Click to visit the Synchrony website


Love Your Customers

February is the month of hearts and roses. Although I don't really love Hallmark holidays, Valentine's Day serves as a good reminder about the importance of our relationships.

Enduring businesses rely on lasting relationships with their clients, not on day-to-day transactions them.

When was the last time you received truly exceptional service? We live in a world of self-service gas, U-Scan grocery checkout, and reliance on the Internet for product information. These processes have made our service expectations pretty low, but still, we're frequently disappointed.

Yet, there are notable exceptions.

In order to provide a purchase experience that truly differentiates yourself from your competitors, take a lesson from Sam Geist's book and ask yourself this question every day:

"Why should someone do business with you, rather than with someone else?" If you can't answer it, your prospects won't be able to either.

You might answer, "People buy from us because we've been around for thirty years." That won't motivate a first-time quilter or a newly minted college graduate buying his first vacuum.

Or you might say, "We have a wide selection of products to choose from." Bigger than Home Depot's online catalogue of vacuums available for delivery in three days? Millennials in particular don't need to see a wide array of product. They'll get the information they need about the products you sell on the Internet.

People might buy from you because you offer a unique selling proposition or an exceptional buying experience…but they will buy if you love your customers more than everyone else.

In an industry where profitability has eluded most players, Southwest Airlines has shown a profit for 43 consecutive years. Where others have cut service to the bone, Southwest delivers an exceptional experience. Passenger perks including free checked baggage, in-flight snacks, no change fees, and friendly, happy employees have delivered more— not less — to the bottom line than any other carrier.

Trader Joe's has expanded rapidly in the highly-competitive, low-margin grocery channel by offering a unique selling proposition. Instead of the endless variety sold in most supermarkets, TJ's sells a limited but highly-curated assortment of products that customers come back for again and again. They've eschewed most national brands for what they've made appear almost hand-crafted private label goods. They have mastered the art of impulse selling with fresh salads, to-die-for chocolate, and 100-calorie pre-packaged snacks.

Their biggest asset, though, is their team. Ask any associate where something is and they'll stop what they're doing and walk you to the item. Jobs at TJ's go to warm, welcoming people who are appreciated by the company and customers.

If you really want to provide a great customer experience, consider "merchandising" it the same way you do your product assortment. Honestly analyze the experience you provide throughout the buying process. Look for service gaps and for places to upgrade. Better yet, survey your customers and find out how they define premium service.

How are guests welcomed in your store? If I wanted to differentiate my store, I'd take a page from Starbucks's book and offer a full-service coffee bar at the front complete with a variety of flavors, fresh milk and cream, hot chocolate for the kids, bottled water, and fresh fruit. I'd serve them in reusable to-go cups (lids help keep the store clean) with my store logo. While I'm getting drinks for my customer, I have time to get to know them and find out what they want to buy.

Is your pricing fair and reasonable? Does it match what those products sell for in your marketplace? Customers who have to haggle for a better price are not getting a good experience.

Do your associates have the product information and communication skills that enable them to explain the value of feature-laden products? Can they explain new technology in ways that make customers eager to have it in their homes? Do they excite their customers?

Do you have a solid system for following up with customers who don't buy or after you've given them a quote? Chances are if they are contacted a day or two after they're in the store, you'll get the sale simply because you made that call.

Are your service technicians clean and groomed, well-trained and courteous? Do they take the time to explain the repairs to the customers?.

The product you sell is the same one everyone else is selling. Every vacuum on your floor is available all over town and on the Internet. The customer experience you give is what adds value and differentiates you from the rest. It's the answer to that question: "Why should someone do business
with you, rather than with someone else?"

Elly ValasAbout the Author: Elly Valas is a speaker, author, and retail consultant. She shows retailers large and small how to beat the big box stores by using unconventional marketing and sales tactics that are simple, inexpensive, and effective. Her book Guerilla Retailing is available on Amazon.com with more than 14 million copies in print.

Ms. Valas has also worked with many manufacturers to help them take products to retail through the independent channel and train dealers to provide an improved shopping experience. From 1992 through 2003, Ms. Valas was the President and CEO of the North American Retail Dealers Association (NARDA), a trade association providing training, consulting, and business services to independent retailers in the consumer electronics, home appliance, and furniture industries.

Contact her at elly@ellyvalas.com or 303-316-7568 for information about her programs, consulting services, or to purchase her new book, Lessons from the Links.

Reprinted from Floor Care & Central Vac Professional, February 2017