Bricks & Mortar’s Secret Weapon

If you own a local retail business I know you are tired of the constant message that “brick and mortar stores are dying”?  Let’s kick that message to the curb and focus on your business…and win.

We know what a virtual, or web store means, but what is a simple term for a bricks and mortar store?  For now, let’s call it a “real” store.

Like many things you see on the internet, complex issues get distilled to a simple factoid, usually in order to get you to click further.   But the complete story needs more digging.  Sure, the major chains and big box stores are losing share to the web.  Why?  They are usually trying to complete on the same playing field: Price and selection.  Your local small business “real store” surely can’t keep up with the lower cost virtual stores.  Shopping centers are filled with the ghosts of those who tried.  DON’T DO IT!

The retail sales landscape is truly a battlefield.  A great general will tell you that confronting a larger, well armed enemy head on is suicide.  The path to victory is by outflanking the enemy, finding their weak point and focusing your efforts on that weakest link.  For virtual companies, that is customer service. Have you tried to contact a web based sales company on the phone?  Assuming you finally go through all the phone prompts, then sit through the awful hold music, then get to someone whom English is definitely a second language, congratulations!  Then you hope they have a script that will answer your problem, not just frustrate you even more.  They are not allowed to think and solve problems unless it is on the approved script in front of them.  The latest attempt at “customer service” is the chat pop up.  But if you have experienced these, you can tell that technology created automated scripts for selected questions.  Nice try, but a real thinking in store person can form a bond that the computer can’t compete with.

The secret weapon?  Love your Customer!

Now, you can’t give this lip service, you must deliver.  “How can I help you?”  and mean it.  How many times have you gone into a store and the employees seem reluctant to make eye contact?  “Oh my gosh, if I just hide, or stay talking to my workmates, maybe they will ignore me.”  Then you find the store (usually local, owner occupied) that greets you as you enter, and asks “May I help you?”  Isn’t that just heaven?  Customer Appreciation shouldn’t just be the name of a sale, it needs to be lived every day!

Great customer service leads to the best prize a store owner can get: a loyal customer.  Get that person on your side and you will reap the most effective and cheapest marketing available…word of mouth recommendations.  Step two: create a loyalty program.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge reward, but the combination of great customer service and some loyalty program is extremely valuable.  Further, if you invest in data collection about your customers, and offer targeted rewards, it becomes a multiplier.  But the public is not stupid.  A loyalty program without great customer service will fall flat.

Sure, most businesses will say “our customer service is great. We care about our customers.”  But are you truly delivering on that promise?  Sure your crew is fantastic when you walk in the door, but do they deliver that same experience every hour, every day, with every customer?  You need metrics to discover.  If you need some help, just call us, we have processes to review and improve your crew.

Can you share your great customer service examples, and great loyalty programs?

The secret weapon is your staff.  Train them, monitor them, love them, and encourage them to love your customers.  That emotionless website can’t compete.