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Wind, sneezers, and Marriah

Away out here they've got a name for rain and wind and fire.
The rain is Tess, the fire's Joe and they call the wind Marriah

We often see the wind in advertising as a cool comfortable breeze. In the photographs or video, the wind appears to feel good and makes a pleasant experience even more enjoyable. You can see the affects of the wind; but you cannot see it. Whatever the advertising is selling, the product or service is made more desirable.

When a customer has an enjoyable experience in your business they are bound to tell others about it. Unfortunately, because great customer experience is such a rarity, we all like to talk about that individual who made the extra effort. Whether it was to get and use your name, or demonstrate a general interest in taking care of you, it becomes an experience that we want to tell others about.

The person who tells others about their experience is often referred to as a ‘sneezer’. While a person who is actually sneezing is spreading germs, the person that is sneezing about your business is indirectly telling friends and those they meet why they should do business with you. No matter how much you advertise, the saying is true that you cannot buy what this sneezer is doing for you.

This past week, we had the opportunity to visit a home accessory store. It was not an intentional visit, but an attractive window display caused us to make a detour. This is where we met Marriah.

Her youthfulness was not a hindrance as she gracefully asked about where the accessory was going to be displayed. Within a minute we found ourselves looking at additional items. Somehow, during the interaction we learned her name, she learned ours and where we lived. Marriah was proud of the business she worked for, how long she had worked in the store, and she shared that there was another location that was even closer to our home.

Amazingly, and with a lot of enjoyment, the single purchase became multiple items. While we expected to walk in and would likely purchase the item we had initially seen in the window, what should have been a ten minute shopping experience consumed most of an hour.

All the way home, the discussion was more about Marriah than about the new store we had found and the items we were now going to place about our home.

A week later as we were in the neighborhood of their other location, we made a point to stop in and shop. The second location had a different sales floor layout, but much of the merchandise was the same.

The big difference was Marriah; or the lack thereof. While the merchandise was well displayed and we saw a couple of items we had not seen in the original store, the experience was much like what we all experience in most  other stores.

The staff did say hello and did politely complete the purchases for customers. We stayed a bit to give all of the staff an opportunity to impress us as we watched them interact with customers, but there was no one like Marriah. It was an easy decision for us that while we liked both of the stores, our next shopping excursion would find us taking a longer trip because we would want to see Marriah and have her wait on us again.

The two experiences confirm several items about retailing and customer service. The first is that great customer service is not dead. A second confirmation is that while Marriah was a great hire by the owner of these stores, the owner has not found the key to hiring more with the same traits.

The third confirmation is this business does not have a plan for helping more of their employees become like Marriah. Because we, like most everyone else wanting great customer service, hope that the owner of the business recognizes the difference Marriah is making. We also hope there is an incentive program to reward Marriah for her efforts.

Doing so means that this business is going to benefit from more people that become sneezers. As it currently stands, this family of sneezers will continue to tell others they should travel a bit further so they can experience Marriah.

The reason to return to this shop started with the right item that was well displayed. The shopping experience was wonderful because of the great customer service and became the reason we will want to return.

If you want to have all of your staff become like Marriah, it is going to take some effort from you. You can’t teach personality like Marriah, but you can hire for personality and you can teach customer service.

In retail, great customer service a big following and it has a name. In this particular store, just like the wind, it is called Marriah.

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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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