There’s no such thing as a local business today, and if you have one, you’re going to become obsolete unless you quickly change your way of thinking.
I’m sure you can think of a time when you’ve had an exceptional experience buying something because of the customer service that you received. Perhaps, you may have even purchased something you weren’t looking for SIMPLY because of the buying experience.
Excellent customer service in the retail industry is an absolute necessity. Without the right people on your staff, you’re not going to be able to maintain and grow a successful, and respected business.
There is an excuse that is used FAR too often when thinking about starting a business venture in a niche market. You’ve probably heard it before, you may have even used it before. It’s the classic “oh no, I can’t. Too many people are already doing that” excuse.
For the record – that excuse is a lie.
Business happens when someone pays you for a product or service. Therefore, someone has to be the buyer and someone needs to be the seller for the transaction to occur.
So, then why do many business owners who want to increase the size of their business and make more money, have so much judgement and discomfort when it comes to selling?
If selling makes you uncomfortable chances are, you’ve got to work on your mindset around money.
As a Store Manager working in retail in my early 20s, returns were the bane of my existence. It made me crazy when someone would buy a pair of shoes, wear them and then bring them back and want to return them for some made up reason. It negatively impacted my sales and it went against my values of only accepting returns that were “unworn”.
Repeatedly, I would engage in debates with the customer, point out the scratches, the dirt on the soles of the shoes and try and force them to keep the merchandise.
One day my District Manager was at the store and he taught me a powerful lesson.
He said “Lisa, when it comes to how you sell and serve our customers, treat the business like it is your own. When it comes to accepting returns, regardless of the reason, just let the customer return the merchandise and have a great experience.”
He went on to explain to me the lesson around how one upset customer can tell so many other customers (this was back in 1989) and the bigger impact it has on a business when you don’t treat them well when things go wrong.
That lesson has stayed with me for the most part in my career and business and from time to time – I get tested.
Can you relate?
You know what I mean…You get that feeling in your belly that makes you want to defend or resist a request for a refund. Or you rationalize that it was “their fault” that the program or product didn’t work and think you should have a stronger policy outlining every exception known to man as to why they can’t have their money back because that will stop the next one!
Or, maybe you are in a service business and you get scope creep where the customer expects you to do more than what they paid for and you struggle to say no, or ask for more money and you get resentful because of the way you perceive them to be treating you?
The truth is, this type of thing is usually the exception, not the norm. It is a small percentage of customers who are dissatisfied, or who are challenging to work with and a very very small percentage that are completely off the cuff trying to take advantage of you. Right?
Here is what I know: You have to stop taking it personally.
When you have the right process in place, it is easy to communicate your return policy or to explain the process for requesting additional support outside of a program.
When you react personally you are engaging in something that is rarely about you, and you are expending valuable energy on these exception situations instead of putting that energy to use serving your good customers.
All of that said, is the customer ALWAYS right? Not necessarily. This week’s Shop Talk goes into some of the experiences that I have had when it comes to unhappy customers, or ones who expect too much.
Check out the video below and then tell me in the comments, how do you deal with unhappy customers? Do you have a process?
She said, “Congratulations, not many people can say they sold a business that did over a million dollars a year in sales! You can totally use that in your marketing materials.”
I said, “Yabbut even though we sold over a million dollars in inventory, we didn’t gross a million in profits so that doesn’t feel right to me.”
Can you believe I said that!?
I bet you can.
And you know that there are people out there that use smoke, mirrors and spin to make things appear bigger than they really are, always stretching the truth and others buy into their hype while you quietly watch and wonder, “Are they really telling the truth?”
Why is it that some people can stand tall and proud and talk about their accomplishments, while others fall victim to shame when really they should be celebrating?
I have my theories as to why this happens.
As a recovering striver, even when I do really well, it never feels good enough because deep down inside there is always the feeling that more could have been done.
When I opened my store in 2006 I really did bust my a$$ to do 1M in retail sales the first twelve months we were open.
I obsessively tracked our sales the exact same way we did in the corporation, worked long hours, analyzed our product mix weekly, and played with every marketing tool available and networked like a fool. It wasn’t easy, and it definitely wasn’t luck.
And although we did over 1M in retail sales, our gross profits were relatively small, and our expenses were high.
So to me, the business valuation was not a million dollars and to market it as such felt like a fraud.
On the other hand, the business was profitable and it was sold for a decent chunk of cash. And yet, I still felt uncomfortable and wonky when it came to talking about it. And I still do.
Exceptions in our lives can sometimes scar us and erode our self-confidence. This then impacts your ability to stand in your power and be proud of your accomplishments for fear of being judged.
When I wrote about The Pilot Project the very first time and talked about some of my success in business, another WOMAN replied and said, “brag, brag, brag.”
