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Lisbiz strategies: Is your call center the weakest link?

July 9/16, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 2

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Every business has someone answering the phone; technically, this is your call center. Your call center is a crucial personal connection your customers have with your business. There’s a company I often do business with called Harry and David. They are an American-owned, premium food and gift producer and retailer. Their employees are so well-trained, they almost act as your party planner. They even go back into old catalogues and look up specials for you. Nice, huh?

How many times have you called a business but were frustrated by the person who answered? Did you have to ask them their name? Did they sound like they were put out by your call? Did you feel they were multitasking and you weren’t part of their important conversation? You might have felt you were actually being rude by interrupting their day.

What I’m reporting is way too common and it’s a huge financial drain on business, maybe even your business. Unless you are actually monitoring the calls, the only feedback you ever get from your employees is someone called and needed information. You don’t get a sense of the emotions between the caller and your staff. It’s just as important to know what’s not said.

It’s because we believe everyone inherently knows what to say on the phone that the call center gets overlooked. However, phone skills are a highly valuable tool to have in your employees’ skill set. Call-center training will give your employees these skills.

Teaching your employees these valuable skills will make them more confident, improve sales and help gain new customers while retaining your current clientele. A more confident employee is also one who is happier, and happier employees will produce more happy customers. This will lead to higher productivity throughout your organization. A business needs to gain customers, not lose them.

So, what is a good call-center strategy? As the owner, it’s your responsibility to determine how you want your phones answered and to make sure it gets done through your management-coaching system. I suggest using my SMARTER system, which is an updated version of the SMART system. As a refresher, SMART is commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept. I have improved the SMART acronym to include “Evaluation” and “Review.” Having metrics you can evaluate and review with your employees will ensure they reach their highest potential.

If turnover is keeping you awake at night, getting your call center up to speed will fix that. The use of a monthly service to monitor your calls may be a profitable consideration. Oftentimes, it’s important to have another way to look at your problems. Call-center monitoring gives you another avenue to keep up on the vital signs of the health of your business. I had a client in New Jersey who set up a monitoring system to listen to her calls. We would discuss the content and the emotional consequence of the conversations. She said listening to the calls exposed what was going on between her employees and customers.

These are things I have in my bag of tricks gained over decades of fruitful experiences from business owners like you. I’ve worked with the best and the worst and, like you, I know the difference.

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Lisbiz strategies: Incivility can lead to a hostile environment

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

While a training program on workplace manners and courtesy may seem like overkill, the reality is this: Rudeness is an epidemic costing industries millions a year. For nearly two decades, Christine Porath, acclaimed business professor at Georgetown University, has studied and observed a sharp rise in rudeness, emotional harassment, bullying and other toxic behaviors that can cost companies financially and employees their health and well-being.

Civility represents social norms and rules that must be followed to positively and productively relate to others. More than ever before, people are feeling disrespected at work. Employees feel they’re working in a toxic culture with insensitive managers and being treated disrespectfully based on gender, race or religion.

Oftentimes, this incivility leads to more serious forms of harassment. All incidents of harassment require employers or managers to respond quickly and appropriately. If issues are left unaddressed, a hostile work environment can develop, which can expose employers to further complaints and lawsuits. What society seems to be gaining in terms of both knowledge and technological advancement, it’s losing out on basic social values that directly impact the bottom line.

To address the growing problem of incivility, a company must make it a top priority. Everyone must understand the concept of civility, its importance to a company as well as its typical causes and effects.

Skills needed to effectively practice civil behavior, as well as different ways organizations can systematize civility in the workplace, need to be discussed. The benefits to civility in the workplace are countless and will pay off immensely in every aspect.

When Porath asked people in one survey why they were uncivil, more than 25% blamed their organization for not providing them with the basic skills they needed, such as listening and giving feedback. If your employees aren’t behaving well, and you’ve already gone through the trouble of hammering home the organization’s civility message, ask yourself, “Have I also equipped them to succeed?”

Don’t assume everyone instinctively knows how to be civil. When coaching employees, focus on helping them learn to listen, give and receive feedback, work across differences and deal with difficult people. Don’t just impart information; be explicit about your organization’s values.

