Welcome to this final edition of ‘Terrific Tips’ for 2018 delivered to your desktop free each month. My aim this year and every year has been to help you get a better result so that your customers appreciate and spread positive word of mouth about you and your business.
Hopefully the ideas, experiences and examples shared each month are ones that you in turn can share with your colleagues and team members and others you believe will benefit.
Last month’s newsletter included two early Christmas gifts for you. Just in case you missed them the links are also included in this edition. And in this month’s opening article you will find our special offer for Terrific Tips subscribers in 2019. Read on…
Thinking of advertising? Terrific Trading special offer for 2019
John Wanamaker, a successful department store owner in the first part of the twentieth century, famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half”.
For small businesses and almost any organisation today, that just isn’t good enough. You can’t afford to throw money at advertising and hope it works, and these days you don’t have to.
If you desperately feel the need to spend money on advertising or any form of unplanned promotional activity in 2019 –
Contact me at Terrific Trading. For half the charge that you would have paid for your adverts or promotional campaign, I will talk you out of it.
The result? You will only waste half as much money as you would have done in the first place. A win-win result for us both, don’t you think?
Alternatively, contact me if you would like to share your promotional plans for 2019. I am happy to be a sounding board for you. There is no charge for this. If we need to set the meter running I will first notify you of the investment and ensure it meets your approval.
Christmas quiz – part one1. Name 3 of Santa’s Reindeer
2. Give 2 other names for Santa
3. What day does Christmas fall on this year?
4. Finish this: “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…..”
5. In 1850 London sweet maker Tom Smith made the first what?
You’ll find Part Two further into this newsletter. No scrolling down further than that to peek at the answers till you’ve attempted all 10 questions.
How easy is it to navigate retail stores in the lead up to Christmas?
This is the question that my colleague Jan Collins and I were discussing while watching customers in a busy shopping centre. I was soon making numerous notes as Jan shared her thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of keeping retail stores attractive to shop in and easy to navigate during the busy festive season. Here are the fruits of our discussion.
If you make it difficult for people to enter your store it doesn’t matter how attractive the merchandise is, how well it’s priced or how wonderful the service is from your staff – people will choose to shop elsewhere.
Stock in dump bins or racks around the doors attracts people BUT narrows the width of the entrance way. If the customer is concerned about knocking something over as she navigates this, she may decide not to enter. She could well tell herself, “I’m not going to breathe in so that I can squeeze past this merchandise or go sideways and shuffle through. No way!” Remember, she has lots of other options.
When a customer is looking at clothes and they are packed so tight on hangers that she can’t get individual items out easily or can’t put them back, she may not even try. Racks must not be overfilled as customers are unlikely to work hard to browse rack merchandise. They have other choices. I guess the good news is that if you overfill the racks you won’t have to restock them often… because your merchandise won’t sell (that’s the bad news).
It is tempting when you have a high stock level to overfill displays, full is good but overfilled makes browsing and navigating difficult.
As you build your displays check that customers can bend down easily to see items on the bottom shelf without blocking the aisle.
If customers have bags from other shops, or a shopping trolley, it will put them off going down narrow aisles. Jan says your aisles need to be at least 1.2 meters wide so customers are able to move around unobstructed.
While we are on the topic of accessibility, give thought to people in wheelchairs and parents with pushers or prams. Get some volunteers representing different customer types to check out your store and give feedback. You can video record their comments on your phone and share this with your team. This will have impact.
Most of the time, when people are stocking up at the supermarket or doing ‘chore’ shopping for Christmas presents, they are on auto-pilot; they are in the ‘adaptive unconscious’ mode. This is when your brain processes the constant stream of stimuli without your conscious awareness, and is attracted to the familiar while blanking out the multitude of other messages.
To counteract this, focus your merchandising by displaying your best-sellers and high profit lines between the eye and hip level of your typical customers. And keep freshening it up so that there is something new to attract your customers’ attention and shake their conscious mind into action.
Even if you don’t have time to remerchandise all areas of the store, give priority to prime positions and end displays. Rotate the stock on these to attract customer interest. Start merchandising from the front of the store. That way, even if you run out of time to refresh all prime positions the section you have done will be visible to the customer and be transmitting the message that, “Yes, we do have new and interesting items for you to check out.”
As we move through December, stores start to look tired. Shelves become empty. Merchandise gets messy. It's understandable – there are often more customers through the store in December than at any other time of year. It’s hard to keep up appearances and it can be a challenge to maintain store standards.
Yet it’s a challenge you must meet. How much business can you afford to lose? If your front displays are half empty for just one day think of the income you have foregone, and not just on that day. It means that these disappointed customers are unlikely to come back in the lucrative pre-Christmas period.
Keep your store looking fresh and inviting throughout the festive season and you will earn the right to become the preferred choice for your customers at other times of year.
Work out which lines can be promoted at the counter. They should be low price point stocking fillers appealing to the majority of customers. Be careful not to put too much merchandise or information here as 70% of the space should be available to conduct business. Remove everything, and then only put back what is completely necessary.
