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More Than Just A Business

Seeing it from the customer's perspective

Two events that my family and I have recently experienced provide the thoughts for this article. And as we have discussed our experiences, I have wondered whether families that shop in our hardware store have asked the same types of question among themselves about our store.

Even though we live in Florida, and most of the major tourist attractions are within an hour and a half drive, we have looked forward to taking a day off from work and school to visit an attraction. But when most other families takes a vacation to visit central Florida, it is for them a major event. A trip to Disney World, Busch Gardens, or Universal Studios is not something that they can do just any day. And for financial or other reasons, perhaps the vacation is only once in a life time.

Every part of this vacation should be special. You have saved money for this event, saved your days off for this event, and now have an opportunity to spend some quality time with your family.

On a personal basis, within the past year my wife and I decided to have another baby. Because of circumstances surrounding the situation, a great deal of medical preparation and assistance was necessary. There have been many visits to the doctors and medical center over the past 10 months. As you might imagine, this too is a situation that one does not experience with any kind of frequency. And this experience, just like the vacation to central Florida, will cause you to interact with many people, most of which are making their livelihood from your being there. With both of these situations, the people surrounding the customer/patient can make all the difference in how it is experienced. Unfortunately, in both of these events, we had occasions when our hopes and expectations were not met. In the amusement parts, there were meals that were purchased with not so much as a "hello, what would you like to have for lunch today?" or after having purchased a $2.00 cola and a $4.00 hamburger, not even a "thank you". And at one attraction, customers were not allowed to come in and sit under cover during a sudden rainstorm because "the animal trainers want everyone out of the area."

With the experience of our visiting the hospital for a test, imagine the instructions upon completing a most important test to be, "we'll try to call you by 1 pm. If we don't, you can call us." And what happened? When my wife received a phone call from a billing clerk, the questions being asked of my wife clearly indicated that the test had the positive results that we had wanted. Somehow, the nursing staff notified the billing office first, and now we had our answer. So much for the personal service.

This same type of situation, perhaps occurs every day in our store. A customer walking into our store to make a purchase that is special to him, and how we respond to him will determine how special that event is. Of great importance to us will be whether or not he returns. And if he will tell someone else about the way he was received.

For example, a store may sell 150 lawn mowers in each season, easily one every day. But, to each and every customer, we will help him select, and sell to him, probably the only lawn mower that he will purchase in the next five years.

With our cashiers, we have for a long time instructed them to not say to a customer at the register, "Is that all?" We ask our cashiers to imagine the situation of a customer that has but a small amount of money left from his monthly social security check. That customer has come to our store to spend a small amount of money - perhaps for a package of light bulbs that is on sale. He or she has come to our store in response to a sales flyer that we had delivered to their home. "Is that all?" would seem to have the potential of being a fairly degrading statement.

Instead of a probably harmless, "Is that all?", we have our cashiers ask the customer if we helped him find all that he needed or ask if we gave him a copy of our last sales flyer. We believe that this is the best effort that we can make to help him have a pleasant shopping experience.

There are so many items that we sell in our store that will cause such a situation similar to the lawn mower: painting the interior or exterior of the house, purchasing a set of hand or power tools, buying a bicycle. What is a everyday experience for us, becomes a special occasion for someone else.

There are also many finishing touches that a store can do to let this customer just how special we think this occasion is. With a lawn mower or other power equipment, we can send them a card and offer their first tune up and service for little or no cost. We can let our customer know that we want to make sure that the equipment is operating properly, and that he is happy with his purchase.

With a bicycle purchase, we offer to adjust the cables after two weeks at no charge. And with the purchase of enough exterior paint to paint a home, we offer the free usage of a pressure washer. We tell our customer that this is our way of showing our interest in making sure that the customer does the job correctly. And when the job is completed, we want our customer to be happy and proud of our paint and his paint job.

The important part of the lesson that we want each of our team members to understand and deliver is to give the experience to our customer that they want to receive. The hard part, usually, is having our team member understand that we do believe that the customer is very important. And that we want to eliminate the possibility of the customer experiencing, or being treated in our store, what all of us have experienced somewhere else.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179