Make civility a part of your mission statement, posting it somewhere visible. Engage your team in a dialogue about what your norms should be, then make it clear to your employees they need to hold their managers and colleagues accountable for living up to your norms of civility. Be explicit about your organization’s values.

One great reason to practice civility, you’ve heard this before—no man is an island. No matter how talented or indispensable you are to your business, you need to rely on suppliers and other people to get things done.

It’s worth noting—civility goes beyond good manners.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: Build relationships, get the sale

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Last week a retailer emailed me with a problem: “Some members of my sales team are losing sales at the last moment. I’ve been in business 20 years, and nothing ticks me off more than when I watch a salesperson lose what appears to be an easy sale. In my head, it’s a slam dunk. What’s up with these people? Have they forgotten how to close?”

I give this retailer a lot of credit for not jumping into the middle of the sale; it must have taken a lot of discipline. If it were me, I would have been on my feet, selling and yelling, in hopes I could save the sale. If the sale seems imminent, ready to close and then vanishes, it sounds like there’s a failure to ask for the sale.

Salespeople are often obsessed with closing a sale. They push features and benefits in hopes that they will make it happen. By presenting features and benefits, we are also assuming that buying decisions are all logical. Research tells us that not engaging the emotional part of the brain is a huge mistake. For example, think about the last time you bought a car. You were interested in the car, gas mileage or service schedule, etc., but it’s likely when you got in the car you were more engaged with the new car’s look and smell.

With today’s consumer, the key is to open the sale with conversation not a sales pitch. Customers have plenty of information from the Internet. If they are in your store, they are looking more for a patient friend than an aggressive salesperson. There’s no need to rush the customer. It’s important to be where the customer is, not where you want them to be.

Savvy salespeople know that closing the sale relies on a series of sales conversations with the customer. Closing doesn’t happen by itself and its doubtful the customer will say, “I’ll take it,” as soon as you show her the flooring she asks for. Everything the salesperson says on the front end of the sale is in preparation for the closing. The Internet has changed the salesperson’s role in the sale, but if the customer is in the store, he needs help from the salesperson.

Successful salespeople work to develop a trusting relationship with their customers. Without one, the customer is not going to buy no matter what. The goal is to connect with the customer on a personal level. You may have friends in common, kids who attend the same school or you might like the same sports team.

The only place where a relationship may be unwanted is at The Dollar Store or any other off-price store. In these places, the salesperson’s main job is making sure the merchandise is on the shelves.

Building a solid relationship is the key to the sales process. Closing a sale is natural—providing you have done the right preparation. During the sale, it’s smart to check in with the customer, ask if she is getting the information she needs and how you’re doing. When the customer is satisfied, and you are confident, ask for the sale.

Enjoy your time with the customer. There’s no need to increase the pressure, in fact, that method can backfire big-time. Be yourself and engage her. You want the customer to have a positive feeling about you—she will be your connection to your next customer.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: Improving the customer experience is job No. 1

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By Lisbeth Calandrino

I was recently at my yearly cardiologist visit and noticed that everyone was so friendly, funny and helpful. This is in contrast to my primary care physician’s office where everyone is aloof and looks down at the patients.

It’s a very interesting contrast. I love my cardiologist and dislike my primary care physician. I’ve researched both practices, and everyone loves the CEO of the cardiology department—the love is “not so much” at my primary care physician.

Changing the customer experience can be costly and time consuming, but it ultimately starts at the top. The CEO sets the tone for the entire company.

If the CEO rages when things go wrong, he/she is setting the tone for the company’s culture. This tone trickles down to the employees, who treat the customers the same way they’re being treated. Unless the CEO makes the customer experience a priority, the customer experience will not improve.

Think about what is at the top of your customer’s list: saving time and personalization. Amazon Prime has taught us that at the click of a mouse, our order will be delivered the next day. Need food? Blue Apron and Hello Fresh will have delicious, pre-measured ingredients and simple, chef-made recipes delivered to your door.

If you aren’t interested in saving the customer precious time, someone else will. While Macy’s is dying a slow death, Stich Fix—an online retailer that offers personalized styling services—had a powerful IPO this year. Let’s face it, Macy’s comes from a model that would be described as “old retail.” Paring down sales staff and closing stores to become more efficient will not help them with customers who want something different. What happened to the “wow” factor? Can’t a department store be fun and entertaining? They should look outside their own box and take an idea or two from the Mall of America, which has invested in becoming a destination.

