by Phil Wrzesinski
Wanna change your business for the better overnight? Put on a hat and go outside. (P.S. Don’t want to go outside? Just ask. You’ll be surprised what your customers say when you ask for their opinion. It is always good to get a fresh perspective of your store.)
The hat I want you to wear is that of a new customer, one who is visiting your store for the very first time. Look at your business through her eyes.
Right now, she’s not as valuable to your business as the loyal customer who named her third child after you and brings you Christmas cookies on Black Friday. But one day she is going to replace that customer as your MVC (most valuable customer) – at least until the grandkids arrive.
Every industry has its pros and cons. One of the cons of selling toys is that our market outgrows us quickly. We must constantly groom new customers. Think of it as a continuous job interview – you are the applicant and that new mom is the interviewer.
Good first impression
So you’re standing outside with a customer hat on. Even though you’ve looked at your front door a thousand times, you don’t see the worn-out window decal, the faded sign, or the out-of-date vendor sticker. The paint has faded so gradually you didn’t even realize the color of your store has changed.
Take a high-resolution photo of your front door and then print it as large as you can. Scrutinize the details in that picture with your staff. You’ll be amazed at what has blended into the landscape for you, but is front and center for your customer.
Take an especially close look at your signage. Is the word “No” prominent (as in No food, No pets, No backpacks, No more than two kids at a time)? The more often you say “No,” the more often your customer perceives your store to be all about the store and not about the customer.
Rather than saying what you won’t allow, try saying what you will. “Thank you for stopping by with your pet. While we allow all service animals in our store, we have a special place for other pets at the end of the bench, including a water dish that we clean daily.”
You can even make this a team exercise for your sales staff. Have them go to several points inside and outside your store, stop, and ask three questions.
1. What do the customers see from here?
2. What impression do they get from what they see?
3. Is that the impression I want them to have?
Do you offer special services such as layaway, gift wrapping, special orders? If not, what services do your customers ask for the most? Those are the services they think you would be offering. (Maybe you should add them.)
Look at your return policy. Is it designed to protect the customer or protect the store? The more restrictive your policy, the less customer-friendly it becomes. Just because no one has complained to you about it doesn’t mean that they don’t perceive your store to be more about you and less about them.
Whether you have a strict or liberal return policy, there will always be one person trying to game the system. Don’t build a policy to try to thwart him; build a policy to delight as many other people as possible.
We allowed returns for up to one year. Customers just liked the “idea” of not being restricted by a policy. Occasionally an item came back used and not resellable, but we almost always found use for it as a demo or donation. Those cases were few and far between.
Exceeding her expectations
Ask yourself this: “What does a new customer expect when she visits my store?”
Customer service is more than just policies, programs, and special services. It’s about how you interact with each customer at every touch point along her journey through your store.
She has expectations. If you don’t meet them, she won’t be back. Even if you do meet them, she still won’t be sold on you completely. You have to do more than she expects if you want to win her (and her friends) back. “Surprise is the foundation of delight. If a customer expects something to happen and it does, there is no delight,” says Roy H. Williams, bestselling author and marketing consultant. When you can figure out what your customer expects of you at every turn, you can train your staff to surprise and delight her.
Does she expect you to gift-wrap her packages? How about free gift tags so she can label them before she forgets what’s inside?
Does she expect to have a hard time finding parking? How about a front door valet service for the busiest shopping days?
Does she expect to have to wear her coat because you don’t have shopping carts? How about a coat check on colder days?
The only hard part about doing the unexpected is that soon it becomes expected. After we had given away a few thousand free helium balloons, I brought in an artist to teach my staff how to draw doodle animals on them to make them more surprising and delightful.
Perspective changes pricing
Wearing your new customer hat can instantly make you more money. If you were sitting in the audience for my first presentation of “Pricing for Profit” at ASTRA Marketplace & Academy, or have downloaded the free eBook on Pricing from my website, you know there is a lot of money to be made when you look at pricing through your customer’s eyes.
Too often we look at it only through the price list: if you paid $14 for an item, you’re likely to price it at $27.99. To your customer, however, there is no real difference between $27.99 and $29.99. In her mind, they are both a $30 item. Yet, without looking at pricing from her perspective, you’re leaving two extra dollars on the table with every item you sell.
Anything you have at $8.99, $18.99, or $28.99 is simply a dollar you are giving away. Same goes for $3.99, $13.99 and $23.99. In fact, the price points that best maximize her perspective are always going to be the $x4.99 and $x9.99 price points (after $54.99, you can effectively raise all your prices to the $x9.99 price point without losing a sale).
Have you ever known a lady going shopping for an $83 dress?
The same goes with your pricing in general. If you use whole dollar amounts such as $20, she perceives you as a “full-priced boutique store,” but if you use $19.99 she perceives you as a “value-priced store.” Knowing her perspective helps you choose your pricing strategy accordingly.
Your potential new customer has a perception of your store whether you’ve viewed the store through her eyes or not. When you wear her hat, however, you’ll see what you need to change to control her reality.
Phil Wrzesinski is a former retailer who spent 24 years running one of the most successful independent toy stores in America. Phil is now the national sales manager for HABA USA. In his spare time Phil uses the lessons he’s learned in a lifetime of retail to help others find their success. You can learn more about Phil at PhilsForum.com.