7 Steps to Stop a Customer From Buying Nothing

Recently I was in Covent Garden and I decided to pop into French Connection while I was there.  I am very glad that I did so as I received star quality service from one particular staff member.  I had seen a navy blue silky top in the sale in another store and wanted to see if they had it in my size.

  1. Welcome the customer when they arrive

As soon as I arrived in the ladies’ department, the staff member took the opportunity to smile at me and say, “Hello.”  I immediately felt important.

  1. Offer assistance

Once I had browsed for a minute, the staff member approached me casually and advised me that she was available to assist if I needed any help with sizes.  She did this in a very polite way that was not intrusive.

  1. Stop the customer on their way out of the store

Once I had browsed the store I realised that they did not have the navy blue silk top that I was looking for.  I made my way out of the store.  Just as I was leaving, the staff member asked me if I had been looking for anything in particular.

  1. Know your stock

I told the staff member about the navy blue top.  She knew exactly what top I was talking about and she led me to where she thought it would be.  She said that she thought they had three of them left.  She clearly knew her stock!

  1. Think of alternative solutions to the customer’s need

When the staff member found that the top was not on display, she checked my size and then went to see if it was in the stock room.  When she couldn’t find it there, she listed three nearby stores that I could try.

  1. Work as a team

When I told the staff member that I had already checked those stores, she asked her colleague to double check whether they had the top.  Her colleague suggested one other place that she could check.  The staff member was still unable to find the top.

  1. Offer something similar to what the customer originally requested

The staff member then suggested a similar top that I might like instead.  I said that I was not keen on the alternative.

I left the store without making a purchase.  However I was very impressed by the staff member’s dedication to her work and she made a big effort to find a solution for me.  She did all of the above without any prompting from me and without any signs of being put out.

Today’s the big day!!!

screenshot of text from Virgin MediaIf you had arranged to go and visit a friend, would you text them three days prior to say, ”Hi, the big day’s coming!”? Neither would I. Nevertheless, this is exactly what Virgin Media did to me.  I had arranged for them to add a landline to the broadband package that I already had with them.  They sent me the following message to confirm my appointment: “Hi, it’s Virgin Media. The big day’s coming!”  First of all, do they really think my life is so dull that having Virgin Media to visit would make it my “big day”?  If it was an event such as my wedding, moving house, having a baby, then, yes, this could be called a “big day”.  Virgin Media’s pending arrival – no.

Most businesses know that it is important to make their customers feel valued.  Virgin Media seem to have decided to turn it around and do the exact opposite!  They are trying to TELL me that I should be excited about THEM.  I found their tone quite self indulgent.

Nevertheless I replied to their message to reconfirm the appointment.

snapshot of text from Virgin MediaThe whole thing became even more irritating as half an hour later, I received another text from another Virgin Media mobile number again asking me to confirm that the appointment was to go ahead.  So what was the point of the first message?  Did they not receive my reply?  I certainly was not feeling very positive about my so-called “big day” after all that.

Make sure you show your customers that you appreciate them.  Don’t try to force them into believing that you are the best thing that has ever happened to them!

Dealing with Pressure

shoe displaySo it’s January and that means January sales.  At times Oxford Street was so busy I felt as though I could barely move.  I popped into two different shoe stores.  The first was Aldo.  The place was manic.  I didn’t fancy my chances at getting served.  Despite this, within a few minutes of my arrival, a staff member approached me and offered me assistance.

teamwork quoteI asked for three different pairs of shoes in my size.  The staff member went straight over to a screen in the middle of the store and was able to type in a request for the shoes.  Aldo obviously had carefully planned for the busy footfall and had plenty of staff in place.  The process for requesting shoes on a screen was efficient as it cut out the time taken for a staff member to walk back and forth to the stock room.  Instead they had different members of staff in each area to complete each part of the task – great teamwork. My requested shoes were with me within a couple of minutes.

