It started at a retail managers’ meeting with my answer, “Our employees.”
It wasn’t an error.
It was, what I thought, the correct reply to the store owner’s question, “What is a company’s greatest asset?”
“Wrong,” he replied, “our customers.”
That disconnect between what I believed – that the only way to grow a business was through the employees; because they were the only ones we could train, motivate and monitor their mindset to increase sales – and the owner, that customers were owned like a pile of goods, got me to turn in my notice.
After fourteen years of building a regional chain into a powerhouse in their industry, I decided that day it was over.
At 5pm two weeks later, I asked the radio station to play Walkin’ Away A Winner by Kathy Matthea as I walked out of selling western wear in a retail store – after receiving the Greatest Increase In Sales award from South Coast Plaza – then the highest grossing retail destination in the world.
That was twenty years ago this year.
If I hadn’t moved on I would never have been living the life I am as a retail expert to some of the biggest retail brands in the world.
I didn’t know what I was going to do at that moment, but I knew I had to change.
Could that be you on this New Year’s Day?
Do you need to move on from a situation you hate, from a friendship that sucks the very being out of your soul, from a boss who constantly tears you down?
If so, I’m here to tell you, it’s the most liberating experience you can have.
Once you say, enough is enough; you are free to look at the possibilities.
The future opens up.
The world appears bright again.
Your fear of the known dissipates before any fear of the unknown can kick in. Top of the world exuberance is unleashed.
Big moments can have clarity on their own…but change can and should come in smaller steps.
Are you punished by negative thoughts of what you should have done in 2013?
The move you should have made?
The to-do lists you never got to?
The opportunity you almost got?
Nothing is hopeless, only thinking makes it so.
Let’s deal with last year right now with a ritual a friend showed me many years ago and that I have used many times…
Grab a small piece of paper and write your disappointments, negative thoughts; you name it – down in detail.
Next, grab a metal bowl like a mixing bowl and a pack of matches.
Say something that releases you from what you wrote. Could be as simple as, “I’m done with these” or “Thank you for these gifts.” Use your words, not mine.
Rip up the paper into small pieces and, provided nothing flammable is around you and you can contain any ashes – light them on fire. (Flash paper, which you can get at magic or hobby shop is great for this.)
That ritual and physical release can have the same effect on your psyche as bigger decisions that naturally come to you to quit a job, a relationship, a community.
Next ask yourself, what one word could embody my new attitude to push myself further? To not give into the excuses that got me in trouble last year. To not believe my own bullshit that lets me stay the same as others.
In short, what kind of year do you want for yourself?
Think of it as an attitude. An intention. A mindset. It could be a word or a phrase.
It doesn’t become something you boast about to others in public, but something you use to remind yourself about in private. It doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone but you.
It becomes your north star to watch over your actions. To get you to try again. To look ahead.
To go back to your retail store with a different attitude the next day
Next find something to latch hold of, an idea or initiative you will pursue. Something that challenges you. That you might fail at. That has no proven ROI or certainty but you know in your heart of hearts would goose you to become a better human being.
If you’ve heard me speak in the last few years or checked out my SalesRX.com online retail-learning portal – you know my message is that we must first rip down the barriers to our own hearts in order to be able to connect with one another as human beings.
Only then can we connect with them as retailers or salespeople.
I call it selling from the heart.
It invites the person in front of you to do the same.
To let go of the digital fortress in their pocket and their own cynicism about every slight discovered in others…
To let go of the words, I hate and let go of their own fears of meeting someone else.
But that starts from you looking for what you want to do to better yourself first.
Now if you’re smugly saying, make more money, re-read this from the start. It isn’t about money, it’s about you. Your attitude. Your self-talk and your denial of your part in your own happiness.
Only when we are ready to risk letting go of the past, of the barriers, of fear of rejection does anything in retail work.
So today, on this New Year’s Day…. Take a moment to let go of the past no matter how old, how detailed or how long you’ve held onto it.
Let go of what holds you back – release your failures, your defeats, and your fears.
Write them down, burn them and move on.
In that moment you can be walking away a winner as well.
Feel free to use the buttons top right to share this post with your friends – even if they have nothing to do with retail – and Happy New Year!
Thanks for being a part of my twenty years as your Retail Doctor.
This is part of a series of retail expert discussions from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York last week. The goal was to have a point/counterpoint discussion of some of the hot topics in retailing. Sponsored by Alert Technologies, these dialogues allowed us to interact and help you as a C-level executive look at some of the more complex issues concerning bricks and mortar stores, their employees ability to serve the customer and interactions with technology.
