It’s that time of year when everyone rushes out to stores (and most millennial's go on-line) to do their holiday shopping. While I would never go to a Black Friday or Door-buster Sale, I admit that I love going to malls and stores in person. It is fun to see how designers have decorated for the season and in small doses, I enjoy the mad crush of the crowds. It makes for excellent people watching and considering my profession as a Sales/Service Trainer, I get some of my best ideas (or lessons on what NOT to do) by watching how the current sales force works their trade.
For example, there is a floor manager at Nordstrom’s who dances through her day. She confidently approaches customers that are holding clothes while looking through the racks and says, “Hi. My name is Tricia. Would you like me to take those and keep them in a dressing room while you continue to look? What is your name?” Her confidence and willingness to engage gives the shopper instant confidence. She places high-heels in the dressing rooms when women try on formal clothes and she always checks in with the customer using his/her name. Recently I was looking for a St. John’s sweater to match a piece I was considering. She said through the dressing room door, “We don’t have it, but let me check something for you. Stop by the desk once you are finished changing.” By the time I was dressed and met her at the counter, she had already found the garment on the store’s website on sale, started the ordering process, and said, “Ms. Buhler, I can have it to your house in 3 to 4 business days. Would you like to purchase it now? Is this your correct mailing address? Shall we add the matching piece you just tried on? It is a great offer.” I said yes to the outfit and felt like a million dollars! I also watched her do the same type of actions with other customers, attending to their every need, but also remembering that she is a sales woman. From the looks of things, she sells a lot. Why would I want to go anywhere else?
Here is a cautionary tale for business owners.
There is a woman who has been a trail blazer in the perfume industry that I have admired for years. In fact, last year a friend bought me her autobiography which told the story of her tumultuous rise (and fall, and rise again) in her field. As a female entrepreneur, I could relate to a lot of her experiences. She has a beautiful shop in London where you can make an appointment to design custom made products. It is not cheap, but I was going to be in the city for business for two weeks, so I made an appointment three months in advance. I was excited to go and told my husband that I planned on buying several products to be used as presents for the holidays. I mentally set aside a budget of £1,000 (about $1,300) which would allow me to buy roughly 10 items. When I arrived however, things quickly deteriorated.
A sales representative greeted me and said, “Are you familiar with the products we offer?” I said that I was and then she proceeded to spritz me with every product – including the ones I said I do not like. Her next question was, “Do you know our founder’s story?” I said that I do, and had read her book. She interrupted me and proceeded to tell me everything I already knew; but the worst was yet to come. I said that I would like to purchase about 10 products, but I would need to ship it to the U.S. since I still had other stops to make on my business trip. She said, “We don’t do that.” I asked why not? I have ordered products shipped from London before. She responded, “Yes, but that is from our warehouse across town. We don’t ship from here.” I asked if I could pay a courier to ship the items to the shipping place. She said “No.” I asked to speak to a manager and repeated the whole long story asking him. He said “No.” They looked up my history their computer and saw how much I have spent in the past, and then still said “No.” I even explained what I do for a living to both of them, (‘I am a sales and service trainer for luxury hotels and spas…’) and how excited I was to finally be in the store where I had sent so many of my friends and clients. They both said what I did was really interesting but still – “No.”
The same sales representative then proceeded to show me all of the beautiful products that are not available in the U.S. – not even available to order on-line. The nicest products were all heavy, breakable, and impossible for me to fit in a suitcase. I was getting annoyed, so I bought two small travel items for £80 and left very disappointed. Before departing the store, I asked that they tell the senior managers about what had happened so that they could perhaps change policy in the future and perhaps get back to me if anything could be done. I never heard back from anyone and since over a month has passed, so how much would you like to bet that was a ‘No’ too?
Here is the part of the story that is really interesting. At that moment in the store, the sales representative was the brand for me. Her lack of caring, follow up, and failure to listen to what I was saying made me feel that the brand doesn’t care either. Moving forward, I will take my business elsewhere.
My company is called Profitable to Train for this exact reason. The clients who use my services understand that while their buildings are beautiful and their products are amazing, if the person at the desk, counter, or telephone line is rude or uncaring nothing else matters. I tell them to think of their worst employee and know that is who your company is at any moment. The choices are: train that employee to be better, remove them from guest contact, or be satisfied with the knowledge that they are representing the business.
This shopping season, I challenge all of my readers to look at the service they receive with fresh eyes. If the sales person is not kind, consider taking your business (and money) elsewhere. No need for a fight, simply act with your feet and your wallet to spend with someone more deserving. If everyone did this, our experiences would continue to elevate and service expertise (or just simple civility) would be restored.
Have a wonderful end to 2018 and make this a Profitable Day!