If you have a window display, make sure the items in the window are still in stock in a variety of sizes. Imagine how let down people will feel if you tell them the merchandise in the window is out of stock? You could have lost a stressed, time poor customer for life.
At the end of each day, set aside an extra half hour to an hour for support staff to clean up the store and focus on store presentation. Refill shelves. Wipe fingerprints off the glass. Make sure you are proudly prepared for the next day.
Stay alert, keep thinking like a customer. Each time you and your staff go to and return from the loo or from lunch, notice which windows attract you. Ask yourself, “Why is this? What made me pause? What are customers seeing in the windows that will pull them into these retail stores?”
Seek out opposing views before acting on your ideas
I was interested to read this observation from Steve Simpson in his Cultural Intelligence newsletter:
“You’ll be pleased to know that there is hard evidence to support the fact that we ought to seek out different views.
“In a study by McKinsey, it was discovered that in cases where decisions turned out badly, only 25% of teams had sought out evidence contradicting their initial plan. In cases where decisions turned out well, 43% of teams had sought out contradicting evidence. So seeking alternative views actually results in better decisions!”
Making informed decisions
What is the meaning of life?
If you’ve read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy you’ll know the answer to this question is 42.
How do you know when you have enough information to make an informed decision?
If you read the newsletters of my (excellent) former technology coach, Gihan Perera – who these days describes himself as a ‘futurist’ – you will get an equally precise answer… 37.
Yes, 37 – That’s the point at which Gihan tells us we should stop gathering information and start making decisions.
In computer science, this is known as the Optimal Stopping Problem, and it has a (mathematically) proven ‘best’ solution. You spend 37% of your time just gathering information, and then choose the next option that’s better than any of those you have seen so far.
By way of explanation, he shares this example:
Suppose you’re recruiting a new team member, and you decide to interview 100 candidates. You know the most talented people have a choice of jobs, so when you find the best person, you want to grab them immediately.
But how do you know when you’ve found the ‘best’ person?
If you’re impulsive and you stop after, say, 5 candidates, you probably haven’t reached the best person yet, because they are more likely to be in the other 95.
On the other hand, if you’re hesitant and wait until you’ve interviewed 95 candidates, the best was probably among them, but you passed them by and they would have already been snatched up by somebody else.
The Optimal Stopping decision-making process says you should interview and evaluate the first 37 candidates (without choosing any of them), and then choose the very next candidate who’s better than those first 37.
This doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the best person, but it maximises your chances – according to computer science.
And Gihan has a Computer Science degree, so he should know!
He goes on to say, “I’m not suggesting you should use this process for every decision you make. That just wouldn’t make any sense (but)… If you want to make smart decisions now for success in the future, you need to think differently!”
Lessons from the law
In a stunningly insightful article aimed at law firms and other professional practices in the UK, Jonathan Winchester paints a picture that we would all do well to learn from.
He says, “Firms really need to understand that those raising the customer experience bar sit outside their sector and that is the place to look for inspiration. When British Airways introduced the ‘lie flat’ bed, they looked at the luxury boat industry to find a solution. If they had asked their own engineers it would never have happened. The same applies in law, until the leaders start to look outside their arena they will never make the change required.”
He makes the point that, “… most firms think they are really good at customer experience when in reality they are getting left behind. When 500 European leaders were asked if they delivered good or better customer service 80% of them raised their hand. When their customers were asked only 8% put their hand up. We all think we are good…but we don’t know if we don’t measure.”
According to Jonathan, “The biggest issue facing law firms today is they are either too scared to, don’t know how to, or even worse, don’t think they need to, listen to all of their clients all of the time.”
He shares some startling facts which his company Insight6 found when they recently measured the enquiry process for 70 law firms:
Please do read and reflect on this comprehensive assessment by clicking on Are legal firms taking customer experience seriously? And if you are based in the UK check out insight6 formerly known as Shopper Anonymous UK. They are the people to help you on your customer experience journey.
By the way, there is one thing in Jonathan’s article and at the insight6 website that I’m uncomfortable with. It’s the use of consultant language ‘CX’ as an abbreviation for Customer Experience. Our American friends in the customer experience field are really into this. I prefer using customer language to using consultant jargon. Jonathan and I have agreed to disagree on this!
Some gifts are more than just a gift
At the time of writing, the stand out Christmas commercial this year is from John Lewis. This 2 minute 20 seconds big budget production featuring Elton John is truly heartwarming. Check it out by clicking on the link to Some gifts are more than just a gift.
While I’ve got you in the mood, have a look at my favourite Christmas commercials from earlier years.
Christmas quiz – part two
6. What country does the tradition of Christmas come from?
7. Santa’s preferred mode of entry?
8. Santa’s preferred mode of transport?
9. Why are Santa’s clothes red and white?
10. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was originally created for which USA retailer?
Get back what you give a thousandfold
Judging from the responses to last month’s newsletter, the story of the Greek philosopher tending his garden struck a chord with more than a few readers.