These days, personalization is more demanding. In the 1980s, my friend Ruth worked for a department store that catered to high-end customers. She knew what her customers wore, and she would pick out clothes for them four times a year and just ship them. It was pretty simple.

Sephora has also done a great job of creating personalized experiences for customers by marrying online and offline engagement strategies. All of this takes augmented reality and other tools that many retailers are not ready for. Sephora’s technology allows customers to try on different looks via their phone.

So why aren’t we there? By 2020, it’s estimated we’ll produce 44 zettabytes every day. That’s equal to 44 trillion gigabytes. That’s a lot of data—and most companies cannot process fast enough to keep up with it. Frontline employees are generally operating with data that’s “too little, too late.”

No, we can’t taste food over the phone yet. Online is still not the same as connecting with a real person—yet. However, some brands are making it possible for customers to shop a clothing store and virtually try on items.

The solutions to growing a better customer experience are becoming more sophisticated. It’s obvious that technology will be improving the customer experience, but first we have to take it seriously. The store culture has to make the experience a priority. Maybe your artificial intelligence isn’t there yet, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are willing to change when the tools are available.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: Managers should be trained to ‘coach’

April 16/23, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 22

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Every team looks to hire superstars. However, extremely talented people are hard to find and recruit—and did I mention expensive? Just look at major league sports teams and what they spend to bring in superstars. If you really want great talent, why not coach the ones you already have? Take those Clark Kents and turn them into supermen and superwomen.

If you aren’t already building superstars, consider the idea that your managers may just be managing and not coaching. Those who don’t coach aren’t necessarily bad managers, but if they don’t coach they are overlooking an important tool to develop talent. A good manager can kick your butt when it’s needed and help you focus on what you’ve been avoiding.

The coaching statistics are pretty impressive. According to a recent study by Knowledge Tree, sales representatives receiving at least three hours of coaching per month exceed their selling goals by 7%, increase revenue by 25% and improve closing rates by 70%. Who wouldn’t want those statistics?

Teams are how things get done in most businesses. Think about your own company—what jobs do you have that don’t depend on several people to get it done right? We usually don’t think about how we can coach individual members to make them even better. For example, if you owned a major league franchise, you would try to figure out how to get your investment to pay off.

Interestingly, you actually have a major league franchise and have a lot invested in the people who work for you. Think about how much you have invested in your showroom to keep it looking clean and up to date as well as your trucks and vans.

Things are good, you say, why change anything? This is often called the complacency of success and could be the beginning of the end. The more we want things to stay the same the quicker they are changing in the real world. They say hindsight is 20/20; it can also bite you in a place you can’t reach. You may be wasting a whole lot of time and money not doing anything. Here are somethings a coach can do for you:

Make your team more functional. You know those stupid jokes your employees play on each other when there’s nothing to do? Once they start building goals and questioning their values, they will have plenty to do. They will also begin to understand their team members and start working together. Tasks will get executed more efficiently when there’s something in it for everyone.

Help the team adjust to any changes. A good coach can act as a consultant and teach the team skills that will help them adjust. The coach can also teach problem-solving skills.

Help you see employee patterns. Good coaches look at nonverbal cues, the language people use when they speak about themselves and others. Do they say they feel powerful and then use “wimpy” or tentative language, such as “maybe” or “I should do that” instead of “I will?” These things take away from their power. Do they see themselves as team players but always use “I” instead of “we” when talking about how a task got done? Do they sit with their arms crossed while leaning back in their chairs? A coach can pay attention to these telling cues.

To learn more about coaching, join me at The Remodeling Show in Baltimore, Oct. 9-11, at the Baltimore Convention Center, where I will be speaking on, “The Coaching Edge, Building a Successful Team.” You can also call me at 518.495.5380.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: Complacency is the enemy of business

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

When things are good, we have a tendency to sit back. However, complacency is the silent killer and it can attack both big and small businesses. It reminds me of a memorable quote from Roger Babson, entrepreneur and founder of Babson College: “Neither success nor failure is ever final.”

