How many times have you hopped in the car and started off on that drive to or from work and suddenly realized you were almost there? You navigated your way through most of the route almost oblivious to it. It’s so familiar. You do it so frequently. You don’t have to think about it, you just do it. It’s easy to become so accustomed to things we do every day that we don’t pay attention to little changes. Sometimes, those little changes keep adding up into something much more than we realized.
I was consulting for one store that had developed some problems with their sales and customer engagement. The store was beautiful. The owner had been thorough, thoughtful, and meticulous in preparing his store to service his customers.
On the back of every case was a calculator and a pen. He has stations with loupes and ring sizers spaced throughout the store. His inventory control was flawless. His store was nicely decorated but not pretentious. His staff and process were positively admirable.
The problem, however, was apparent the moment I walked in the door. The stench was nearly nauseating, but the owner and sales staff didn’t smell it. I asked some of the customers who had come in what they thought about the store. Everyone stated how much they loved doing business with them, and how great the staff was, but the smell was awful enough to make them get in and out as fast as possible.
The foul smell had developed slowly over a period of time. The owner and staff had simply become so accustomed to the smell that they didn’t even notice it or how bad it had become. Eventually, the source was discovered and immediately removed. The customers were much happier and willing to spend more time in the store.
It is worth taking the time and effort to step back and try to look at your store the way your customer sees it. When you pull up to the parking lot, does the entrance look inviting? Does the parking area, entrance area, and doorway look clean and well-maintained or is it full of litter, lawn debris and cobwebs? When the customer walks in that door, what do they see, hear, smell? Are the display cases empty because you didn’t feel like or didn’t get around to getting the stuff out to fill them? Have the shelves been dusted and cleaned or do they make the customer want to wash their hands after touching something? Is the background music playing something that will make them feel comfortable and welcome or is the explicit lyrics of the vulgar rap blasting to the ear bleed volume going to make every customer with a child in hand or strong religious convictions immediately turn around and leave the store? Is there a lingering odor in your store?
Sometimes it’s difficult to see (or smell) what is right in front of you. Store owners get so buried with so many other things that it’s easy to forget to check on what first impression you’re setting for your customer. However, first impressions have a huge impact on your business. Don’t take them for granted. Don’t be afraid to ask the opinion of someone you trust who doesn’t work in the store to give you their feedback.
It’s not all just about the first impression. The impression you are giving your customers every time they come in is just as important.
One of the discussions we had after opening our new shop was about a problem I had encountered years ago. One of a set of identical twins had dropped off a ring for repairs. After a bitter argument with her sister, the other twin came in and picked up her sister’s ring as an act of spiteful revenge. The headache that followed for me to negotiate a truce between the two and get the ring returned, led to the policy that EVERYONE had to show an ID to pick up anything.
The customers always hated the policy and felt like they shouldn’t have to do that. Especially those who had been coming to me for years. I recognized them by sight and was on a first-name basis. Why should they have to show me their ID?
After this discussion, Bonnie came up with a solution. It’s not about the customer being required to show their ID, it’s about the impression we give them as to why they should.
Requiring it simply because it’s store policy is like telling the customer, “The owner makes me do this so you can’t sue us.” Bonnie turned it around and made it all about the customer. “As a customer, you are so valuable to us that we want to make absolutely certain your items are not going back out the door with anyone but you. Even if I recognize you when you come in the door. I don’t want there to be any chance that you secretly have some evil twin who’s stepped in to impersonate you and steal your things. As ridiculous and unlikely as that sounds, it’s happened!”
Instead of the multitude of complaints I used to get about customers showing their ID, I hear about how much they appreciate the value we place on them as a customer.