Here is a wonderful Japanese folktale along similar lines that community consultant Peter Kenyon shared in his excellent newsletter.
Long ago in a small, far away village, there was a place known as the House of a Thousand Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit.
When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1,000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1,000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the House, he thought to himself, "This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often."
In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw the 1,000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1,000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, "That is a horrible place, and I will never come back here again."
Sometimes I wonder
Why if you send something by road it is called a shipment, but when you send it by sea it is called cargo?
One of our specialities at Terrific Trading, is what I like to call ‘Selling for Non-Salespeople’. In other words selling for people who see themselves as service providers, technicians or professionals, people who help their customers – people who often find the whole idea of selling distasteful.
We know that equipping them with selling skills won’t in any way improve their performance and the profitability of the company they represent UNTIL and UNLESS we can help them feel OK about selling. By the way, this includes the owners of many businesses.
It’s good fun watching the transformation. When going through my library of information recently, I rediscovered a wonderful story of one such transformation related by James Levinson. It’s from way back in the 1970’s in the hospitality sector but I’m sure it’s one you will relate to.
From 1972 to early 1975 James Lavinson was brought in as CEO of his hotel groups’ flagship store, the Plaza Hotel in New York. Unprofitable in the five years before he assumed the hotel’s key leadership role, the Plaza was a success each year of Lavinson’s tenure before being sold in February 1975 at great profit by Sonseta International Hotels.
How did he preform this remarkable turn-around? By getting the 1,400 staff in every conceivable role working over 18 floors, a thousand guest rooms, six restaurants, a night club and a theatre to ‘Think Strawberries’.
It’s a wonderful story. You can access it by clicking on Think Strawberries. To whet your appetite, here are a couple of excerpts.
“Soon after I commenced at the Plaza, something occurred which gave me a preview of what I was up against.
“I was walking through the lobby when I heard the phone ring at the Bell Captain’s desk. No-one was answering it.
“To demonstrate to my staff that no job was too demeaning for me, I went over, picked up the phone and said, ‘Bell Captain’s desk. How may I help you?’
“A voice came over the other end, ‘Pass it on, Lavenson’s in the lobby.’
Here’s another snippet:
“The Plaza is a dignified institution. It is so dignified it was considered demeaning to admit that we needed business, no matter how much money we were losing. And if you didn’t ask us, we wouldn’t ask you. We weren’t ringing your doorbell or anyone else’s. You had to ring ours.
“This seemed to be a philosophy shared by the entire organisation… If you wanted a second drink at the Plaza’s famous Oak Bar, you got it via a simple technique – tripping the waiter and then pinning him to the floor. You had to ask him, not the other way around.
“I introduced a new policy. When the guest’s glass is down to one-third full, the waiter is to ask the guest if he’d like a second drink…Couldn’t miss, I thought.
“About a month after introducing this policy, I joined the General Manager in the Oak Bar for a drink. I noticed at the table next to us there were four guests and four empty glasses. Not a waiter came near them.
“After about 15 minutes, I asked the GM what had happened to my ‘second-drink’ program. The GM called over the maitre’d and asked the same. The maitre’d called over the captain, pointed to the other table and said, ‘Whatever happened to Lavenson’s ‘second drink’ program?’ The captain then called over the waiter, who broke into a wreath of smiles as he explained that the people at the next table had already had their second drink!”
You can find out how James Levinson turned around the culture at the Plaza, New York by reading Think Strawberries. You’ll love it.
Answers to this year’s Christmas Quiz
For you and your team
In your November Terrific Tips I mentioned that our most consistently popular book for both the print and ebook editions is ‘Terrific Telephone Techniques – The ultimate guide to excellent service over the phone’. As a Christmas bonus we are making this available free of charge to our Terrific Tips newsletter readers.
Download your complimentary Terrific Telephone Techniques ebook.
And if you, your friends or family are involved in retail, download a free copy of our best selling ebook 52 Terrific Tips for Christmas Workbook.
Read the Sign
I first spotted this sign in Peter Kenyon’s wonderful newsletter a few years ago. I reckon it deserves another look and a Christmas chuckle.
“In the absence of communication amongst your customers, advertising rules. But when customers talk to each other it’s the customer experience that counts.” Don Peppers co-author of ‘Extreme Trust – Honesty as a Competitive Advantage’
“You don’t build a business, you build people and then people build the business.” Zig Ziglar
"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves." Bill Vaughan
In closing I’d like to say…
A big THANK YOU to you, your friends and colleagues for taking the time to read, share and make use of the articles, anecdotes and ideas in these monthly Terrific Tips.
To get you in the Christmas spirit here is a delightful YouTube clip I included a couple of years back of some New Zealand children interpreting and narrating the Christmas Story in their wonderful Kiwi accents. Join over 4 million other viewers by watching Kiwi Christmas Story and have your heart warmed by this beautiful production.
Wishing you the best of health, the best of dreams and the best of friends for the festive season and beyond.
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