL MAGNOLIA!   It is totally fair to expect the people you pay to do the stuff you want them to do in order to TO MOVE YOUR STORE FORWARD.    Employees generally want to do well---they want to please the boss, they want the store to be a success.  Too often they are simply not sure how to go about it.  Unfortunately, it is easy to lose control of your shop if you do not establish clear processes and procedures.

Consider asking a friend to act as a secret shopper and report back to you.  Give her $50 bucks to spend in your store WHEN YOU ARE NOT AROUND.   The owner of the feed store probably would be horrified to learn about my experience....at least I hope so!  I wonder what you would learn if you could be a fly on the wall in your own shop?  It might be interesting to find out!

A good sales person is worth her weight in gold, and a bad sales person can cost you the same!  A sales STAR will know your product line as well as you do, will enjoy crafting so that she can engage your clientele, and she will be personable without becoming cloying.  She will take direction but has initiative, even offering you suggestions as to how to improve the process where appropriate.  She takes every opportunity to "up sell" and will make each customer feel like a treasured friend.  Does your staff make the grade?  Have you ever trained them to "up sell"?  It doesn't take much effort to ask the gal who is purchasing fabric if she is "all good with thread."  It is not high pressure, could save the customer from having to make a return trip, and will steadily add to your bottom line.

Sales Consultant Sam Manfer has a great article on the subject of employee motivation here and you can download  a motivational staff  Bingo Game here.     There is no excuse to have a "C level" employee in your shop with so many folks looking for work.  Mediocrity sucks!  Take the time to cultivate the "A" Talent and watch your balance sheet respond to the change!


IN OTHER NEWS:

I don't know nuthin' bout birthin' chicken babies....but I am sure learning!  I have had hens and one rooster for the last few years.   The experience has been an absolute blast.  They are very funny to watch, easy to care for, and prolific egg layers.  There is something remarkable about walking to the coop to collect fresh eggs every day!  Unfortunately, I have never had a hen "go broody" and want to hatch her eggs.    I found an incubator on Craig's List and decided to give Mother Nature a push!  I  I do not know for certain how many of the eggs are actually fertilized, but  Mr. Rooster appears to have quite a way with the ladies.    All day, every day, if you get my drift.  In fact,  I am surprised that there hasn't been a clucky rebellion to whup his randy ass.   In any event, I put 13 eggs in the incubator and hoped for the best.  It has been three weeks and the first egg started to hatch yesterday.  The totally cool part....I could hear the chicks peeping long before a single egg started to crack.  It has been great fun, although Rosie the Wonder Dog thinks that I have a tray full of squeaky toys that I am keeping from her. She is beside herself with excitement.




I am going to have to keep a close watch on Rosie!  She is a bit too interested, I think!


 



IN THE STUDIO:

I am still working on the table runner but hope to have it completed before the end of the week.   The runner will be constructed of several needle felted pieces that are then "assembled" via the wet felting process.  The tutorial should be available by the next post.  The picture at right should give you an idea as to the scale. I am working on a bright blue trim and colorful felted fruit embellishments for the edge.  It should  be a cheerful addition to the kitchen table!


The next project on my To Do List involves a Handbag Makeover.  I collect vintage handbags and I usually leave them exactly as I find them.  I picked up the  vintage burlap and leather bag at left  for $1.50 at an estate sale. Although it is a great size and is very well put together, it screams "little old lady" to me.  I figured that it was worth spending the buck fifty to see if I could morph it into something fun.  I plan to cover it with felted flowers and crystal embellishment.  Stay tuned!

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