Kate's Collage
"Vinny Da Vendor"
"Benny Da Buyer"
Kizer & Bender
Memory, Paper & Stamps
Category Reports
Designing Perspectives
Scene & Heard

Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com


A view of the industry through the eyes of independent and chain retailers.

Printer Version

"Listen To Your Customers, They're Smarter Than You"

Savvy, inexpensive ways to improve your customer service.

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (September 19, 2011)

Knowing whatís going on in the world of retail is critical to the growth of your business --  it is to ours as well.That's why we spend time each year doing our own consumer research. Our goal is to uncover what's going on out there, and translate it into strategies you can use on your own sales floor. And because we work in so many different industries, we're able to provide you with a broader picture of what customers look for in a shopping experience.

But it isn't always easy.

For example, take the focus group we did with a group of Baby Boomer women. Our first question was an easy one, or so we thought. We asked the group to tell us about their recent customer service experiences:

"Are there places where real people still answer the telephone? I hate having to listen to some cheerful, robotic voice offer me 300 options that I have to listen to in their entirety because if I try and jump ahead, I just get sent back to the beginning."

"Why do I have to stay home all day to wait for a delivery man who might show up at 10 am or 4:30 pm? Why canít the store give me an approximate time, so I donít have to waste the entire day?"

"I don't think anyone really listens when I offer a suggestion. Some stores have suggestion boxes and they ask customers for their opinion, but I never see them actually do anything that I suggest.:

If we had a nickel for every time we heard a customer say one of those things we'd be richer than Bill Gates by now. Do focus groups exaggerate? Sometimes. But there's always a trail to follow if you listen carefully and then piece together what they tell you.

A successful retailer once told us, "Listen to your customers because they're smarter than you." He also pointed out that the letters that form the word LISTEN also spell SILENT; you canít listen to a customer if your mouth is open.

So we listen and we recommend that you listen, too. In a world of social networking, it's dangerous to think you have all the answers. What if you're -- GASP! -- wrong? Here are some ideas to help you zero in on what your customers think:

1. Focus Groups. Invite 15 customers to participate in your focus group, but set the room for 8-10. Itís always better to have to bring in extra chairs than to have empty seats; it makes your meeting seem even more important. You can hold your focus group in your store or off-site. Either way, you will need someone to mediate because it will be hard for you to be objective if someone says something less than stellar about your store. Serve refreshments and have a list of questions ready to keep the conversation moving. You will need to each person a gift of value for participating. We generally give $50 in cash (you could substitute a store gift card), plus a jar candle valued at around $20.

2. Customer Advisory Board. Similar to a corporate board of directors, your Customer Advisory Board will meet with you once a quarter to discuss the things you've done in your store, and your future plans. For best results, choose people from different generations.

3. Exit Interviews. Station yourself near the front door. When a customer is about to leave, politely stop her and ask if she found everything she was looking for. Exit interviews are great for identifying products customers wish you carried; and you'll be able to save the sale when customers find out you do carry whatever they came in to purchase, but couldn't find.

4. Customer Comment Cards. Place "Tell Us What You Think!" cards on your cash wrap, in classrooms, and on your web site for customers to complete. These are great for time-starved customers who have something to say, but are short on time to stop and talk.

5. Associate Feedback. Ask store associates to fill you in on what they're hearing from customers on the sales floor. Place a notebook in the lunchroom or at the cash wrap so they can easily jot down customer comments. You can discuss these comments in detail during store meetings.

6. The BIG Question. You'll get extremely useful information when you ask customers our BIG Question: "What ONE thing could we do to ___________?" You fill in the blank.

"What ONE thing could we do to improve our customer service?" or "What ONE service could we add to make it more convenient to shop here?" or "What ONE class or event could we add that you would like to attend?"

The customer has to put thought into her answer, so you'll hear constructive things you'll be able to easily implement. Don't be surprised if many shoppers tell you a variation on the same theme -- thatís a good thing! If it's positive, then you have one more thing to brag about, and if it's negative, then you know just what to fix.

These simple tools will help you uncover a great many things to help you grow your business, but you're likely to hear things you didn't want to hear as well. Your responsibility after asking customers for their input is to make sure you let them know what you plan to do with what they told you. When you implement their suggestions, and especially when you can't, let them know. Post your responses on a "customer interaction" bulletin board in your store, in your newsletter, on your web site, and on your Facebook and other social media pages.