This quote made me think of Howard Brodsky, cofounder and co-CEO of CCA Global Partners (the parent company of Carpet One). During a recent conversation, I asked him what he made of all the closings of old retail favorites such as Macy’s, JC Penney’s, Sears, etc., and what the implications are for the flooring industry.

“Retailers are just complacent and think they can thrive by sitting back and resting on their past successes,” he told me. “Being great just isn’t enough these days. When I was in retail it was easier to differentiate and to stand out from the pack. There were fewer competing choices for consumers. Today, being great is the price you pay for being in an industry; the key is to be great and outstanding.”

He went on to explain that everyone expects a personalized experience, and it is up to the retailer to make it happen. Customers want to be treated as if they are at the finest hotel, and every member of your team must be trained to deliver that service.

Another major problem is the U.S. is overbuilt, Brodsky noted. The U.S. has 40 square feet of retail space per person, which is 10 times the amount in Europe.

I also asked Brodsky for his opinion as to why Amazon would buy Whole Foods and if the retail giant actually needs a brick and mortar store. “Amazon amazed the world by its purchase, but it makes perfect sense,” he replied. “Amazon was interested in the grocery business and needed a physical presence. Whole Foods has more than 400 locations, which gives Amazon a place to try out their online super service and personalization with Whole Foods. Think about the special services Amazon Prime members receive.”

Consumers still love the personalized, intimate experience and contact they receive in a retail store—something not replicable online, Brodsky explained. In fact, businesses can tap into these consumer demands and emotions by having a combination of online and brick/mortar. While it used to be enough to know how to buy at the right price and then be a good marketer, now a retail store must be exciting and full of amazing experiences.

“The thing to remember is although the times may be unsettling, it’s exciting—retail isn’t going away; it’s time for a radical change,” Brodsky said. “The key is a culture that delivers memorable, distinguishable service both online and in the store.”

I then returned to complacency and Brodsky’s statements about personalization and asked if he had any suggestions for flooring retailers. He explained when things are going our way we have a tendency to want to “ride the wave.” However, the perfect time to experiment is when we don’t have a lot of pressure and stress. In fact, without tension we tend to make better decisions.

“You want to develop legendary stories that others will tell for you,” Brodsky noted. “You must anticipate the customers’ needs and deliver memorable experiences that meet those needs.”

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: Hope for the best, but plan for the worst

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

I was traveling through Newark Liberty Airport recently and stopped for a bite to eat. I didn’t have much time in between flights and was definitely feeling rushed. By the way, I was on my way to do a presentation for the Mid-Atlantic Floorcovering Association on how to acquire more outside business. (This story kind of emphasizes this.) While I was eating, I heard the server say the credit card machine was not working and they could only take cash. I knew I didn’t have cash on me. When I was at the Albany Airport the ATM machine wasn’t working so I just got on the plane.

I told the server I didn’t have cash and would have to send it to her. She was very sweet and told me not to worry; she didn’t have an address or any alternatives for me. She also didn’t know where the ATM was.

I told her, “I have to worry about it because if no one pays you, that will be the end of the business and your job, and I don’t want that to happen.” I was obviously more worried about it than she was because she told me again not to worry. I finally stood up in the restaurant and explained the problem to anyone who would listen. I said we should try to figure out how to pay them. If we didn’t, the servers wouldn’t have any tips for the day. People clapped and agreed so I left. I found an ATM, I got my money and went back and paid the bill. The server was very thankful, but the problem was not corrected. I know I could have gotten away without paying but that’s stealing. What bothers me is there was obviously no contingency plan in place. Can you imagine the cost ‘per square foot’ for that restaurant?

When I got back to Albany I went to the UPS store. The staff was talking about how they couldn’t get the password to work in their computer and they couldn’t access emails. The discussion was about whether they should call the owner. There was a conversation as to whether or not the owner was out of bed yet. In the meantime, the customers left disgusted.

There are a couple of important issues in both instances. One, there seems to be a lack of communication between the owners and the employees, and how much authority employees should have. An even bigger issue is employees having an understanding about business and customers in general. Employees should understand they are actually entrepreneurs. Taking care of customers and bringing money into the business are their two main jobs. When they do both well, everyone gets paid and the business flourishes. In both instances, the owners seemed to be lacking in their understanding of business.