The second store was Camper.  This was a much smaller store.  I could see three staff members on the shop floor.  I noticed a couple of pairs of shoes that I wanted to try on.  As I looked around to see if any staff member was free, I noticed another customer asking a staff member for a pair of shoes.  I was quite shocked.  The staff member completely blanked the customer and walked past her.  I could see the disappointment and disgust in the customer’s face and she put down the shoes and left the store straight away.  I decided that I wasn’t going to hang around to be treated in the same manner and I too left the store.

leadership quoteClearly the staff members in both stores were under pressure.  Camper had no process or plan in place to make the service more efficient.  However I think the key thing here is that the staff member in Camper chose to ignore the customer.  It would have made a world of difference if he had been able to calmly apologise and state that he was busy serving another customer and that he would be with her as soon as he had finished.  Even better would have been if he had acknowledged the customer before she had resorted to try and approach him herself.   Although the customer may not have been served any quicker, it would have shown that the staff member cared.  Attitude is important when it comes to customer satisfaction. What is your experience of shopping in the sales?  I would be interested to know in the comments below.

More Than A Cafe

cafe a boardI had a heart warming experience when I went for lunch the other week.  The staff member at the counter greeted me in a cheerful manner and asked me how I was.  I asked for the chicken burger, which was what I normally ordered.  The staff member took the opportunity to let me know that they recently had a new menu.  She commented that she wasn’t sure whether I had visited their outlet since it had been updated.  She told me with enthusiasm how they now had some lovely salads and some new pasta dishes.  Her enthusiasm washed off on me and I felt privileged that she had taken the time to encourage me to try the new ideas.  She also offered me a loyalty card and took the time to explain the various free items that I could earn.  It was great to see someone take such pride in the service that they were offering.  I felt encouraged to return, both to try the new items on the menu and to earn free gifts from my loyalty card!

The Value of Great Service

This week I have visited two different venues in view of holding a conference there.  Both of these venues are owned by the same company.  However they couldn’t have been more different in the welcome that they provided.

fawlty towersOn arrival at the first venue, I told the receptionist my name and who I was there to see.  When the receptionist called the person who I had booked the appointment with, I could tell from his conversation that the staff member was not expecting me.  I had to wait for around five minutes before she arrived to meet me in the reception area.  The worst part of the visit came when the staff member opened the door to the room where the event was to be held and a rat ran all the way across the floor!  I am not a fan of these animals at the best of times and I certainly did not expect to see one inside an upmarket venue.  The staff member then showed me one of their most exclusive bedrooms.  It smelt damp and musty and there was a general feeling of a lack of cleanliness.  I doubt I will be returning.

At the second venue, in contrast, I felt inspired and uplifted by the welcome, hospitality and service that I received. Even prior to my arrival, the Events Co-ordinator called me and let me know they were looking forward to meeting me. She also sent me an email with clear directions to the venue.  Upon arrival, there was not just the Events Co-ordinator, but also the Sales Director, waiting in the reception area to meet me.  They thanked me in a genuine and enthusiastic manner for coming to see them today.  The Sales Director said that meeting people like me was one of her favourite parts of her job. This put me at ease and made me feel welcome.

afternoon tea The staff members told me that they had reserved an area in the bar.  I couldn’t believe the sight when I sat down.  They had prepared a magnificent afternoon tea for me, with ornate crockery and an appetising fresh fruit platter.  I felt as though I was being treated like a queen.  They checked whether my name was spelt as ‘Rachael’ or ‘Rachel’.  This showed the level of attention to detail that they were making to ensure that I would be pleased with the experience that they were offering.  While we were sitting down, a man came up to the table and shook my hand.  He said that he was the Operations Director.  He checked that I was happy with my visit so far.  He gave me his business card and invited me to get in touch at any time.  I felt like a VIP by this point.

quote about being extraordinaryAfter the tea, I was shown through to the room where the event would be held.  The staff had arranged for my logo to be displayed on a projector at the front of the room. There was also a message displayed to welcome me to their venue.  The Sales Director enthused about how excited they were at the prospect of working with my company.  She said that she had been on the estate where my business is located as they have another client there.   She said she had driven past my office and was therefore very excited when she heard that I had made an enquiry.  She asked about other events that we hold throughout the year and told me that it would be great to form a partnership.

The Sales Director named a few of their blue chip clients and this showed the level of service that they offered.  She also told me a bit about the history of the building and also mentioned some TV shows that had been filmed there. The Event Co-ordinator let me know that she would look after me throughout the whole process.  The Sales Director joked that the Event Co-ordinator was always there and didn’t have time off as they couldn’t afford to be without her as she was so valuable to them.  I loved this attitude and it goes to prove that when staff feel important and valued, they will inevitably provide great service.  It was clear that the staff felt very proud of their venue.