Keep Your Eyes Wide Open.

Every retailer has some wonderful new line of product that just isn't selling. Set aside time to observe how customers interact with it. Perhaps your associates aren't familiar enough with the product to properly recommend it, or perhaps customers are interested, but have no idea what to do with it. Or maybe it's merchandised in the wrong area. You wonít know these things until you watch what customers do -- and don't do -- inside your store. Try these easy observation methods.

Fly On The Wall Exercise. The idea is to blend in and become just another shopper. Tell associates what youíre doing and to pretend you're not there. They can only blow your cover in a genuine emergency.

Dress the same way your customers typically dress. If it's 90 degrees outside and everyone is wearing shorts and T-shirts, you need to be in shorts and a T-shirt, too. If it's below zero and shoppers are decked out in heavy coats, put yours on as well. If you don't do this, you'll stick out and people will wonder what you're up to.

Carry a notebook to record what you see. You may even want to use a small voice recorder or camcorder. We use a Flipô MinoHD.

Station yourself in a prime shopping spot on the sales floor and just watch. Observe how shoppers interact with displays, merchandise, and your associates. Associates will forget you are there, too, so you may catch them doing things you wish you hadn't, like cutting corners or ignoring customers.

Move to different locations throughout the store and write the important things you observe in your notebook so you can address changes you'd like to make later on.

Listen, Watch, and React.

Listen to your customers. Ask for their opinions. Watch what they do in your store and make changes according to what you find. React by giving them a unique in-store experience they can only get from you. As a result of all of your hard work and research you'l be able to create a unique in-store experience and a comfortable place where they can dream, be entertained, get lost for a little while, and look forward to their next visit.

Let other stores ignore what their customers think. Not you. The relationship you have with your customers is like any other relationship; it' based on trust, coupled with your ability to interpret, meet, and even exceed, their changing needs. Knowing your customers, and what they want, will keep your merchandise fresh, your promotions fun, and your sales floor crackling with excitement!


KIZER & BENDER Speaking! 

Keynotes | Seminars | Consulting | Store Design

103 North 11th Ave., Ste. 206, St. Charles, Illinois 60174
Phone: 630-513-8020 | 24/7 Mobile: 708-347-2682 Fax: 630-513-8098
Web: www.kizerandbender.com     
Blog: www.kizerandbender.blogspot.com  
Twitter: http://twitter.com/kizerandbender   
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/KIZER-BENDER/258761889930
YouTube Channel:




horizontal rule

horizontal rule


Kizer & Bender's Recent Columns...
VISUAL MERCHANDISING, PT. II; Add new life to your displays by knowing how people browse and shop.

VISUAL MERCHANDISING, PT. I; Taking the mystery out of a well designed store.

SHEER INTENSITY! THE RETAIL BOOT CAMP; How to make 2013 a great year.

42 GREAT IDEAS TO "WOW" YOUR CUSTOMERS; Suggestions for your store and staff.

NEW YEAR, NEW ATTITUDE; Change is inevitable, and improving your employees' attitude can be done.

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SUCCESS AT TRADE SHOWS; Make sure you optimize your return on your trade show investment.

10 IDEAS TO JUMP START YOUR BUSINESS! Strategies to make 2012 a success.


"LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS, THEY'RE SMARTER THAN YOU"; Savvy, inexpensive ways to improve your customer service.

GENERATIONS 101; Different strokes (and strategies) for different folks.

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SUCCESS AT TRADE SHOWS; Straightforward advice that can increase the return on your trade show investment.

5 SUREFIRE WAYS TO ESTABLISH YOUR BRAND; Create a good story, then tell it.

WHEN BIG IDEAS DON'T WORK, IT'S OK TO MOVE ON! Learn from the example of a Las Vegas mogul.

IS YOUR BUSINESS "ZOOMER" FRIENDLY? Nine ways to make your store more convenient for older customers.

CRAFTING THE ULTIMATE CHARITY EVENT; Participating in cause marketing helps a worthy cause and promotes your business. Here's how to do it right.

