Who is first among the equals in your retail store? This is something fellow retailer Daniel Gordon and I were discussing long ago, and I think it’s a valuable topic for business outside of retail, as well.
Do you make a point of treating every single customer equally? Do you make decisions about them, based on how they look when they walk in?
|Do you treat everyone in your store
like visiting friends?
Are you the place where the exclusive folks shop? Do you evaluate customers based on what you know about their family?
Or are you the one who spends as much time and effort to make the $200 customer feel just as important as the $20,000 customer?
No easy answers, and each business has to decide for themselves. A few friends weighed in on this online discussion.
Jon Swanson said:
I really try to make it be balanced. The challenge at times is that the $200 customer takes more attention than the 20,000. I’m good with that. It’s the point for us, after all, but it has to be a persistent, consistent remembering to look at each person as a person.
Glenda Watson Hyatt said:
From the customer’s perspective, I can definitely say not all retailers treat me equally. I tend to avoid those who do not. My money works just as well down the street.
Glenda uses a scooter to get around and an iPad to speak for her sometimes. And sometimes, retailers treat her poorly based on what they see.
Steven Streight said a lot:
Since each customer is extremely important, and a person in a store is generally close to a buying decision, far closer than your average potential buyer on a list, you simply must treat each customer As If They Were Your ONLY Customer.
You do that and you’ll be providing astonishing, viral buzzy customer service.
Stop hanging out with fellow business associates in pity parties and get down and “dirty” with the folks who put money in your pocket.
Customer service is probably the #1 vulnerability of all your competitors, the bigger they are, the more they may suck at it.
Charge forward, smiling, advising, both in the store and on social media. Provide expertise, product model guidance, differentiation from competitors, strong reasons why customers should be loyal to you.
Always keep in the forefront of your consciousness how lousy you have been treated in some stores and places of business. Recall the insults, mediocrity, incompetence, uncaring attitudes. Burn them in your brain, without anger, but with zeal to do the opposite.
Listen to your fans. Pay attention to the needs, complaints, hatreds, fondnesses, questions, praise, and problems your customers express online and in person.
Take their input very very very seriously. Let their attitudes dethrone your pet perceptions. Identify with them and meet them genuinely in their valley of need.
How do you feel about this?
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Marco Terry says
Hi Becky –
Long time no see :-) In my little world of business finance, I’ve discovered that most smaller customers demand more time than larger (more profitable?) customers. They need more hand holding and more explaining. And since they are smaller, they provide less revenues.
However, we do our best efforts to treat everyone as best as we can. Two reasons.
First, a customer is a customer and deserves to be treated correctly. Period. Yes, I’m a bit old school there.
Second, our business depends on *all* our customers, not just some of then. It’d be unwise to start treating people differently.
Hope you are well,
Becky McCray says
Well, hello, Marco! Great to see you back. I’m a bit old school on this issue, myself. Thanks for sharing your perspective.
Jason Hull says
Sometimes you’re struck with stereotypes and make a judgment about a potential customer before that person even becomes a customer. I try to stop and think about how I’ve enjoyed being treated by companies who do just what you wrote about and treat every customer as if they’re special. Even if it’s a small customer, that person knows friends, and the network effects are powerful.
In my previous company, we had to do an effective job of screening out those who weren’t really fits to become customers in the first place. There were companies who would never be satisfied no matter what you did, or had such risky timelines and requirements that it would take a miraculous effort to make a delivery date. In those cases, if we knew of another provider who could help, we’d make a referral, or we’d, as tactfully as possible, say that they were expecting too much too soon. How you handle rejecting someone is important, too, because we all innately hate rejection.
As a retail establishment, I’m not sure if/how you can do that, but as a service provider, screening is important. It’s a balance I’m working on how to strike now, as, for example, if someone is deeply mired in debt, they could pay me my going rate to tell them how to get out, or they could read Dave Ramsey for a lot cheaper and get pretty similar advice. He’s managed to get 5 million people out of debt, and you can get his book for free at the local library. So, I tell them that while I can help them, Dave Ramsey’s books can do the same thing, and once they’re out of debt, then I can really help move the needle in getting them to what really matters in their lives.
Remember, people hate to be rejected, so if you must, how you do it (either through screening or through “firing” customers) can have long-lasting impacts.
Becky McCray says
Jason, those are some good insights for service providers. Especially about how to let a customer know they aren’t right for you.
Mary Kaplan says
Excellent customer service = profits. As with most things, how people are treated in your business starts at the top. If the top says that excellent customer satisfaction is a requirement for every customer, the chances of this actually happen go way up.
Becky McCray says
Interesting starting point, Mary. I think the next step is to show what qualifies as excellent customer satisfaction. You can say it’s important, but if everyone doesn’t know what qualifies, they can’t deliver it consistently.