It’s quite likely that we’ve all shopped in a store that made such a poor first impression, we’re determined not to give them the opportunity to make a second one. However, even if you consider yourself the most critical shopper, you may have a blind spot when it comes to evaluating your own store. Not wanting to make anything but a positive first (and second) impression means stepping back to take a look at your store from a critical shopper’s point of view.
Every day, you and your staff spend time talking with your customers. You greet them when they come into your store, and you chat with them while you make a sale. Are you asking them what they think of your operation? It’s helpful to know what existing and prospective customers think of your retail outlet - product, service, location, presentation. You may believe that you’re delivering only the best product and service in the best atmosphere, but if your customers don’t agree, your opinion doesn’t matter at all.
As a start, get with your team and brainstorm topics to discuss with your customers. Here are some areas to consider exploring:
• Accessibility: How easy is it for shoppers to get to your store? If you’re hard to find, publish directions in your print or online advertising and promotion, and make sure your staff can give accurate directions over the phone. If you don’t already, record directions to the store for on-hold and after hours callers.
• Location: Stores should be located where the customers are, where they want to be, and where they’re willing to go. Are there popular stores and destinations near you? Take a look, ask the questions and make sure the location of your shop isn’t working against you.
• Store environment: Ask them how they feel about parking availability, signage, merchandise display, cleanliness, noise level and lighting. Cleanliness should start at the parking lot and continue throughout the entire store. Do your fixtures highlight the best of the merchandise, without overpowering? Choose practical and durable fixtures that don’t fight with the products through offbeat colors or designs. Featured products should be spotlighted to attract customer attention. Keep your store bright and airy, and make sure all areas are adequately lit - no dark (or dusty) corners.
• Products: Consider quality, selection and price. What does your competition carry that you don’t... but maybe should? Are you current with recent trends? Studies show that 20% of retail customers care only about price and will shop for the best deal. The other 80% care about price, but also carefully consider the products you offer. It’s important to focus your product selection around customer needs - but many stores have too broad a selection. Some retailers try to be all things to all people and lose focus on what their most valuable customers really want or need. Carry what your customers want, and the best way to start to do that is to ask them.
• Service: Evaluate how you and your staff greet customers, answer the phone, encourage browsing and close sales. Is your staff well-dressed? Is their phone etiquette polished? What do you do to go the extra mile? Delivery, gift wrapping, gift lists, seasonal discounts, financing perhaps? Whatever you do provide as an extra service, be sure your customers know about it. Make signs and mention these services in your advertising, PR and Internet promotions.
It’s impossible to collect too much feedback from your customers. If you don’t have a method now, set one up. Online surveys are easy to administer and very reasonable too. Whatever you do, make it easy for them. If you use a survey form, keep it short. If in person or on the phone, engage your customers in casual conversation, but keep it low pressure and comfortable. You may be able to entice customers to participate in a focus group discussion with a little incentive to lure them there (discounts, food and beverage), and you only need about 8-10 participants.
Whatever method you employ, from simple in-store dialogue, to an online survey tool, or in person roundtable/focus group discussion, another benefit of gathering feedback is it shows your customers that you care. By listening to them, asking their opinion and then ideally, acting on those, you’re telling them they really do matter. Continuous improvement should be part of your strategy for success, and for that you rely on constant input. Your livelihood depends on the customer coming back, and sending others to your store. So start now to ask them what matters and then show them it also matters to you.
Bob Epstein is CEO of Silverman Consultants, LLC. Offering a legacy in sales strategies for jewelers since 1945, Silverman Consultants provides guidance to store owners seeking to turn around a business, sell off unwanted inventory, or liquidate an entire store. With offices located in Charleston, South Carolina; New York, New York; and Saskatoon, Canada; the company helps jewelry store owners and chains formulate strategies designed to maximize revenue in times of transition, whether due to retirement, store closing, or simply when needing a boost in sales. For more information, visit www.silvermanconsultants.com or call Bob direct at 800-347-1500.