This is an example of one of those scars. Thousands of others read the exact same email and did not reply that way but that one piece of criticism has the ability to impact you.
The same thing happened when I had posted a photo of myself on Facebook and another WOMAN made a snide comment.
Why do women do this to each other?
Women struggle to talk about money every day, to ask for their value, to get paid what they are worth and yet women make tremendous contributions to society.
We need more women who are leaders, millionaires and innovators and in order for this to happen. Women as a whole need to become a lot more comfortable with each others successes.
We don’t need more women tearing each other down, we need role models who stand tall and accept credit for their accomplishments to help others see that it is possible for them too.
That’s why I chose to share this story and why I talk about going from over draft to where I am today when I promote The Pilot Project because I want you to know what is possible for you and when you get there – I want you to stand tall and be proud of all you have done.
There is no shame in making money.
There is no shame in celebrating your success as long as you are not intentionally trying to make someone else feel bad.
The world needs more success and one thing I believe in my heart of hearts is when women make lots of money, they give back to others in need.
Please brag below. Tell me one thing you are super proud of that you have done or accomplished that you kind of cringe when it comes to sharing.
I recently had an experience that caused me to say something I don’t often say. “I will never do business there again.”
I was angry and frustrated, but, more than anything else, the situation really made me wonder:
Why is it that so many people in the service industry feel the need to puff up and behave in a belligerent way towards their customers instead of coming from a place of service?
Here is what happened:
A few weeks ago, Gretchen had an upset stomach so I took her to ASH, otherwise known as Animal Specialty Hospital of South West Florida. They have been our “go-to” place for any vet needs over the past couple of years when we are down here.
They checked her out, prescribed some antibiotics and anti-nausea products, and gave me some low fat food for her then, sent us on our way.
Once the prescribed food was gone we went back to her normal diet as instructed at the hospital. A few days later, I noticed that she did not seem to have as much energy on the homemade food I have been making so I went back to buy more of the food they gave me.
When I explained why I was there, the receptionist was unsure how to help me because she said they don’t sell that food.
Now, this came as a bit of a shock to me because they gave me the food (technically I bought it from them) just a few weeks earlier and she was unable to tell me where I could go and buy more.
She asked me to wait while she went into the back to speak to someone and try to get me more information.
To my surprise, out came a vet tech who was very determined to give me a lecture rather than service.
Before I even had a chance to speak she basically read me the riot act on why they don’t sell this food and how you have to get it prescribed by your regular vet because they don’t stock enough to sell to everyone, and they only have enough to use for their patients.
Her tone was super condescending and I could feel myself wanting to tell her to take her six cans of food that she was so ungraciously allowing me to buy and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. But I didn’t…
After she was done with her lecture, she proceeded to tell me she could order the food for me with their regular inventory order if I wanted.
I didn’t think my jaw could drop any lower than it already had, but it did. I told her no thank you and left.
I could have made a scene, but there was no need because two things happened when she was going off on her tangent:
- I decided to get a regular vet who would treat me nicely.
- I decided there was no way in hell I would order this very premium and very expensive dog food from them.
This situation could (and should) have been handled in a very different way.
The young woman could have come out and treated me nicely. She could have explained that although they do not carry it on-site to retail, they would be happy to order it with their next inventory shipment, and how many cases would I like.
Instead, she ticked me off to the point that I will no longer take my dogs there unless it is an emergency and I have no choice.
That means, the $700 I spent a few weeks ago when Gretchen had an upset tummy will go to another vet next time.
Take a look at this video I did a while back on the #1 Reason Your Customers May Be Walking Instead of Buying:
And, just as important as you understanding this, your team members or employees are an extension of your business model and they need to know as well. Do they understand that their behaviour can help you build a business or lose sales as quickly as they open their mouths?
If not, you need to make sure this is a part of their training. Help them understand the right and wrong ways to handle a situation.
In a time when so many people complain about the economy, my advice is this – treat your customers well and your business will be okay.
One more thing, if you are struggling with finding the passion you once had for your business is dwindling, this can have a negative impact on your level of service. On December 4th at 12pm I will be sharing some of my secrets to keeping that passion for your business alive and well during a Free Webinar. I’d love it if you joined me. www.LisaLarter.com/Webinar
As a business owner, you contribute a lot of money into your local economy.
Yet many local business owners go to the web to search for the right product or service when they need something out of convenience. In fact, I bet you haven’t even thought about the opportunity you might be missing – right in your own local market.
Supporting other local businesses and getting involved in local networking is a great way to grow your local market. Many local business owners love to support each other and happily refer business to their own friends, family members and client list.
Take a moment right now and consider – Do you shop local and how has it worked for you in your business? What local service provider are you loyal to? What local businesses would you like to be loyal to you?