FAUX SHOPPING FOR REAL RESULTS; Imagine all consumers are mystery shoppers because, in a sense, they are.

RETAIL IS IN THE DETAILS: HOW TO PLAN EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS; Planning, planning, and more planning.

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO IMPROVE CUSTOMER SERVICE; Customer service is an election every day, and your customers are the voters.

HAUL OUT THE HOLLY: IT'S CHRISTMAS TIME ON THE SALES FLOOR! Nine way$ to make your Christmas Merry.

WORD OF MOUTH: SOCIAL MEDIA 101; And a preview of upcoming seminars.

ARE YOUR READY FOR RECORD HALLOWEEN SALES? Thirteen ways to make it happen.

WE'D SHAKE YOUR ANTENNAE BUT WE'RE TOO TIRED; Has your business ever bugged a customer? Here's what not to do.

510 TIPS TO SURVIVE IN A TOUGH ECONOMY; When the going gets tough, the tough...

50 IDEAS TO INCREASE STORE SALES! Basic, simple, and effective.

COLOR PSYCHOLOGY: THE USE OF COLOR IN STORE DESIGN; Your store's color scheme can boost sales, or kill them.

TAKING CUSTOMER SERVICE TO THE NEXT LEVEL; It's a constant struggle, but with big rewards.

THE 360 DEGREE PASS-BY; Take a close -- and closer -- look at your store.

SOAR ABOVE COPY CAT COMPETITION; And fly away with more traffic, sales, and profits.

"ALEX, WE'LL TAKE 'THINGS THAT CHEESE US OFF' FOR $500!"; Perhaps it was a customer, not you, who infuriated a customer, but you still must deal with the anger.

WHY YOU NEED AN EXECUTIVE OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES; Someone to study what your customers do, act, think, and where they shop.


BOOST YOUR ECONOMY - CREATIVE A COUPONOMY! Profitable ways to use coupons.

THE SALES POTENTIAL IN PROMS AND SCHOOL DRESSES; Rich and Georganne interview themselves on a new retail sales opportunity.

MERCHANDISING SENSE; Strategies to help consumers see, hear, taste, touch, smell -- and then buy.

THE FINE ART OF ASKING QUESTIONS; The smart questions result in better sales.

20 PERCENT DISCIPLES; Your best customers can help you attract new customers.

DUDE, YOU'VE BEEN AIRLINED. AGAIN; These are "friendly skies"?

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SUCCESS AT TRADE SHOWS; Straightforward advice that can make a big difference.

IT'S THE CUSTOMERS DEFINITION OF SERVICE THAT COUNTS, NOT YOURS; Apple needs some help - and K&B's CHA seminar schedule.

IS THE CUSTOMER ALWAYS RIGHT? Manufacturers have to handle irate consumers, too.

TURNING LIONS INTO LAMBS; How an angry customer can become a loyal fan.

12 EASY WAYS TO MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS; Simple, straightforward, and effective.

LOVE ME, LOVE MY KIDS; How to keep children happy in your store.

HE SHOPS, SHE SHOPS ... DIFFERENTLY; And that can make a big difference in your sales.

BRAND AID; Building a brand is simple: consistency and attention to detail.

CLANDESTINE RETAILING; CREATING NEW CUSTOMERS! Clever, creative, and inexpensive ideas.

TELEPHONE ETIQUETTE; Simple tips to make a good impression.

WHAT TO DO ON YOUR CUSTOMERS' VACATIONS; How to entice them into your store for summer fun.

STAKE YOUR CLAIM ... DON'T PLAY THE RECESSION GAME! Attitude makes all the difference.

HEY THERE! HI THERE! OH THERE! How a day at Disney can make you a better retailer.

STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT DIVERSITY AND DEMOGRAPHICS; What works for one group may hurt sales with another.


A MIRACLE IN RETAIL; What a hockey coach can teach you about building a great team.

THE CUSTOMER SERVICE CIRCLE; How your staff gets along with each other makes a big difference.


YOU HAD US AT "HELLO"; Simple, common sense ways to improve customer service.


SIX TRAINING TIPS TO GROW YOUR GREATEST ASSETS; Basic ways to make your employees more effective.

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SUCCESS AT TRADE SHOWS; Straightforward advice that can increase the return on your trade show investment.