It was very apparent how well the staff at the venue worked well as a team.  This created a welcoming and homely atmosphere.  This was evident to me by the following:

  • The Events Co-ordinator who I had originally spoken to on the telephone had told her Sales Director about my enquiry and had arranged for both of them to meet me.
  • The Operations Director had also been told about my visit and had come to meet me.
  • The staff in the corridors smiled and said, “Hello”, as we passed them.
  • Technical staff had arranged for my logo to appear on the screen in the conference room, together with a welcome message.
  • As we passed some other staff in the foyer, the Sales Director said that I could grab any staff member for assistance at any time. This made them stand out from many businesses in which individuals will only be focused on their own tasks and would not think about working as a team to assist their colleagues in other departments.

Throughout the visit, the Sales Director thanked me for my enquiry.  She acknowledged that I had given up my time to visit them today and thanked me for doing so.  She checked whether I was okay for time today, or whether I had any time constraints.  She also showed respect by asking me whether I preferred to be contacted by telephone or by email.  She explained that she understood that it could be difficult to take a telephone call during a busy working day.

customer service quoteThe Sales Director also told me that I could let them know in advance who the VIPs were in my company.  She said that they would arrange for these individuals to get a free upgrade to superior rooms.  She said that they would put wine, fruit, bottles of water and a nice welcome note from the General Manager in these rooms.  These added touches can go a long way.  Another way that the Sales Director made me feel valued was when she mentioned that she had noticed on my website that it was important for our company to be environmentally friendly.  She said, therefore, that they would be happy to provide crockery in place of disposable cups.

Towards the end of the conversation, I mentioned that we may be looking to hold a drinks reception on the evening of the first day of the event.  The Event Co-ordinator took this opportunity to close the sale by telling me that they would be happy to put on a drinks reception free of charge if I confirmed my booking by the following Friday.

thank you quoteBefore I left, the Sales Director made some friendly conversation with me.  She asked me about my hobbies and we found some common ground.  She used my name several times in conversation and said that it was good to get to know me.  On my way out I was handed a nice goody bag contained some chocolates, a notepad and some further information.

thank-you noteUpon leaving the venue I felt inspired and uplifted.  I truly felt as though I could form a partnership with this venue and that they would be dedicated to making sure that I was happy with their service.  It is also worth noting that I received an email straight after my visit thanking me for coming to see them.  I have a follow up email arranged for Tuesday as I said that I will be making my decision by then. It would be hard to choose another venue instead of this one after the warm welcome that I received.  I would be willing to pay more money for great service like this.

Experience Boutique can work with you to help your company achieve brand consistency across all of your locations.  Call us today on 0203 239 2326 or email Rachel at info@experienceboutique.co.uk

The IKEA effect

glasses of bubble teaThis week I was struck by how much good customer service can add to the perceived value of a company’s products. I have now visited three different branches of a bubble tea company.  After visiting the first two outlets, I had been left feeling rather underwhelmed and uninspired.  I thought that the bubble teas were over priced for what seemed like some juice mixed with a few chewy sweets.

However I received a completely different impression after visiting the third branch.  The staff member who served me at the counter explained that I could mix up to three flavours into the same drink at no extra charge.  He also mentioned that the added sweets released a burst of flavour into the drinks.  He gave me the options of choosing whether I wanted ice in the drink and whether I wanted it hot or cold.  He also explained that the sweetness of the drinks could be altered.  He made some inspiring suggestions of which flavours would work well together.

customer experience quoteNow all of a sudden I was being presented with a product that I could not easily produce myself or purchase elsewhere.  The whole experience was quite fun as well.  I told the staff member that I wanted to combine coconut milk tea with kumquat and ginger fruit teas.  He pulled a face and explained that the kumquat was quite sour and then ginger was a strong taste.  I modified the ginger to raspberry.  The staff who produced the drink seemed excited that they were able to produce a combination of flavours that they had not made before.

This phenomenon is an example of the “IKEA Effect” in selling.  Studies have shown that people value things they had a hand in creating more than similar, or even superior, products created by others. Therefore it helps if you get your prospects involved in customising your product or service.  The more they feel like the offering is “theirs,” the more positively they will feel towards it.

