Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How can we use senses to work for us? Touch

How much do we pay attention to the senses when it comes to customer interaction? What we smell, what we can feel, what we see, what we taste and what we hear. How can we use the senses to work for us? How can we use them to enhance the level of customer service we already give?


A 2008 study at OSU found that if people spent 30 seconds touching an object instead of just 10 seconds, they were willing to pay more for it that they otherwise would have.

So, how well do you know your products? Can you take 30 seconds to properly describe the product? What are its features? What are the benefits? What are the cost savings? Is there an added value to the customer?

There is no doubt that the popularity of Cyber Monday - the online world's version of Black Friday - will continue to grow. Retailers are spending millions of dollars to attract more online business. Flashy websites, bargain prices, and trendy packaging are a few areas that retailers and marketing gurus focus a majority of their budget on each year. But there is a segment of the buying public that will only buy a product if they can physically put their hands on it.

Put the product in the customer's hand. Start talking. Start marketing. Know when to stop talking.

Customer Expectations

I had an employee who was having an allergic reaction to some medication last night so I had to go cover a store at closing. Fortunately I live close by so I was able to get there so he could go to a clinic and get checked out.

While I didn't have a sale, I did have a customer come in who was in a hurry. He threw a lot of questions my way and seemed very rushed. It appeared that he really didn't want to wait for the answer. He was wanting the "Reader's Digest" explanation to a "War and Peace" question.

Earlier in the day, an employee talked about his microwave. I remembered this after the customer left. And then it hit me . . . this customer wanted a gourmet meal in microwave time. I tried my best not to adapt my responses to his seemingly frantic questions. But maybe that was what he expected. Was he wanting a rapid-fire quick answer to his questions? Would that have better met his expectations so a sale could have been made?

It's not always best to mirror the posture of your customer. If they come in angry, it will not be in your best interest to become angry. Instead, if their emotion is negative you should take on a positive tone. Don't add fuel to their fire!

Blow them away by giving them their gourmet meal in the time it takes to fix it in a microwave.

Monday, December 28, 2009

How can we use senses to work for us? Smell

How much do we pay attention to the senses when it comes to customer interaction? What we smell, what we can feel, what we see, what we taste and what we hear. How can we use the senses to work for us? How can we use them to enhance the level of customer service we already give?


Let's start with the strongest of the senses. And by strongest, I am referring to the sense that can trigger the strongest emotional response. The sense of smell can bring about memories from many years ago. Sometimes those memories are pleasant and sometimes not so nice.

Think about your store. If a customer walks in and notices an unpleasant odor, you have already decreased your chances of a favorable experience, some say it by as much as 80%. When we smell something, the receptors in our brain trigger emotions, memories and (get this) a sense of well-being!! When these enjoyable scents are paired with equally enjoyable visual images, not only does the customer perceive the experience more favorably, but they are more likely to remember it and share it with others.

If you are like a lot of us, you are at the store for an entire day all by yourself. You gotta eat right? Sometimes our food may fill our stomachs, but the smell also fills the air.

Is your operation free of food trash and smells? Are you using aromatherapy to create a pleasant atmosphere for your customers? Does your operation have a "clean" smell to it?

The other side has to be considered as well. Does your operation have a chemical smell to it? Does it smell like toilet cleaner, floor cleaner or window cleaner? Does that broccoli you heated up in the microwave linger around like Limburger cheese?

I was at IKEA recently and it seemed everywhere I turned I could smell their cinnamon rolls. I resisted the urge but it wasn't easy. For some, the smell was so powerfull that I'm sure they gave in to the temptation. What is great about this is that it didn't cost them anything. The scent was free! What great marketing!

So, how are you going to use the sense of smell to work for you?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thank you retailers!

Well it's finally here. December 25th, 2009. Even on the west coast kids and kids at heart are waking up to find goodies and gifts and games under the tree. For those of us responsible for purchasing the gifts, did you take time to thank the sales person who helped you? Maybe they located a hard-to-find item. Maybe all they did was ring up your transaction.

