This morning I stumbled upon an article about a mystery shopping experience written by Garrett Boone, the co-founder of The Container Store. His experiences in this article echo 98% my shopping experiences. Garrett Boone’s mystery shopping is a real window onto what’s actually happening with customer experience and customer service.
Here is the article from DallasNews.com:
After I read that article, I wanted to learn more about him.
I wasn’t going to write about my errand day last week. The thoughts that went through my mind were:
No one will find this interesting.
But I can’t get it out of my head because I realized
And this experience is not a one time only situation. It has occurred a few times in the last 3 months.
If you are a retail business that is in a mall or shopping center, your landlord has rules for you.
Rule #1: Open for business on time.
If, however you are an independent business owner who leases a space in a quaint small town, there are really no “rules” so to speak, so if you open a half hour late, it’s no big deal. Some might even find it reminds them of a boutique in Europe where the customers are always “wrong” and the hours of operation vary on a daily basis. It’s just their way.
I bring all of this up because I woke up the other morning knowing I had many errands. I had a lot on my “To Do” list and needed to get as early a start as possible. I timed everything out based on what time the stores opened. Most retail establishments open at 10:00 a.m. so I left the house at 5 minutes before 10:00 and was happy that I would be able to get in and out early. The two stores I wanted to shop in were not open at a little after 10:00. As I walked to the cafe around the corner to get a cup of coffee while I waited for the 2 shops to open, I noticed there were other stores not open. Had my watch stopped? I got to the coffee shop and verified the time. It was 10:20 a.m.
On my way back, I stopped to look in a different shop window at something that caught my eye….something that MIGHT be perfect as a gift for someone who was on my “To Do” list. I looked at my newly synchronized watch….It was 10:30 a.m. I looked further into the shop and saw some great gift ideas. I saw a woman arranging some items in the store. I feel certain she saw me looking in the window because she looked up from what she was doing when I appeared. I went for the doorknob and just before my hand touched it, I noticed the “CLOSED” sign. I saw the store hours posted on the door.
I looked at the woman, who by this time had turned her back. I left with my coffee feeling very perplexed.
If you were the owner of this store, what would you have liked to have seen happen? I know I would have been happy if I had been greeted by this woman opening up the door and inviting me in.
I most likely would have purchased a gift for my friend and not bothered to have even entered the other stores that were not open before going to get coffee.
I know what some of you may be thinking….
Why doesn’t she just go to the mall or chain store that opens on time?
I have an aversion to the homogenized McShopping Centers and Malls. I like supporting the Mom and Pop businesses whenever possible. Only it wasn’t possible on this day.
What are the messages here?
Are business owners in such a funk that they can’t see that making an effort CAN make a difference in their sales?
Are they feeling like there is no hope?
Is the shop just a hobby?
Albeit more discerning of their spending, consumers ARE still out there.
This is especially the time to shine
be open on time,
When I was a sales coach for This End Up Furniture Company, I was working with a store manager one-on-one during a two day visit to her store. She was a very bubbly, enthusiastic manager who loved the company, the product, the people, the customers….everything. As a matter of fact, she had been a very enthusiastic customer who was recruited. Her name was Diane.
Much of the first half of our day was spent in observation mode….meaning I observed Diane with with her customers. What I saw/heard was non stop bubbly and up-beat talking….90% from Diane. Every encounter ended with the customer walking out with a brochure and price list and ALL of the information about the company, the furniture they were standing near, the fabric, the accessories, etc. that Diane graciously shared like a hostess with a tray of appetizers.
To put it mildly,
she had “the gift of gab”
which needed a bit of tweaking.
As a coach, it is my job to keep the learning atmosphere as open and positive as possible.
Integrity is a value I honor.
What might have happened if I said to Diane: “You talk too much!…That customer couldn’t get a word in edgewise!” Most likely it would shut her down which would essentially slow or stop the learning process.
To keep the learning atmosphere healthy,
a good coach keeps the conversation in
a place of discovery.
What I didn’t mention at the top of this post is that Diane and I began our day talking about what we both wanted out of our two days together. From the beginning, expectations were in place….from all parties involved.
This vital step is what set us up for success.
One of the ten Shared Values at This End Up was Individual Growth. We attracted people who appreciated this unique value in a retail setting. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy….this stretching and growing business, however, everyone was in it together, by choice. We all coached each other…up the line and down the line. What a great culture!
Diane asked me to let her know what I observed and pick
to help her grow that would impact increasing her personal sales.
My coaching began:
Me: Tell me about that customer.
Diane’s responses were all based on everything she told the customers about the product and services.
Me: What did the customer tell you about their home? or What room were they working on?
Diane: They didn’t. I think they were just looking.
Me: What do you know about them as a person?
Diane: They had on a real cute dress and they were on their way to the movies in the mall.