This interview features Ben Sprecher from Incentive Targeting and I discussing how technology can be raising the bar for customer service to unattainable heights, in particular the buy online, pickup in store movement. Here is the video to watch and an edited transcription below.
Bob: A customer who can click on their phone now to basically say, “Yes, I want my usual order in five minutes.” Have we have suddenly, because of technology, set the expectation way higher than it’s ever been; the chance to fall flat on your face is bigger than it probably ever has been. And the one thing that I’m hearing when people do the Best Buy or the Sears order online and pick up in-store is that they still have to get in queue with everybody else in line. It seems to be a huge issue. What do you think?
Ben: There are no isolated silver bullets in retail. Right? It’s all about getting the right collection of solutions together, and the collection, not just of technology solutions, but collection of people solutions, process solutions, store format solutions, all of these things together, are what you need to do as a retailer in order to get the most out of any one of these components. So, we were using the example of the person approaching the coffeehouse, ordering their latte. If you, as a retailer, provide that capability where they can pay on their phone before they get there, they can order before they get there, and they have to wait in the same damn line, you haven’t solved any problems for that person. But if you, as a retailer, say, “We have a new way to talk to our shopper in a very targeted, very personal way, in a very limited and quiet way, in a way that they respect and they want,” you also need to turn around and provide the supporting infrastructure within the store to make that a great . . .
Bob: That can be a huge cost
Ben: But it can be a huge opportunity. Right? If you think about the value of being able to have that express line sitting next, the red carpet line if you will . . . so you have the long line over here, you have the red carpet line over there. And the people in the long line notice the people in the red carpet line keep showing up, picking up their coffee, walking out of the door. Every single one of those people would say, “How do I sign up for that, man?”
Bob: Dude, as a coffee guy from years and years ago, I’m telling you, you would have people livid that that happened because not all of them are going to be on their smartphone. And what happens on the day Janie forgets her smartphone to order it? Now she’s got to be in that line. But she’s telling the barista, “But you already know me. I’m always in the express line.” I guess, that’s one of the things . . .
Ben: And this is where there is that transition. Right? It’s a complicated transition in that world.
Bob: Yeah, but nobody’s adding staff for that. And I think – to the point of the shop online and pick up at the big boxes – management is saying, “Well, look, we already have people pick stuff up in our store anyway. Why wouldn’t they just be able to use existing employees?” Which makes sense. Wouldn’t you agree? I mean, if you were in your office, that makes a lot of sense – until you’re the guy waiting for two hours to pickup your TV.
Ben: Right. It makes sense in terms of the spreadsheet of how many staff do I need for the store. What it doesn’t make sense in terms of is, how do I make sure that particular experience that consumer has is one that not only says, oh, I’m not just in New York across the street, but in other places in the country I’ll drive a half mile out of my way, to make sure I hit the coffee shop where I can get my coffee instantly as I show up on my way in the door, with no problems. People will change their behavior for really great retailers who do really great targeted customer things for them. And the people in that long line who, the first time they see that happen get a little bit upset, the person at the front of that register can’t be like, “Oh, dude, sorry, it’s, you know, your problem.” They need to be saying, “Oh, this is a great new program we have in place. Here’s what you do.”
Bob: That’s not going to happen. I’m just looking at the operations behind that, especially a barista who’s being pay is dependent on being tipped. So now, your best customers will be going to the express line. Talk about coming up with an unequal system in your store. It’s like the haves and the have-nots. I think that’s really dangerous, because I think retail is kind of a great democratizer. So, it becomes that . . . and let’s face it, the statistics last week out of The New York Times was that 1% of the people are driving 90% of the bandwidth in mobile. So, it’s a much smaller target than anyone’s saying. I mean, if this was 90% of the people had a phone and they could do it, great, but I don’t think that’s not where we are right now.
Ben: The reason that bandwidth is being consumed by a very narrow group of people is because, I think, we collectively, we the technology industry, we the retail industry, we everyone have not provided the really great, compelling next generation of experiences on the phone that are so easy to use that everybody can use them. Smartphones are rolling out like crazy. Everybody is getting them. People are forced to buy the data plan. They’re spending $120 a month, anyway, but all they’re doing on that thing they’re occasionally checking their email.
Bob: I’m often just looking at a map.
