Marketing is about show business. You spend time and money to put on a show that will hopefully lead to business. But is your company really welcoming customers with open arms when they arrive?
In his blog post on the “Death of Retail”, Stephen Richardson makes the point that big retail chains are trying to get their businesses in line through cost-cutting. This is ultimately a dead end street – perfect cost, no pesky customers. Stephen asks the key question “What are you doing to provide VALUE to your customers?”
Value to me is simple. Give people more than they expect and more for their money. I’m not talking about more “stuff” for my money. I’m talking about a better experience. The customer service moments I remember most are the times someone actually talked to me. Not a scripted, leading question like “Are you finding everything OK?” I mean striking up the lost art of conversation.
I was in a Hallmark store in the mall, searching for a unique gift for my mom. As I was browsing through the slightly dusty glass shelves, one of the store clerks stopped by my side and said, “The artist who created the mold for that sculpture lives right here in Northern California.”
I looked up, a little surprised that someone dared to talk to me.
“Really?” I gave her the look that said “Go on.”
“He lives out in the gold country by Big Trees state park, and for over 30 years he’s been making a living doing wood carvings of bears and wolves. We’re lucky to have that item for a limited time.”
I was intrigued and interested in what she had to say. It was definitely not the typical “Can I help you with anything?”
This goes beyond the retail industry to any business where you have to <gasp> talk to other humans to make a sale. There’s nothing like a story to grab someone’s attention. It could be the story behind the product itself, or a testimonial about someone else who used your service.
I suppose this is a skill that could be trained. More likely it is something that should be hired – employees with friendly personalities and the ability to communicate with strangers. My point is this… if you have to prioritize your training budget, spend it on conversation skills and throw out the scripts. It just might put some more business back in your show.