Archive for May 30, 2013

Be Kind To Teens – They Are Your Future Customer

 

Teenagers are an interesting breed – they are learning to become independent and are well on their way to adulthood, yet, if you’re a parent of a teen, you know that they still have toddler-like moments.

 

I’m sure retail or restaurant employees cringe a little when they see a group of teens enter a store or restaurant. In some cases, this may be warranted, but in most, it’s a good idea to treat them as you would any other customer, especially when your business caters to this age group.

 

Teenagers today are very savvy about knowing what they want and are already starting to show loyalty to certain businesses. Just like adults, sending the wrong message through employee interactions can stop that loyalty in its tracks.

 

My 15 year old daughter started me thinking on this path. For her birthday she received gift cards to her favorite retail store. We frequent the business often, but as she is getting older, she is starting to spend time with her friends rather than me.

 

She recently went on a shopping spree with gift cards in hand, very excited to be shopping for summer clothes. When she returned home, she showed me what she bought, but I noticed that she didn’t shop as much where she usually does. At the time I chalked it up to changing preferences or not finding something she liked and didn’t think too much more about it.

 

A couple of weeks later she asked to go shopping again with her best friend and asked for money. Remember her last purchases, I asked how she spent all of her gift cards based on how little she purchased. She said she had gift cards for her favorite store, but didn’t want to go there anymore. Surprised, I asked why, and she shared her story with me.

 

It turns out that she did go to the retailer on her last shopping trip. Instead of the cashier taking the gift card and swiping it to complete the transaction, which is typical, she was asked to swipe it on the credit card reader. Since she doesn’t have a debit card and has never done this before, she wasn’t sure what to do. She swiped it the wrong way at first and it didn’t register. The cashier told her to do it again, but didn’t explain that it needed to be turned over. So, she swiped it again with the same results.

 

The cashier sighed heavily and said she probably didn’t have a balance on the card, and asked her (in a condescending tone, or at least that’s how it was perceived) if she knew gift cards “ran out” at some point. My daughter knew what the balance was and said maybe she swiped it wrong, mentioning that she never did that before.

 

The cashier pulled the card out of her hand and finished the transaction in an abrupt manner.

 

My daughter was embarrassed by this and said that there were customers waiting in line behind her, which added to her embarrassment. She shared that the cashier made her feel like she was a stupid kid and didn’t take her seriously, and she didn’t want to shop there for a while.

 

So, for now, the gift cards sit in her room. I’m sure she’ll go back at some point, maybe not to the same location, but it’s a shame that this experience is keeping her from going back, not only for her, but for my pocketbook.

 

Sometimes it’s hard to keep it in perspective, but teens are customers too, and, especially when your target demographic is teenagers, it’s important to have a little patience and treat them as you would an adult customer. With many teens shopping at the same stores they may be frequenting as they get older, it’s a good idea to build brand loyalty now.

 

 

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Why The Best Prices Won’t Win Customers

 

Businesses who simply offer lower prices to get customers in the door may think that this is the way to win over their competition, but it’s not all. Prices may get them in the door – what will keep them coming back, truly gaining an edge over competition?

 

According to a recent article written by Geoffrey James, published by Inc.com, vendors have a better chance of getting clients by offering value, having the confidence to solve client issues and fill needs (and be able to make it happen), and really listen. Just having a lower price isn’t going to get you new clients, or at least not long-term ones.

 

The article talks about the top ten things customers REALLY want, and, as you will see below, price falls at the bottom of the list. Providing an outstanding experience, from the initial inquiry through to the deliverables, will go much farther with your vendor relationships.

 

People don’t want the cold call, “used car salesman” approach anymore. They want to deal with people who they can have working relationships with, who they feel can solve their problems and offer “solution selling.” This involves a lot of listening and thinking outside the box sometimes. If you can do this, price won’t be as much of a factor as it used to be.

 

Below is the wish list created by Inc.com: take a look at what customers really want and see how you measure up. Hopefully there are some good takeaways from the insight provided, and you can work to make sure you are giving your customers what they want.

 

1. Bring New Perspectives and Ideas

If customers could diagnose their own problems and come up with workable solutions on their own, they would do so. The reason that they’re turning to you and your firm is that they’re stuck and need your help. Therefore, you must be able to bring something new to the table.

 

2. Be Willing to Collaborate

Customers absolutely do NOT want you to sell them something, even something that’s wonderful. They want you to work with them to achieve a mutual goal, by being responsive to the customer’s concerns and ways of doing business. Ideally, customers want you to become integral to their success.

