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Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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The Opposite of NO

Ideas for increasing customer loyalty

There used to be a series of public-service announcements directed at children and youth. The central theme of these announcements was "Just say no."

While we don't know the results of these announcements, we do know it works too often in retail. A customer calls or comes into a store and asks for a particular product, part, or service. There is the positive answer of, "Yes, we can," or "Yes, we have it." Independent stores, as well as chain and warehouse stores, all use this answer.

Then there is the opposite response of "no," which can be heard in the chain or warehouse store. However, it is not what is heard in the store that knows how to take care of its customers. This is not a column that makes a stand for you to expand your business to provide every service imaginable, or to stock every possible brand and type of product. It is, however, an argument for the opportunity to provide extreme customer service and wrap up a tremendous share of customers' business within your community.

Take, as an example, the retailer who has posters displayed near the time clock, in the office, and in the back room of his business that proclaim "No is not an option." To back up this statement, the dealer has done several things.

The first is to educate his staff that the answer to the question about a product is always, "Yes, we have it," "Why have you chosen that particular product?" or "How soon do you need it?"

With the first answer, he simply makes the sale. With the question of why, the customer usually explains his preference for that product. There is an effort by the team member to equate the quality of the product they stock with the product the customer has requested. Without letting the customer walk away, the team member will move to the question of "when." The second thing the retailer has done is to have a charge account with most of his competitors. When the situation calls for the "when" question to be asked, the retailer will send someone to the competition to purchase the product and return with it to his store. He then removes the price sticker of the competitor and charges his customer the same price as the competitor.

It did take a while for customers to find out why he always had what they needed, but it quickly became their best promotion to be able to tell customers they would not let them down. The retailer was as close to being a "one-stop business" as there could be. Building on this reputation, the store began a second promotion, which they called "drop and drive." Their pool-chemical supplier had provided them with a software program that not only provided analysis, but also would track the purchases and service calls of customers.

With the drop-and-drive promotion, the customer, on his way to work, writes his account number on the side of the water bottle the dealer provides and drops the bottle at the dealer, who even has a drop slot much like the video stores.

During the slack time of the day, each sample bottle is fully analyzed. The empty bottle, detailed instructions, two copies of a list of products, and the appropriate chemicals are put into a tray for the customer to pick up at the end of the day.

The account number made it appear to the customer that the service was simply easy to use. It was, however, the dealer's way of making sure the customers who used the service were buying chemicals from him and not taking the information to a competitor. While the team members were always ready to answer questions when the customer came in to pick up his results, the idea of the duplicate form was a way of confirming the customer had bought the suggested products. Of course, as any dealer would expect, there was the occasional customer who had to be told this service was free as long as products were purchased from him. Without a purchase, the water analysis and report were $10.

Most of this latter group of customers got the message, with a few refusing to pay and deciding to shop elsewhere. This was okay with the dealer, since this was obviously not his customer anyway. There is an old adage: "A dog with a full food bowl does not go looking at other food bowls." The customer who is able to get all of his products and services with one call or one stop is not likely to go looking at the competition.

While dogs are noted for being extremely loyal, people can and will be the same way. Your chances of finding this type of customer increases tremendously if you know there is no NO!


Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site: www.profitsplus.org


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