Motivating people isn’t easy. They have to feel needed and important if they are to take their job and the business seriously. Helping your employees understand their importance the best way to motivate them. The level of authority and responsibility given to employees varies, but they should at least know what to do in an emergency.

Hamburger University was created to train McDonald’s employees in the art of restaurant management. “Everyone who works there must understand that each of them is running a multimillion-dollar business,” said Rob Lauber, vice president and chief learning officer of McDonald’s Restaurant Solutions Group. “So, we want to make sure they have good business grounding.”

Don’t your employees need the same thing?

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: Make your store rock over the holidays

November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

November and December are often the slowest months for flooring dealers. If you’re a salesperson, they can also be the most depressing. While everyone else is partying and rushing around, you’re waiting for customers to come in and buy flooring.

Here’s a list of things you can do to draw customers and bring cheer to your store.

Have “dress up” days. Put on your “Sunday best” and throw a party. There’s no limit to what you can serve, but how about hot chocolate, apple cider or blood orange Italian soda? Play holiday music and enjoy the day. Have your staff make their favorite holiday cookies and invite your customers. Post an event on Facebook and invite all your friends.

Create your own events. If there isn’t anything going on in your area, start something. Your store can be the center of the fun. Not sure what to do? Ask yourself, “What would I need to come downtown?”

Decorate your store so it becomes the focal point of the block. Look up all of the holidays and decorate for all of them. If it were my store, I would have vendors outside selling green wreaths, Christmas trees, holly balls and holiday scents such as cinnamon and cloves.

Give out an extra gift with every installation or large flooring purchase. In November, we gave out turkeys or gift certificates to the supermarket. Whatever you give out should be wrapped in holiday paper.

You can get free perfume gifts from Macy’s, coffees, mugs from Big Lots. How about having a makeup artist from MAC or Sephora come in and do free makeovers through the holidays? How about free manicures? It’s likely you will get plenty of customers to sign up.

Take photos for your social media promos. Use Twitter and Instagram and blog about your holiday fun. This is the time for an email newsletter filled with cheer and specials for or after the holidays. Fill it with photos from events through the year.

Hire masseuses to give free massages in your store if customers buy something. Market these ideas on your social media platforms. It works in the airports; I’m sure it will work in your store.

Hold a New Year’s Day party. This is a perfect day to serve lunch, bring in a piano and have someone play holiday music.

Buddy up with other retailers. How about doing the 12 days of Christmas and give away gifts every day? Bring in a florist, have festive wrapping paper and holiday cards. Offer to wrap presents.

Go high end with your store decorations. Customers should see a shop that looks elegant and up to date, even if they don’t buy. If you want to sell better merchandise, the holiday season is a good time to show your customers what they can look forward to for the new year.

Start showcasing products for the new year.  How about highlighting some of your best sellers for the holiday season? Bring in drapes, paint samples and quilts. This is the year of fleece, so why not have your store decorated accordingly? You can give them away with a sale or as gifts. Fluffy robes and slippers are inexpensive and fun to give away.

Don’t forget our pet friends. You can give away toys, bowls, catnip, cat and dog coats and treats. Have a contest for the best-dressed pet.

Whatever you do, enjoy the holidays and plan for a profitable new year.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lizbiz Strategies: Don’t let red-hot sales leads get too cold

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoThe good thing about hot sales leads is they tend to fall right in your lap. The bad news is you can’t sit on them for too long before they get stale.

Managing and following up on leads can be tricky. I get it. You meant to call them, but you were too busy. Now you’re afraid to follow up because you think the lead is too old. Finally, you reach out to the customer and she tells you she has bought from your competitor.

Why didn’t you make the time to call? You’re not the only one who hates calling people you don’t know and the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes. You need to contact potential customers as quickly as possible. Remember, they have already expressed an interest. If they haven’t gone to your website and connected, it’s your job to get them there.

Are you a manufacturer who supplies consumer or commercial leads to retailers? Purchasing leads is a big investment for your company, but if no one is keeping track how will you know what’s become of them? This is where a targeted, touch-point email marketing program can keep potential customers interested in coming to your retail store.

