Post originally appeared in The Observant Customer 4/20/2017
He was timid, reserved and soft-spoken. We have all run across this type of customer before. It’s challenging to get them to warm up to you, they can be slow to offer information and they can even be hard to hear.
I greeted him and asked him what brought him into the store today. A rather defensive “I just came in to look” was his response. So I told him to look around and that I would check back in a few minutes if he ran across any questions and then I set off to help others who had just entered the store.
As I circled back to him after a few minutes, it was clear to me that he that he truly was looking for something specific as he studied the hang tags and pulled garments off racks to look at. It seems that he had needed some time to decompress and check things out on his own terms when he first entered our store. I re-approached him.
“Looks like you have run across some questions, how can I help?”
Post originally appeared in The Observant Customer 4/28/2017
One of the joys of a good road trip is getting well away from the interstates and onto the blue highways of William Least-Heat Moon fame. It is on just such roads that my wife and I found ourselves on a recent trip to Death Valley.
As we drove through southern Oregon, the clock was approaching lunchtime and we were beginning to feel a bit hungry when we heard a radio ad for the Klamath Grill on Main Street in Klamath Falls. The ad made it sound like a great local place to stop for lunch. We were not disappointed.
This breakfast and lunch spot serves up a nice variety of diner favorites along with some chef specialities such as Swedish Pancakes, Dutch Babies and a Cranberry Club Sandwich.
Waiting for my Huevos con Chorizo to arrive, I picked up a table topper to read. Anyone who has eaten at a small town diner might recognize these simple booklets with local history, bad jokes, trivia and area advertisements to read while waiting for your food.
As I was reading through the booklet, I ran across a reference to the “only solar-powered outdoor store in the US”, The Ledge. Checking my phone, I discovered the store was only several blocks from the diner. So we decided we would walk over to the store and take a look around before heading on to Tule Lake and Susanville.
Post originally appeared in The Observant Customer 2/23/2016
Getting two flat tires on the commute home is a rare occurrence but that is what happened to my wife recently. The current tires had given her many miles of good service and were due to be replaced so she asked me if I wanted to go with her to our neighborhood bike shop to pick up some new tires. We both headed out since I rarely pass up a chance to check out the latest bike equipment.
We knew the store stocks a particular tire she likes since we have bought them their before. She really loves the tires because they have reflective sidewalls, important for early morning commuters. In fact, reflective sidewalls have become so important to her that they have become the standard for any commuter bike tires.
Originally posted in The Observant Customer 6/21/2017
I was straightening up my workspace this morning and ran across a sample of a coaching log. The log had been developed by an experienced and talented store manager working for the company I worked at many years.
It was well produced with 50 pages to record when a manager coached an employee. I really liked the playbook and I hope that it improved coaching for the managers and their employees. Perhaps it lead to better sales, improved service or more effective and efficient employees.
This was not the only coaching log that I saw while I working in retail management and training. In fact, I probably saw 50 different versions over the years. But this one was a good one.
The reason why I bring this up is that it has been my experience that there is no correlation between good coaching and the use of a coaching log.
Post originally appeared in The Observant Customer 3/14/2016
My wife and I went to our local bike shop to do some browsing. (Yes, some customers do just want to look around.) Entering the shop, we walked right into the middle of a very excited conversation with one voice louder than all others. Looking around, I discovered the voice belonged to an overly friendly employee that had obviously trapped a helpless customer. With his purchases clasped tightly in his hand and his bike lights already blazing and flashing, the customer was trying to inch towards the door while the employee continued to regale him with wild tales of his own recent bicycling adventures. The employee was talking so loudly; it appeared he missed the day in kindergarten when they teach about the difference between your indoor and outdoor voice as his carried clearly throughout the relatively small store.
My wife and I glanced at each other as we hurried past hoping that he would not engage us. Safely in the store, my wife commented about his excessive volume and his overly familiar behaviors. Neither of which are characteristics we appreciate in a salesperson.
As my wife and I commenced our browsing, another couple walked through the doorway. Seeing his chance for escape, the trapped customer scurried through the open doors and into the night. Unfortunately, the couple walked right into the line of fire of the Loud, Eager And Friendly clerk. Let’s just call him LEAF. As a student of retail, I figured this was a customer interaction worth watching.
Post originally appeared in The Observant Customer 2/8/2018
We have all been there. Walking by a playground, a college campus, a beach or schoolyard, when we hear the call’ “A little help?”
We all know how to respond. We immediately search the area for an errant ball or frisbee that needs to be returned to the person asking for help. Finding the lost item, we toss, throw, flip or kick it back to the owner hopefully with some accuracy.
That’s it. Our obligation is fulfilled according to social norms. No one expects you to join their game, no one expects you to have fantastic skills in returning the item. A simple “Thanks” and a “Your welcome” and we are done.
Why do I describe this phenomenon? It would be nice to replicate this in our retail stores when the shopper is somewhere between “I can do this myself” and “I am utterly helpless here.” It would be great for shoppers to be able to say “A little help?” and get just that little bit of service to get them through their visit.
It would also be nice for the associates. They would be able to quickly find and help the easy customers allowing them to clear those “little help” shoppers from the aisles. This would free up time for those that need considerably more help.
Several years ago, I started the blog The Observant Customer as an outlet for my observations on retailing. This new endeavor is to focus on outdoor retailing.
How do I define outdoor retailing? I suppose I should be more specific. I will focus mostly on human powered outdoor pursuits. Hiking, backpacking, skiing, snowshoeing, paddling and the like are the areas I will be looking at the most. I am not anti-hunting and fishing, but since these are outside my area of expertise and are specialties of their own, I will likely only mentioned them occasionally.
As for my expertise, I have over over 25 years of experience in outdoor retailing. My experience includes working on the sales floor with customers, as a manager in stores and in the training department of several notable outdoor retailers. Several major outdoor retailers currently use sales and service training that I developed and deployed.
I continue to be involved in outdoor activities and consider myself an avid, hiker, backpacker, XC skier, snowshoer and paddler. In the past, I have been a climber and a downhill skier.
What can you expect in the blog? I will be commenting on how to serve customers (or in many cases, how not to serve customers), points on managing retail sales, comments on outdoor retailers both good and bad and observations on the industry in general.