How to Improve the Customer Experience Right Away

How many of you want satisfied customers? At the 2016 NAMM Show, Tracy Leenman of Musical Innovations challenged music retailers to go a step further. She shared the best practices that have helped make her store NAMM’s 2015 Dealer of the Year and the Top 100 Award winner for Best Customer Service—revealing how to build loyal, exclusive customers. Leenman’s best customer-service tips follow.

Start with why. Leenman suggested reading the book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek.

What’s your why? Is it to get everyone involved in music? Is it because you believe music education is important for children and families? Know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and make sure your employees share that vision and passion, especially the person answering the phone in your store. “If you don’t believe that every person that comes in your store needs more music in their lives, then you’re in the wrong business,” Leenman said.

Make sure everything you do is consistent with your why. For example, merchandise certain items (not breakable or expensive products) down low for kids to see and touch. Parents coming into your store will appreciate it.

Stay customer-focused, and make each customer interaction amazing and magical. Leenman quoted from the story The Little Prince, “What is essential is invisible to the eye,” and stressed the intangible when it comes to interacting with your customers. What really matters to customers is feeling comfortable, at ease and important. She advised that retailers guard against getting desensitized. All customers need to be treated as if they’re your first one, so answer every question as if you’re answering it for the first time.

Help customers choose. Leenman stressed that her approach is helping customers choose, rather than selling them something. “Give people all of the information they need to make a good decision,” she said. Go beyond the sale, and make customers think about what’s best for them because you care about them.

Sell your story. Leenman commented that she was The Little Engine That Could when she started out six years ago in 1,300 square feet of retail space. Musical Innovations’ success since then makes people want to do business with her and her team.

Think about the lifetime value of the customer. “The most important thing you can think about when a customer comes in your store is the lifetime value of that customer,” Leenman said. How do you convince customers to come back again and again? Your employees need to be your customer-amazement team—not your customer-satisfaction team. At Musical Innovations, every employee has up to $50 to use at his or her discretion (without having to check with Leenman or a manager first), called a $50 Lifeboat. Service is more than just fixing the problem; it’s also about restoring customer confidence.

Don’t ask, “May I help you?” Some customers don’t know what they want when they come in. Here are some greetings Leenman and her team use:
• “Thanks for coming in today.”
• “Have you been here before?”
• “Where does your child go to school?” (The employee then has to use the director’s name, which lends credibility and gives parents confidence.)
• “Where do you take lessons? Who do you take lessons from?” The employee can then start a meaningful dialogue. “We know him. This is the book he uses.”

It’s all about the customer. Leenman mentioned that her store has non-negotiable customer service standards (NCSS), which every employee is trained to follow. She gave specific examples of these:
• What time do you close? If someone calls the store, Musical Innovations employees say, “We close at 6 p.m., but we’ll wait for you if you need us to.”
• What time do you open? “We open at 11:30 a.m., but someone’s almost always here at 9 a.m., so please give us a call. We’ll open the door for you.”
• If there’s a particular item they don’t carry: “We don’t have it in stock, but we can get it for you.”

Price isn’t everything. Leenman shared that one of her greatest rewards is hearing customers remark, “Wow! They were so helpful.” If customers only want the lowest price, they’d go online. Customers really want that added value. “They want to know that you know what you’re doing,” Leenman said.

Customers want to be comfortable. Leenman outlined her tactics for making it easy for the customer to buy:
• Merchandise for first-time visitors, and assume they don’t know what they need or want.
• Use lots of signage (neatly displayed). When you go to a grocery store, products are displayed to make sense together, and your music store should be no different.
• Be patient versus pedantic with your customer interactions. Listen to customers, then go the extra mile to meet their needs.
• Think about educating versus hard-selling the customer. Be the customer’s resource.
• Watch the “wait.” Give customers something to do while waiting, such as handing out fliers for them to read.
• Anticipate questions. Role play and practice with new employees, so they can answer questions and are prepared. They should almost have a script in mind. Seasoned employees are good trainers for this, especially when teaching how to deal with tough questions.

Training is everything. “How you train your employees is how they will treat your customers,” she said. Use your specialists. (Musical Innovations has four education specialists, such as a trombone specialist.) Always look for these specialists, and recruit them.

Default to “yes.” “Everything should be yes, if you can possibly do it.”

Keep up on what your competitors are doing. Leenman referred to Competimates (Competitor + Teammate) because we all have something in common, which is trying to get more people playing music. Know what Competimates are doing and offering, so you’re better prepared.

Wow! Something’s going on there. You want to be the hub of excitement in your town. Here are two ideas:
• Make Music Day. If you’re not participating in this annual worldwide celebration of music, order the free NAMM kit, and schedule it in your store.
• Develop partnerships in your community with music publishers, manufacturers and local media. When you have manufacturer reps, prominent community figures and music advocates in your store, it only increases your credibility.

Go where your customers are. These are a few suggestions:
• Go to the shows. Be everywhere. Be as convenient as Amazon.
• Be a resource. Have music and research statistics ready for parents, and use them to engage customers.
• Attend the NAMM Fly-in to promote music education.

​Building long-term relationships with customers will yield loyal customers and rewarding experiences.