Energy suppliers = Good service??

logos of energy suppliers UKI must admit I have been quite impressed by SSE Southern Electric. I called them in regards to my tariff. At the end of the call, the lady asked whether there was anything else they could help me with today. She used my name several times in the conversation so this made it feel more personal. She asked if I perhaps wanted any energy saving advice. I mentioned that I didn’t think there was much I could do to save energy since I just had a very old boiler that you could only turn either on or off. She asked me several questions. She then let me know that they have some special offers on boilers at the moment. I hadn’t previously been aware that they offered boilers. The lady told me that they currently had a £400 discount plus two years free cover worth about another £350. I told her that I didn’t need it right now, but it was useful to know for future. I was very impressed that she offered me some energy saving advice, rather than rushing off the telephone to speak with the next customer. This made me think very well of the company and encouraged me to be loyal to them. It also gave the staff member a chance to tell me about other products that they offered.

Before I had a chance to publish this post I spoke to SSE again! Their service seems to get better and better. I wanted to clarify some points on their fixed rate tariffs. The staff member seemed so patient and happy to speak with me. It was almost like talking to a friend. I really felt as though she was on my side. She even pointed out that I could get a better rate than the two year tariff that I was thinking of changing to. She said that the one year tariff could save me more. She even did a calculation based on my previous usage to calculate how much I would save – about £200 a year! Thank you! I was very impressed. I felt incredibly reassured as I could see that she knew what she was talking about. She had clearly been well trained to know what products and tariffs they could offer. At the end of the conversation, the staff member checked whether there was “anything else AT ALL,” that she could help me with today. She was so friendly too and ended the call with one of those ongoing exchanges where we were wishing each other a good day. It is very unlikely that I will switch away from SSE in the near future. It is so refreshing to witness staff at a large organisation taking pride in the quality of the service that they offer. I would find it so much more stressful to deal with an electric company that offered poor service.

Just to add that SSE make a point of promoting energy saving advice. I like this as it shows that they are putting the customers’ needs first rather than trying to get as much money from them as possible. This is a great attitude for promoting customer loyalty. It’s a thumbs up from me.

Experience Boutique Interview

Experience Boutique characterHi everyone, today I am interviewing one of our customer experience consultants, Jane.   Hi Jane, so what is the best experience you can think of as a customer?

It is good when someone greets you promptly and smiles as you walk through the door.  I suppose Capel Carpets in Watford is a company that I really like.  I have used their store a few times for carpet and Karndean.  When I go into the store, the owner always says, “Hello Jane,” in a warm and friendly voice.  He tells me that I am their best customer and so that makes me feel good.  It is nice to be remembered.  I can see that he is conscientious and that draws me to his company.  He is very knowledgeable and you can tell that he knows his stuff.  I bought some Karndean there recently for my new kitchen floor.

What is the worst experience you have had as a customer?

I had a bad experience in Morrisons.  However I think that was more to do with the other customers.

Well you mentioned that the queues were long at that time.  Long queues can have a knock on effect to cause irate customers so that may have been what happened during your visit.

Also If the staff don’t give eye contact then it seems as though they can’t be bothered.  I was recently on holiday in York.  I asked a staff member for some curtain tie backs.  I could see that she didn’t want to engage and would rather be reading whatever she was reading.  She had her head down.  When I asked her a question, she looked witheringly at me over her glasses as though I was a nuisance.  She told me that they only had what was on display.  She did not apologise or offer any alternatives.

What do you think makes good customer service?

A feeling that the staff believe in the company and what they are selling. Staff who care about getting you the most appropriate product or service you have come in for. So, for example, if something isn’t available, they make an effort to find a suitable alternative for you. This shows that making the customer happy is their priority, rather than making a profit for themselves.

Yes we know that each customer wants to feel as though they have received a personalised solution to their unique needs.

Yes and it is also good if the staff make an effort to create a personal connection.  For example if they introduce themselves and ask for your name.

When you are on a mystery visit, what are the three most important things that you are looking out for?  Let’s use an example of eating a meal in a restaurant.

  • Efficiency of service: If a customer is kept waiting they can start to question their purchase decision. This may prevent them from wanting to return in future.
  • Friendliness of staff: Staff can show their interest in customers by making sure they check back during the meal. They can also ask some personal questions, for example about the weather or the person’s day.  They could also recommend something from the menu to show enthusiasm and to show that they care.
  • Atmosphere: It is important that the temperature is comfortable and that the music and lighting are at suitable levels.

Are there any brands that you have altered your opinion on recently, either positively or negatively?

I tend to favour Waitrose over Tesco these days.  I like Waitrose as they don’t keep me waiting.  I think it is worth paying more for a good experience.

