Copyright (c) 2012 Ted Hurlbut
I was in a client’s office the end of last week, and noticed this tacked up on the bulletin board, from Stores Magazines, June 2007 (I’m glad I wrote it down in my notes because I can’t find it on the web.):
What Drives Customers Crazy?
The leaders in customer’s response, by percentage of customers who mentioned each item):
Employees don’t know/care – 21%
Understaffed – 21%
Bad customer service – 20%
Rude employees – 19%
Staff no help – 19%
Cannot find help – 15%
It jumps off the page at you. It’s not about assortments or store layouts, or out-of-stock. It’s not about prices! It’s all about people. It’s all about the personal interaction between the customer and the people they encounter (or don’t encounter) in the store. It’s about passionate, knowledgeable sales associates who engage customers in a relaxed, genuine and helpful way.
You, like all independent retailers, are also a consumer. You go into all sorts of stores, for all sorts of things. Do this thought experiment: What makes you crazy? What are those things that you find maddening?
Let me share with you what makes me crazy. I have a particular thing for Langer’s grape juice. My favorite juice, the best grape juice there is, IMHO. Unfortunately, it’s not something that every grocery store carries. I get frustrated when I can’t find it, but that’s not what makes me crazy when I go to the grocery store.
What makes me crazy is when I get to the checkout and the cashier and the bagger have a running conversation going, and they can barely break away long enough to acknowledge my existence. It makes me want to complain to a supervisor, but then I notice that the cashiers and baggers in just about every other checkout lane are doing the same thing!
I’m the customer!
It’s all about the personal interactions. I’ve learned this interacting with my clients in my consulting practice. If I didn’t engage my clients in a genuine, caring manner, all I’d have to offer is information and cold data. By fully engaging my clients, data and information is transformed into something meaningful. Data and information becomes knowledge and actionable recommendations, which can make all the difference to my clients and their businesses.
The same is true of the interaction between your sales associates and your customers. It’s all about the personal interaction your customers experience in your store. The quality of those interactions makes all the difference in the world. A store with the lowest prices and a poor customer experience won’t have many customers. A store that gets those personal interactions right, on the other hand, and extends that personal touch to the entirety of the customer experience – well, those are the stores that always seem to have customers.