Thursday, June 14, 2007

So, What's Your Story?

If your business were a book, what would the title be?

When a customer walks through your doors, what is that experience like? Does your business say, “I’m a camera store, and we sell frames, too!” or does it say, “Here’s the place you need to be for everything related to your favorite memories”?

Photo retailers understand quite well the importance of helping customers tell their stories through photography, but this expertise isn’t always applied internally.

Like a great photograph, a store’s environment can excite, inspire and compel people to act. Here are a few ways to share your own unique story:

· What message do you want to get across to your customers? Do you specialize in a particular area, or do you have a workshop schedule that gets rave reviews? Don’t rush this step. Think about what you want to convey to your customer and see if you can articulate it in a sentence or two. Ask employees for their input regarding what you’ve come up with and incorporate any ideas that resonate with this vision.

What's Your Angle? When you reach that point, use that ‘story angle’ as a way to evaluate your store displays, your communication pieces and your web site. Begin taking steps to synchronize this vision with your store environment and messaging.

· How long has it been since you’ve given your store a redesign? It doesn’t need to be expensive or elaborate, but if you’ve got many of the same basic displays and messaging you had a year or two ago, consider giving your customers a visual treat by speaking to new issues and inspiring creativity through your messaging.

· Consider getting a secret shopper. You don’t have to employ a company dedicated to providing secret shopping services. In fact, you may want to approach a few people you know and ask them to simply visit your store and give you their impressions of everything from the time they walk in the store until they leave. Just let them know that they aren’t doing you any favors by being polite. Their impressions may reveal some trends you don’t see simply because you’re in the environment every day.

Remember, it’s not just your customers’ stories that matter. By telling a compelling tale, you’re in a better position to help your customers do the same.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Manager’s Quick Tip: Watch Your Language!

It seems that managers and parents have a lot in common.

It is not what we say, but whether what we say and we do are in sync, that affects those around us.

What happened the last time a customer complained to you about poor quality or lousy service? I’m not talking about what you said to the CUSTOMER; what you say ABOUT the customer to your employees afterward is of equal importance.

Did you say something negative? Maybe felt like tossing in some sarcasm to lighten the blow of her complaint? If you did, you can expect your employees to follow suit and not take customer complaints to heart. After all, if the manager belittles the customer, it sends the message that her view really doesn’t matter.

Your cash register thinks otherwise. Her opinion matters a great deal.

This doesn’t mean you have to agree with the occasional outrageous complaint, but always treat the customer with respect, whether she’s in earshot or not.

She may not hear you, but your words are being heard.