Ben: Looking at a map. Yesterday there was a great session that Cognizant ran where they were talking about building the store of tomorrow today. They pointed out that we are at the point now where mobile web browsing, minutes per day in the United States, has passed stationary computer web browsing, in minutes per day.
Bob: But what is that mean, though?
Ben: What’s happening is people are shifting where they think about interacting with information, and they’re starting to do it much more on their phone. You’re right, there’s definitely a steep curve there. There are a lot of people doing a lot and most people doing very little.
Bob: I guess my thing would be balance, Ben. I want to stay with the coffee house, because I think between that and the shop online and pick up in store is a big deal, because what I’m hearing is that it really is an integrated business but it’s almost a different business if you’re going to be doing the mobile with the cool technology. You really have to set it up that if this is always going to be on, then it’s almost like your store has to always be on too, right? That that customer could come in, and they have to be able to have that same always on experience, and then . . .
Ben: Or have to have the right expectations set from the very beginning. Right? If that always on experience is available during rush hour in the morning and rush hour in the evening and lunch, then when you go into the application not at that time, it needs to say, “I’m sorry, you can’t place your advanced order right now through this application.” So it really has to be sensitive to be aware of not just the who and not just the marketing side of it, but the where and the when of each of these interactions with the shopper.
Bob: And I’ll go to the next one, which is the operational issues that support it, because that’s the one I think that we’re missing.
Ben: And the operational issues to support it. You can’t have a disconnect.
Bob: People are raving about it like, “What a horrible experience.” I’m, like, “Really? You had to wait a half hour.” “But I ordered online.” Right? So . . .
Ben: Right. It’s mis-set their expectations. They’re setting the wrong expectations and not executing on it.
Bob: And even if a brand set that expectation, though, do you think a customer would listen to it? Because we customers are an impatient group. I’m talking over you right now.
Ben: If it set all the way to the very front of the experience. One of the greatest experiences I had was with the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts. Now, I don’t think anybody has ever said those phrases together before.
Bob: No. I don’t think so. Any of you out there? No.
Ben: When I had to do my most recent driver’s license renewal, I went and checked. I could look at each one of their locations and find the current wait time at each one of those RMVs online. I was able to change the one I was deciding to go to. That’s incredible. I knew that I was heading for a half hour wait, but I knew that I wasn’t heading for the hour and a half wait. Right? And so was I happy with that half hour wait? Damn straight.
Bob: The expectation was set.
Ben: Because the expectation was there right from the beginning.
Bob: That might also be interesting if you were doing the application, we’re staying with the coffee house idea, that maybe it would say, “And there are six people in line right now.” That would be cool.
Ben: A little camera there. You could see what’s going on in the coffee shop right now.
Bob: All right. So, I think we’ve solved the world’s problems here with this. But anything else? Final thoughts come to mind about setting the customer expectation high or low and . . .
Ben: At the end of the day, it’s all about respecting the customer, about talking to the customer in a way that values the incredible intimacy of this channel of talking to them, and that is targeted to who they are, to what they buy, to where they are, to when they are. When you start thinking about saying less and saying the right things instead of saying more to everybody and the wrong things, those are the retailers that are going to win. The retailers that are going to lose are the ones who treat this like printing in the newspaper, like broadcasting on TV.
Bob: And that’s the stuff that could spook them, right? That’s the stuff that could spook customers, like, wait this isn’t any different. You’re just vomiting on me with your same stuff.
Ben: It does not take very long to totally ruin a relationship, right? But it takes a very long time to build a good one.
Bob: Excellent point an good place for us to stop.
As a retail consultant, clients come to me to help them make more sales, attract more customers and become more profitable. I’m sharing ten case studies from some of the largest brands to some of the smallest mom and pops with lessons on your physical location, merchandising, branding, marketing to your target customers and of course, intense retail sales training - all of which you can use in your stores. Today is on changing the culture of your business from survival to thriving.
Looking at top retail trends at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York last week, I sat down with a number of experts to have a point/counterpoint discussion of some of the hot topics in retailing. Sponsored by Alert Technologies, these dialogues allowed us to interact and help you as a C-level executive look at some of the more complex issues concerning brick and mortar stores, their employees and interactions and challenges from technology.
When you are coming up with signage for your retail store, you must be careful you don’t upset customers unknowingly. As a retail speaker I’m asked to help demystify merchandising and retail signage so audience members can create kick-butt displays that sell. I reveal the nine types of displays, what makes them different and how to use them.
What is it about signs? They should be short, informational, welcoming and clear; especially in smaller retailers, regional chains and Main Street boutiques.