5 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience Right Now
With the holiday season upon us, now is the time to assess your store’s readiness to compete for customers. From product knowledge to organization, everything becomes more crucial at this time of year. Here are some proven, easy-to-implement ideas we at Larry’s Music have put into place. These will immediately improve the customer experience in your store.
1. First impressions are everything. Because we “live” in our store environments, we grow accustomed to them and miss impressions our customers may pick up at first glance. It’s easy to walk past problem areas without noticing them. Your staff should spend time each day making sure products are well organized, clean, positioned correctly and shuffled regularly. Shuffling guitars, for instance, often gets customers to discover guitars they'd previously missed. Reorganizing whole departments and prominent displays also generates interest. We shuffle different products to display areas at the front of our store on a weekly basis. This isn’t a new idea, but as an industry, we don’t do it often enough. When I check other stores’ Facebook pages, I regularly see the same guitars hanging in the same spots.
2. Product knowledge isn’t sexy, but it’s often overlooked. Larry’s Music Center owner Brad Shreve recently asked staff to train each other on different products. There are times when your bass expert may not be available, so it’s important for you to have a basic grasp of a bassist’s most frequently asked questions. I cringe every time I ask a question at a store and the salesperson is clueless about basic product features. Saying a product isn’t your area of expertise isn’t an option. Our mini-sessions take only 10–15 minutes. A point person highlights a particular brand of products and answers specific staff questions. We cover one brand at a time, a few days a week.
3. A little hospitality goes a long way. Personal relationships are the foundation upon which independent stores are built, and they’re what set us apart from the monoliths. You don’t have to learn your customers’ life stories, but sometimes, a short, personal conversation can lead to critical information that, in turn, helps lead to sales. Our owner always encourages staff to treat customers as though they’re the experts and we just want to hang out with them. People don’t like to feel talked down to, and if we ask about their bands or what pedals they use, it turns into a conversation. You then get the opportunity to introduce your customers to new equipment.
4. Get out from behind the counter, leave the office and close the door. Nothing is more important than customers. Emails, advertising, sales reps and spreadsheets can wait. When customers come in your store, it’s your duty to get on the floor and spend time with them. We no longer leave cables on top of our amplifiers—not because we don’t trust our customers but because we want to help them find a guitar and amplifier to try out. This gives us the opportunity to get to know them. You can’t guarantee you’re meeting every customer’s needs and making every potential sale if you’re sitting in an office—or behind the counter at your computer.
5. Appearances are deceiving. Between emails with reps, manning our store’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, creating graphics and advertisements, and maintaining our website, I am constantly hunched over my MacBook Pro. It’s easy to appear annoyed or inconvenienced when we’re forced to wait on customers because we’re looking down. Once, Brad took a photo to illustrate this to me. I looked terrible—disengaged and annoyed—even though I was in a great mood. I learned my lesson immediately. My appearance mattered. I don’t intend to diminish the importance of my other tasks, but nothing is more important than a customer. If there’s a large task I need to complete, I can schedule time to complete it while other staff members cover for me.
Remember: Customers in the store are your most important asset. Every one of them is an opportunity to make a connection, gain a student for lessons or potentially make a sale. Without them, we don’t stay in business, so everything else can wait.