What can a store do to create customer loyalty?

A loyalty card is a good way to encourage me to return to a store.  Alternatively they could offer something like a discount or treat to redeem on my next visit.

Yes, so it is important that the staff remember to offer these to customers.

The staff can also suggest a reason for the customer to return.  Going back to the restaurant scenario, a customer may have difficulty in choosing between two desserts.  The server could jokingly say that they could order one today and then try the other one on their next visit.

At certain beauty counters I have been invited back to let them know how I have got on with a product or for a makeup lesson.  A simply phrase, such as, “We would love to see you,” can really encourage a customer to return.

Personalising Your Service

personalised Coca Cola bottlesWe know that customers want to feel as though they have received a personalised solution to their unique challenge. This was brought to light to me this week while I was looking into ordering some new business cards. I looked on both Vistaprint and moo.com. Both of these websites offer a service in which they will send out a sample pack of their products to prospective customers. The process of ordering these sample packs differed greatly on the two sites.

On Vistaprint, I was simply asked for my contact details so that the pack could be sent to me. However on moo.com, I was asked a series of questions so that the sample pack could be tailored to my needs. The questions were quick and simple to answer.

I noticed how my perception of these two companies had been affected by the differing approaches. I guessed that the value of the cards from moo.com would be more expensive. I felt that it would be worth paying more for their service as it had been tailored to my specific needs. I felt confident that their company was looking after me and that I would be happy with my purchase.

This is a similar phenomenon to when I have been assisted while trying on clothes in a fitting room. When an employee makes a comment along the lines of, “That blue colour really illuminates your skin”, then I feel as though I would be missing out if I did not buy the garment in question! How do you make sure your customers feel as though your service has been personalised to them?

Customer Service Versus Marketing

“Customer service is the new marketing” – Derek Sivers.

pile of loyalty cardsA well known brand launched a new loyalty scheme a few weeks ago. I bought some food items recently in this store. When I looked at the receipt, it told me how many loyalty points I could have earned. I felt slightly annoyed that the cashier had not pointed this out to me at the time so that I could have opened a card to earn the points. Once I got home, I looked at the store’s website and found out that I would need to go into a store in order to get a loyalty card.

I was passing a different branch of the store earlier this week and so I decided to go in and pick up a card. I waited for five minutes in a queue at the till point. Once I reached the counter, the staff member told me that I would need to go over to the food department to find someone with an iPad. There was no apology for my wait. I found it quite irritating that there had not been any signs to tell me where to sign up. I would have expected the procedure to be better organised, considering the scale of the launch on this loyalty scheme. I couldn’t see anyone with an iPad, so I waited at the Customer Services desk. There were four staff members standing around discussing some issue among themselves. After waiting for a few minutes without being acknowledged, I decided to tell one of them that I was waiting to pick up a loyalty card.

The staff member was very helpful and obliging. She led me into a small office and offered me a seat on a dingy looking chair. It felt a bit odd to be sitting in what was clearly a staff office. While I was in the office, another staff member came in and interrupted my meeting. Without excusing herself to me, she asked the staff member who was assisting me if she could help somebody else sign up for the loyalty scheme. It all seemed highly unprofessional. The staff member who had been assisting me seemed slightly annoyed by the interruption from her colleague and explained that there were no iPads working and so she would have to serve the next customer once she had finished signing me up. It seemed very odd to me that there was no way to sign up for this scheme other than to sit in this strange cubby hole sized office. I had to tell the staff member all of my personal details including my date of birth. I did not feel confident that my data was being dealt with in a secure manner.

What can we learn from this scenario? I have seen this time and time again. A company comes up with a great idea, in this case a loyalty scheme. However there are not sufficient staff in place to implement the scheme and on top of this, the staff are not well trained enough to deal with customers who want to sign up to the scheme. I came across a similar example a few weeks ago. A large organisation had been looking at plans to improve their complaints system. They were spending thousands of pounds on working out how to structure their automated switchboard and website contact forms in order to make the process more pleasant for their customers. I had to make the point that all of those plans would be wasted unless they made sure that their staff were sufficiently trained and had the relevant knowledge to answer the complaints that were being made. The same company had been highlighted by Which? last year as having staff without sufficient knowledge on certain key issues. It is no good having a switchboard that is easy to use if the staff member who eventually answers the call doesn’t listen properly and has to ask a customer to repeat themselves several times. Look at the bigger picture!