A touch-point email marketing program is specifically designed to deliver a particular message to your potential customer and is personalized to her shopping needs. According to Campaign Marketing, email is highly ranked in the marketing kingdom with a 380% ROI and $38 for every $1 spent. An email campaign is about building relationships, not just selling. Each email should have a message that is important to the customer. Even if you haven’t met her, useful advice on your products will begin to build your relationship. It doesn’t mean sending one note to the customer and disappearing. You must be consistent and have a series of timed touch points.

It is also not the holiday card you send out to relatives to see if they’re still alive. This is an electronic magnet. Instead of putting it on the customer’s refrigerator, it will stay on her mind through digital marketing.

There’s no reason why you can’t put together a three- to five-week email campaign starting with a friendly hello introducing yourself and an invitation to come in and pick up a gift. You can also direct her to useful information on your website, such as design tips or color ideas.

The key is to build a relationship so the potential customer feels like she knows you and wants to meet you. This is also why you need to market using your personal picture. It has been proven trust increases by more than 75% if the customer sees your picture before she meets you. Real estate agents routinely include their photos in marketing promos.

Remember, these potential customers have been referred to your store, so you’re just reaching out and providing something of value before they meet you.

Following up with your prospects is not a new idea, and current Internet tools make it even easier and more effective. There are a host of customer relationship management tools out there to help you track prospects from initial contact to close. But the key lies in acting fast; recent data shows if you don’t contact someone who submits an online inquiry in about 10 minutes, your chance of converting that lead into a sale decreases by the time you get to 30 minutes. Don’t make a big mistake by ignoring them.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: Explore the customer experience at TISE

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoRetailers have confused the customer experience with customer service, but they are not the same thing. Providing exceptional service and improving your competitive edge through customer experience will keep your customers and business operational.

Customer service is considered a single transaction that takes care of the customer’s immediate needs. This includes booking a customer’s install, product selections or an in-home measurement. You can do all of this effortlessly and still not provide a notable experience.

Practicing customer-service basics is not sufficient anymore. There are too many outlets competing for your customer’s attention. With increasing competition in the marketplace, all stores are looking for ways to create differentiation and offer value and an unforgettable experience their customers will share with family and friends.

The customer experience is what happens between you (your store) and the customer over time. It is the customer’s perception of what you do. Let’s say you tell the customer you will be at her house at 2 p.m., but you don’t get there until 3 p.m. and you forget to call. Even though you are late, you have taken care of the customer by getting to her house, but her perception of the experience is that you can’t be counted on. This perception will be hard to change and is part of her experience. Staying on top of the experience means paying attention to every encounter you have with the customer.

Once you have mastered basic customer service you must find a way to take it up a notch. Creating an outstanding experience alongside service will take preparation and planning.

This year at Surfaces there are two presenters who are well versed at sustaining the customer experience: Pamela Danziger from Unity Marketing and Tema Frank, chief investigator at Frank Reactions.

Danziger’s seminar, “Transforming your Floor Covering Store into a Shop that Pops,” will provide you with seven steps to extraordinary retail success. She breaks down the new retailing experience based on “people, people and people.” The key is to build a unique and personal experience with the customer. In addition, Danziger will take you behind J&S Designer Flooring in Morristown, N.J., and show you what they are doing to build the customer experience. Her session will be held Jan. 30 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., code TU05.

Frank is considered to be a customer experience and digital marketing pioneer. In 2001, she founded the world’s first company that tested both online and offline customer service. To do this she developed a panel of 75,000 mystery shoppers worldwide. In her seminar, she will talk about strategies that are essential in a technology-driven marketplace. She will also create a LinkedIn group to share best practices among the participants. Frank’s session will be held Jan. 29 from 3:30p.m.-5:00 p.m., code MN25.

According to both Danziger and Frank, the real keys to the customer experience are the people in your store who interact with your customers. If they continue to do the same things over and over, it’s likely the customer will not remember who you are or come away with a unique feeling about your store. If the experience is not different than your competitors it’s likely they won’t rate you very highly or talk about you on social media.

If you want the customer experience that “pops,” you will have to get your employees to another level.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.