Whatever the case, there is a level of expectation on both parties. Everyone expects to be treated with a certain level of courtesy. And we often are blown away when we receive what we believe is superior service. But have you gone out of your way to be a superior customer? It can be a very rewarding experience for both you and the person helping you.

Simple things like saying thank you, smiling and asking how their day is going can show that you care and are taking a genuine interest in them. Who does that sentence apply to? If you need to be a better customer service agent (employee) do it. If you need to be a nicer customer, YOU are in control of how you will act. It is up to you to act appropriately.

Merry Christmas to all. Decide now how you will share the Christmas spirit all throughout the year whether you are the server or you are being served.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."

I put it in quotes for a reason. It's a quote from Walt Disney.

I recently participated in the Disney Approach to Leadership Excellence program at the Walt Disney World's Beach Club Resort. One of the facilitators of the program had a pin with this quote on it. The pin features a picture of a young Walt Disney with Tinkerbell attached to the front of the pin.

Mary Flynn, one of the program facilitators, relates the story of the pin as follows:

The pin has a rather simple story. It was designed by a teammate of Jeff's and mine...Mark Matheis. Mark created a Disney Institute tour entitled, "Inspiration - Through Walt's Eyes."
As part of that design work, Mark went ahead and submitted a design for an original pin, exclusive to that program. The pin I gave you is that pin..."It's fun to do the impossible."

The story I told that was related to it was that one day after delivering that program, Mark was walking through Epcot...and he was wearing that pin. A Guest noticed it and got very excited about it and wanted to know how to get one. Mark explained that it was not for sale anywhere.

Several days later, one of Mark's friends called him to let him know "they're talking about you" on a particular website or chat room. Mark "tuned in" and observed a tremendous flurry of enthusiastic pin collectors and traders all talking about this Disney Cast Member named Mark and the special pin he was wearing.

I proudly wear the pin every day I am working. It is already a great conversation piece. But it is also a reminder of the program and the level of excellence that is interwoven into every aspect of one of the most recognizable brands in the world of business.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cannot vs. Can-DO

A few months ago I had the urge to put some of my thoughts on paper. This came about after returning from a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in central Florida. Sure, I enjoyed the rides, and the music, and the food, and the shows. But it was something that a Cast Member said that really stuck with me. At the last moment, we decided we wanted to go out for dinner so I headed off to the concierge desk to check on available dining locations.

When I approached the desk, the Cast Member (CM) motioned me over to his station. I told him that we didn't have any plans for dinner and being late in the afternoon, I asked if he could help me with some last-minute reservations. He said, "Of course!" That's it. That's all he said that impressed me. He went on and found us an available seating at Chefs de France. But it was the attitude the CM had that struck me the most. It was an attitude of why-of-course-I-can-help-you-why-wouldn't-you-think-I-couldn't-help-you. Although he never said it, that was the message conveyed. At no time during the experience did I ever think the word "No" was going to come out of his mouth.

This got me thinking about customer service in general. Working in retail, we often come across people who make up elaborate stories in order to get their way. Sometimes customers who need to return a product will fabricate a wild story instead of just telling the truth. For whatever reason, they seem to be afraid to tell the truth. Why is that? Other than the obvious moral implications, have we in retail created an environment where customers expect an attitude of "cannot" rather than "can-do"? I believe we have. Customers are compelled to lie and cheat in order to get what they want.

So, what can we do?

We CAN offer customers a clean, inviting store neatly arranged as to provide a pleasant shopping experience.

We CAN turn a customer's unpleasant experience at another store into a delightful experience at our store so that customers will go out of their way to shop with us!

We CAN go out of our way to find the answer to a customer's question.

We CAN go out of our way to fill a customer's request at the best price in the shortest amount of time.

Because of mediocre (at best) service that is a common characteristic of most businesses, customers often expect a negative response when a customer service issue arises. I say, not any more. Not on my watch. We can DO it!