Customer Service

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I have a situation you may think I’m crazy for complaining about, but I’m hoping you have a suggestion for us. We have a customer who comes in a few times a year and essentially takes over the whole store.

Fountain of Youth

Fountain of Youth

One thing is well known in retail: Acquiring a new customer costs at least three times as much as selling to an existing customer base. At Journeys of Life in Pittsburgh, we believe our customers of tomorrow are already shopping in our stores today. We just may not see them that way ... yet.

In the Cross Hairs

In the Cross Hairs

Tabatha Coffey (Tabatha’s Salon Takeover), Gordon Ramsay (Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares), and Jon Taffer (Bar Rescue) are hard-as-nails business experts who make entertaining reality television. The swearing, frustration, and scripted drama all play into our need to compare our efforts with those of other business owners ... and to be reassured we’re doing better than those poor suckers. We love the sense of becoming an instant expert at the end of each show and going into restaurants, bars, and salons thinking our newly acquired eye of the tiger can spot trouble like a pro.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: A customer called today very upset because her teenage niece had come into our store with a few friends, and they felt they were treated with prejudice. I really could not get the whole story over the customer yelling that we were hypocritical, but it seems her niece and one of her friends were not Caucasian, and somehow they were treated disrespectfully in our store.

Getting to Gratitude

There’s a lot of talk these days about being grateful, giving thanks, and the importance of having an “attitude of gratitude.” The reality is most people already feel grateful. When surveyed, most rated their overall gratitude a six on a scale of seven, according to the Emmons Lab at University of California-Davis. The study showed gratitude pays off: Grateful folks reported higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, and optimism and lower levels of depression and stress.

Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: Do you sell statuary in your store? how do you train your staff to talk intelligently about Hindu and Buddhist deities? There are so many! We carry Buddha, Ganesh, Shiva, Kuan Yin, and Green Tara, but even those are challenging for new sales people. Truth is, I would like to order a larger variety, but I don’t really understand them all myself. Any suggestions?

Seasonal Traditions Light Up The World

Seasonal Traditions Light Up The World

Midwinter is a time to make merry. We come together and share feasts of food, song, and dance. We visit neighbors and friends and spread our wishes for peace and prosperity. To dispel winter darkness, we practice ancient rituals of lighting candles, remembering virtues, cherishing our communities, and enjoying the magic of the solstice time as the earth turns once again toward the sun.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: One of our most loyal customers, who loved our merchandise and especially loved buying books regularly, just passed away and left $5,000 in her will to our store. I was thrilled and a bit surprised, but now I feel overwhelmed because I have no idea what to do with the money. I would like to honor her in some way but don’t know how. Do you have any ideas?

Be Our Guest

Be Our Guest

We all have heard business gurus say great customer service is the key to success. This is true in any type of business, especially our niche of small, specialty retail stores. We know we can’t compete with the “big guys” on price. Our edge is in offering the best possible shopping experience, in which customers are valued and assisted by intelligent, knowledgeable staff. Studies have shown customers will drive twice as far and pay more to visit a store where they feel respected and important.

Shopping Reconstructed

As a retailer, you want customers' visits to your store to be pleasant and rewarding—for them and for you. You want your customers to easily find what they're looking for, to linger long enough to discover a few things they weren't looking for, and to enjoy their experience in your store so much they return regularly with friends and family. A satisfied customer who appreciates your store, has pleasant interactions with your staff, and leaves with a smile and a purchase is a fitting reward for you and your staff doing your very best each day. Everybody is happy.

Shop Talk: Practical Answers for tough business questions.

Question: I recently hired a nice young woman with retail sales experience in a local boutique. Much to my dismay, I overheard her exchange with a customer, in which the customer asked for a specific journal as a graduation gift, and my employee, very politely, said we were all out of that item and then let the conversation drop!

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: My customers are clamoring for new merchandise but my credit cards and accounts payable do not really allow me room to take chances on new lines. Is there an ordering cycle or a way of managing inventory that will give me more cash flow?

More Than Money

Patricia Aburdene is a business journalist and trend forecaster who collaborated with author John Naisbitt on Megatrends 2000, a New York Times bestseller that famously predicted the rise of the “Information Economy” we know today. More recently, Aburdene’s book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism, predicted an economy based on ethics, values, and spiritual awareness.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Yesterday we were fairly busy at my store, and a customer approached a part-time salesperson and asked where they could find a certain product we had advertised. I heard her say, “It’s right over there” and point. I know she was busy, but I was dismayed, especially after all my talk about good customer service. Big sigh. What am I doing wrong?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Do you have a different return policy for holiday returns, such as giving customers a longer time to return items, than you do the rest of the year? We had some issues last year, and I remember at least one disgruntled customer who wanted to return merchandise for a refund in late January that she had purchased in November How do you handle this?

How May I Help You?

How May I Help You?

This simple, courteous phrase opens the door to long-term customer relationships and sales when offered with true sincerity. Shoppers welcome assistance, especially during the harried days of holiday preparation when inspiration may wane in the wake of overwhelming choices. The personal interactions in your shop can help ease this holiday stress and ensure positive shopping experiences, while contributing to community and global harmony.

Trending Now

Trending Now

What if you had a crystal ball for your business? You’d never have to wonder about your next decision—every time you gazed into it, you’d clearly see the direction that would bring your business prosperity and growth.

The problem is, many retailers do have just such a crystal ball at hand … but are often too busy to use it.