Me: What do they know about us? (the company, furniture, etc…)
Diane: A lot! I told them how we started as a company, how the furniture is constructed, what fabrics are available, how long it takes to receive from the date the order is placed, what our hours are….
Diane stopped mid sentence and looked up at me with that unmistakable look in her eyes that indicated the A-HA! moment!
Diane: I talked too much. I didn’t give anyone a chance to talk. I don’t really know anything about the people who came in to the store this morning.
Continuing to keep the learning atmosphere open during this very important moment, I asked:
What would you have liked to have known about them?
Diane was able to list a number of productive responses. I followed up with:
What questions will lead you to all of those wonderful responses?
Again, Diane came up with some stellar questions.
It was all making sense.
A shift had begun.
Before we continued with the second part of our day, we took a break for lunch and I gently and causally asked:
What percentage of the time do you think the customers talked this morning?
She smiled and said: Hardly at all. I must have talked 100% of the time., just like I do at home. My husband and daughter can’t get a word in edgewise.
Diane looked at me again with that “A-Ha” look in her eyes and said….
“Oh my gosh. My poor family!” She laughed. I laughed. And then I asked:
Would you be up for a little assignment tonight? She agreed. I asked Diane to practice the 80/20 ratio of listening to talking with her family over dinner that evening and come back to our second day with a full report.
That means allowing her family to talk 80% while she listens. Her 20% of talking was to include as many open ended questions as was logical while she commented on whatever her family was talking about over dinner.
After lunch, we spent the afternoon practicing open ended questions to allow the customers to do a bit more of the talking. It worked and she went home energized and exhausted all at once.
The next day, I got the full report on dinner. As you might imagine, her family thought something must have been wrong with her. Was she okay? Did she feel well? Was she coming down with something? Honestly, she said her husband was delighted and asked her to thank me. While he didn’t want Diane to change from who she was, he was grateful for the shift.
And Diane was grateful for the shift in her sales.
She increased her sales that month by 40%.
blabber – blabber – blabber
chatter – chatter – chatter
If you substituted the customer in this scenario for one of the people you manage, would the same philosophy apply? (80/20?)
There’s the grocery store….and then there’s the specialty grocery store where the food is organic and healthy. I try to shop in the latter as much as possible. I believe that nourishing yourself with healthy foods is like practicing preventative medicine. It’s a worthwhile investment. (I feel the same way about massages)
Not only are the offerings good…the people seem genuinely happy. You can just feel it.
On a recent visit, I was on a mission: shopping for good tasting sauces with low to no sodium to add to stir fry vegies. When I found what I was looking for, I headed for the check out lane. I was third in line at the two register store.
Before I knew it, the second register was opened.
The gentleman in front of me with two items was ushered over.
The person who opened the second register was an employee who worked in a different department. When it was my turn in line, I had an item from my visit earlier in the week that I needed to return. I was hoping this wouldn’t be a problem.
I mentioned that I was returning the item because the sodium content was too high (34%….in noodles! Who knew?). Kathi, the “supplement manager” (it was on her name tag) smiled and asked if I would be using the same credit card today that I used to purchase the noodles. I said yes and she said….
Just as everything was put into my bag, Kathi shared that her uncle was on a strict low sodium diet and that her aunt buys a few good items that fit the bill. She offered to show them to me. I took her up on her offer. At that moment, one of the other employees came up in line and put a few items on the conveyor belt and said, “Since you’re here and finished (ringing me up), I thought you could ring these up for me.”
Kathi’s response: “I am going to show this customer a few things that I told her about first and then I’ll be back to ring you up.”
I followed Kathi and she pointed out some foods I may want to consider for other low sodium options.
All of her suggestions were good and related to my situation.
Not only did I thank her for her recommendations, I acknowledged her for putting me first.
What were this business’s messages ?
When is the last time you acknowledged your team,
in the moment,
for doing something “right”?
I like giving credit where credit is due. Thank you Kathi.
I like giving credit where credit is due, for great customer service. The organic market link is:
The 5 Customer (Guest) Wants:
I had to smile as I read them. They were simply common sense and the fact that they posted them was brilliant in my humble opinion. What does having this list do for the “guests” that walk in? And how about the employees? What does this say about the company?
I enjoyed a long career with a company that had their Shared Values posted in every store. This was a company that believed in empowering every member of their team to make good decisions based on the company’s values, vision and mission. As a new team member, the first day of training was just about these shared values with the thought that if you found yourself in a position where you weren’t sure what to do, you could follow the values and make the “right” decisions…every time.
It worked like a charm.
What words does your business have to live by?
What is your business’s customer service philosophy?
Would you post them?
Recently, I asked an entrepreneur what her vision was for her business.
Her reply was perfect…
and what I would term a Common Sense Mission Statement:
” I want every person who walks in to feel glad that they did! “
What is YOURS?