 

3. Have Confidence In Your Ability to Achieve Results

Customers will not buy from you if you can’t persuade them that you, your firm, and your firms offerings will truly achieve the promised results. It is nearly impossible to persuade a customer to believe in these things unless you yourself believe in them. You must make your confidence contagious.

 

4. Listen, Really Listen, to the Customer

When they’re describing themselves and their needs, customers sense immediately when somebody is just waiting for a break in the conversation in order to launch into a sales pitch. In order to really listen, you must suppress your own inner-voice and forget your goals. It’s about the customer, not about you.

 

5. Understand ALL the Customer’s Needs

It’s not enough to “connect the dots” between customer needs and your company’s offering. You must also connect with the individuals who will be affected by your offering, and understand how buying from you will satisfy their personal needs, like career advancement and job security.

 

6. Help the Customer Avoid Potential Pitfalls

Here’s where many sellers fall flat. Customers know that every business decision entails risk but they also want your help to minimize that risk. They want to know what could go wrong and what has gone wrong in similar situations, and what steps you’re taking to make sure these problems won’t recur.

 

7. Craft a Compelling Solution

Solution selling is definitely not dead. Customers want and expect you to have the basic selling skill of defining and proposing a workable solution. What’s different now though is that the ability to do this is the “price of entry” and not enough, by itself, to win in a competitive sales situation.

 

8. Communicate the Purchasing Process

Customers hate it when sellers dance around issues like price, discounts, availability, total cost, add-on options, and so forth. They want you to be able to tell them, in plain and simple language, what’s involved in a purchase and how that purchase will take place. No surprises. No last minute upsells.

 

9. Connect Personally With the Customer

Ultimately, every selling situation involves making a connection between two individuals who like and trust each other. As a great sales guru once said: “All things being equal, most people would rather buy from somebody they like… and that’s true even when all things aren’t equal.”

 

10. Provide Value That’s Superior to Other Options

And here, finally, at the No. 10 spot (below everything else) comes the price and how that price compares to similar offerings. Unless you can prove that buying from you is the right business decision for the customer, the customer can and should buy elsewhere.

 

Is Your Mystery Shopping Program in A Rut?

 

If you’ve had the same mystery shopping program for a while now, you may be  in a rut. How can you tell? Here are some signs it may be time to change things up:

 

1. You’ve always focused on a specific timeframe or day of week for shops:  Some clients prefer to have shops done during their “busy times” only, forgetting that the down times are just as important when it comes to customer service. If you’re only looking at one piece of the puzzle and haven’t changed it up in a while, you may be in a rut.

 

2. Scores are consistently coming back very high: while it’s great that employees are receiving high scores on the shops, it may also indicate that the program has gotten stale, and the employees have reached the bar OR have simply come to learn the shopper’s “routine” well enough to be able to spot them more easily and do well. This holds especially true for clients who tend to use the same “scenarios” or have the shoppers ask the same bank of questions of an employee time after time. It may also indicate that the bar needs to be raised and your staff needs to be challenged. You may be in a rut if you can relate to this.

 

If either applies to you, it’s time to change things up. Taking a look at the overall picture of your business is key; start mixing up days for shopping and time frames. Don’t just focus on the busy times – while you need to make sure that things are running smoothly during peak hours, making sure that employees are sticking to those same operational standards when it is slower is key.

 

Another thing to consider is to mix it up with your staff. Are you showing them the shopping reports soon after the shop has been completed? Any staff member working for you for a while will quickly learn that you shop your locations once a month, or twice a month, or whatever your schedule is. If you are shopping twice a month, for example, and employees see the reports soon after the shop, they’ll be less likely to “be on their toes” after the second shop has been seen. Unless there are some major issues that need to be addressed quickly, try not releasing the reports until the last day of the month. It will keep employees wondering and “on their toes” through the entire month.

 

Changing up the routine might help. While it’s important to evaluate the cleanliness of a restroom, for example, in some business types, this may be a tip off to staff that the person shopping is a mystery shopper. This especially holds true in businesses where restrooms are not often frequented. Remove that evaluation for a month or two to make the shoppers more anonymous. Do you require a knowledge question? Take out that requirement for a month and evaluate the scores – a decrease in performance percentages may indicate that this was a tip off to your staff and may give a truer picture of performance.

 

Mystery shopping is an extremely valuable tool to evaluate service standards – make sure your program is fresh and measures what you train for. Raising the bar on a regular basis will also encourage staff to continually do better, ultimately providing the best service experiences for your customers.