ShopTalk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: A customer called and complained that she had been mistreated by a salesperson. Apparently her credit card had been denied, and she felt the salesperson had a “real attitude” toward her and “demanded” another form of payment. She said she was so embarrassed by the incident in front of other customers that she will never shop at our store again.

Make the Holidays Merry

Make the Holidays Merry

Angry customers. Long hours. Missed deadlines. Sound familiar? It’s the usual litany of woes that hitch a ride on Santa’s sleigh. Little wonder that for most retailers the year’s busiest sales season is also the most stressful.

Look for more of the same this Christmas. “Uncertainty about the economy is bound to increase stress levels for both managers and employees at retail stores,” says Jon Schallert, president of The Schallert Group, Longmont, Colo. (www.destinationublog.com).

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We have had good luck over many years with customers paying for their layaway items in full, but right now we have several items on layaway on which no payment has been made for months. Customers are supposed to make a payment every 30 days. If we’ve left messages and heard nothing in return, what do we do with the merchandise and with their deposit and payment money?

Happier Holidays in Store

Happier Holidays in Store

In the classic holiday movie, Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle, acting as the Macy’s Santa Claus, promises a child a particular toy fire engine. The child’s mother admonishes Santa by telling him Macy’s is out of stock on that toy. In his affable way, Santa tells the mother she can find the fire engine at Schoenfeld’s, one of Macy’s many retail competitors. What sounds like a crazy idea eventually becomes a marketing gold mine. It shows that Macy’s puts the customer first, above profits, which makes for a great holiday in-store shopping experience.

Trending Now

Yes, your customers still want you to have inspiring products, great value, and extraordinary customer service. But they also want something that might make you feel squeamish. They want you to be human. They want you to be real. And if you mess up, they want you to acknowledge it—just like anyone else.

Trending Now

A new retail reality is here—and it looks a whole lot different than most of us imagined. The new reality started gathering momentum back in 2008, when, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the economy slid off the rails and global markets went haywire. Four years later, we still haven’t recovered, and one thing is becoming increasingly clear: We’re not going back to the way we were.

Cultivating Customers

Walk through the door of many independent stores in the U.S., and you might hear a bell jingling, indicating a customer has arrived. That’s the sound of opportunity, the sound of increased sales. And, if you’re a store owner, your fondest wish is to hear that bell ringing more often, to see more smiling faces arriving in your shop to browse and buy.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: What makes a product “green?” When a vendor tells me a product is “green,” what does that really mean?

Stocking for Success

Inventory management may seem like a dry subject, but for retailers, it can have a dramatic effect on profitability. A system that ensures you are carrying the right merchandise in the right quantity is an essential ingredient in a healthy bottom line. Too much inventory will tie up badly needed money while taking up valuable space on your shelves; too little inventory will eat away at your cash flow and disappoint customers you can’t afford to lose.

Bright Ideas

Providing customers with a highly attractive shopping environment is one of the key factors in supporting retail sales. And, at the most basic level, a store cannot begin to optimize profits without a proper lighting system. Not only will lighting enhance the presentation of your merchandise, it also affects the mood of shoppers in your store.

Everlasting Renaissance

Everlasting Renaissance

rofile:
Store name: New Renaissance Bookshop
Location: 1338 NW 23rd Ave., Portland, OR 97210; 503/224-4929
Owners: Jamey and Darlene Potter
Date opened: 1987
Website: www.newrenbooks.com
Hours: Monday through Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Number of employees: 13 full time, 6 part time
Square footage: 4,400 sq. ft. with 1,400 sq. ft. of office space
Annual gross: $1.8 million

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: A customer tripped in our store and banged her knee. We helped her and put ice on it right away. There did not appear to be any merchandise in the way or a rug or anything, so no one is sure why she tripped. Now she is talking about suing us for the cost of her doctor visit, X-ray, and so on. I don’t think we did anything wrong. Should I have somehow seen this coming?

The Connection Workshop

Baby, it’s crunch time. Holiday 2011 is here, and word on the street is, you’re going to be considerably busier than last year.

Now’s the time to approach the fourth quarter as a fresh start, a clean slate—with a whole new focus on building and retaining customer loyalty.

It may be too late to make hefty changes in your approach: Your merchandise is stocked, events scheduled. But you still have time to shift the one thing that will bring you maximum results this season. That singular thing? Authentic connection.

5 Rules for Doing Customer Service Right

In every industry, but especially retail, quality customer service is a primary source of competitive advantage. Yet, mediocre customer service is rampant. Nevertheless, it’s up to the employer to set and effectively communicate the ground rules for how employees should interact with consumers. If you want to boost sales and drive repeat business, retail expert and author Nancy Friedman (www.telephonedoctor.com) can help you raise the bar with these Five Cardinal Rules of Retail Customer Service.

Get in the Flow

Get in the Flow

Your business is energy, and it’s meant to flow. Just like a person—or anything else in the universe—a business is an energetic entity. If, as a person, you stub your toe on a pointy rock, you’ll probably feel some pain. The same goes for your business: If even one aspect is out of balance, the whole organization will feel it.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: How do I deal with unruly kids and the parents who bring them into my store to entertain them? I am especially concerned about kids picking up all my crystals, rearranging the shelves, and mishandling the gemstones. What can I do?

5 Ways to Stop Theft Before It Happens

Have you ever looked at your store through the eyes of a thief? To the shoplifter, your beautiful displays and ample products are like a delicious bunch of grapes, ripe and ready for snatching. During hours, after hours, when you’re looking, and when you aren’t—all are opportunities for loss.

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