As a shop owner, you know the importance of making your brick and mortar look nice, tidy and welcoming.
You’re all about creating a great shopping experience for your customers – whether they buy anything or not.
You live and breathe customer service.
In everyday life, though, amidst the other duties of running a business, the task of making sure your store is pristine can fall far down your list of priorities. But neglecting to do so may leave first-time visitors with a poor first impression.
Beyond the basics of making sure the floors are clear from mess and debris, do you inspect every nook and cranny of your store? Even the dressing rooms and restrooms?
Every single day?
This leads us to our first shortcut for offering a superior shopping experience.
1. Walk the entire floor of your store, every day
Before you open, walk around your entire store. Visit every single room. Restrooms, dressing rooms, behind your checkout counter and in that one corner you think no one ever sees. Every square meter.
Take note of things to be fixed, changed, or filled before you open.
And tell your employees or store managers to do the same. They’re likely to notice different things than you.
The point of the exercise is to see your store with new eyes – as a first-time visitor would – and spot anything that you could change or improve to give potential customers a better first impression.
Don’t let anyone walk away from your store with a reason to not make a purchase, come back or recommend you to a friend, or two. You never know when a stranger walks into your store for the first time. It probably happens every day. And every time it’s a person who’ll potentially end up as a regular customer for decades to come – and tell all her friends about your amazing store
That’s why it’s so crucial to walk the floor of your store every day.
2. Visit a store from another industry
Shortcut number 2 is as simple as number 1, and it contains the same potential for becoming your secret weapon that makes your store stand out against the competition.
Most people know that when you look at the same thing over and over again, you often focus on the same details and run the risk of overlooking other details that might be important.
This secret will help you get new inspiration and ideas for things you can do differently in your store.
Go visit a different store – preferably in a completely different industry – and take a careful look at it.
If you own a café, go visit a hairdresser. Own a hardware store? Maybe check out an apparel shop. And vice versa.
Visiting a store in an industry other than your own allows you to make reflections and honest assessments with fresh eyes. It will stimulate your imagination to come up with new ideas that you wouldn’t have had if you only visited stores similar to your own.
Make it a routine. Maybe once a month, spend 2 to 3 hours taking a walk of inspiration to other stores. Bring a pen and paper to jot down any brilliant ideas.
When on the walk, try to notice the small things:
How does the store look and feel? How is it decorated? How does the shop assistant approach you? What does he say? What do the signs say?
And last but not least: What works and what doesn’t? What can you learn from it?
3. Ask your customers
Whether the customer is a regular or a one-time visitor, she might have knowledge, comments, or observations that are valuable to you and your business.
And if you never ask, you might miss those insights.
What if your store layout confuses customers? Perhaps your storefront gives an impression that’s completely different from what you are selling? Or a customer has a fun idea that could actually help lots of customers through to purchase?
You’d want to know.
That’s why you have to dare to ask your customers about their shopping experience. And only their candid opinion is of value.
If you don’t want to ask them directly (and some customers might prefer to be left alone while shopping), print a survey and place it visibly by your checkout.
Alternatively, you can create an online survey, e.g. with SurveyMonkey. It’s easy, free and only takes a couple of minutes.
If you have a company page on Facebook (and you do, right?), you can ask your fans there. Or email your mailing list if you have one.
Remember one thing, though: You’re asking for a favor. You want customers to spend their valuable time on you. In that case, you might want to consider offering something in return. You might have a drawing for a store voucher or a bottle of good wine.
I’ll guarantee that this will be money well spent when you start getting more knowledge about your customers’ impression of your store.
If you (like me) prefer something specific to work with, I’ve made a few questions for your inspiration.
Consider a combination of questions with pre-defined answers and questions where the customers write an answer.
See examples below:
How was your shopping experience here?
(Rate from a 1-6 scale with 1 being very poor, and 6 being very good.)
What did you think of our level of customer service?
(Rate from a 1-6 scale with 1 being very poor, and 6 being very good.)
Do you have any ideas or suggestions for improvement?
(Please write your answer.)
The above is merely a suggestion. Take what you can use, and disregard everything else.
These were my 3 shortcuts for creating a superior shopping experience. I hope you feel inspired.
If you have any feedback or questions, join our conversation on Twitter or Facebook.
Marketing and content at Bambora. When not writing, I'm reading. Book aficionado, word nerd, and helpless dad.
Morton’s Steakhouse is Full of Surprises
This is a fun one! It’s also a quirky reminder that many of the most fondly remembered service stories are the ones that come out of left field. This story certainly fits the bill, and it is bound to inspire you to take some extra time to surprise a valued customer every once in a while......
Peter Shankman knows a thing or two about customer service. As an author, consultant and speaker on the topic, it’s safe to say his standards are high.
While at an airport, Shankman realized that if he didn’t grab a bite to eat he’d be stuck riding the plane back on an empty stomach. Not one for fast food, Shankman took a shot in the dark and jokingly tweeted to one of his favorite restaurants, Morton’s, asking them if they would deliver him a steak!
Even though he’s a longtime customer of the steakhouse, Shankman admits that he had no expectations when he sent out the tweet. After all, who ever heard of steak on wheels?!
To Shankman’s utter disbelief, one of Morton’s staff drove 23 miles to the airport to greet him with a full meal:
“He proceeds to tell me that he’d heard I was hungry, and inside is a 24 oz. Porterhouse steak, an order of Colossal Shrimp, a side of potatoes, one of Morton’s famous round things of bread, two napkins, and silverware.”–Peter Shankman
One of the most interesting things about Shankman’s story is that he admits that this “stunt” was meant to be out of the ordinary ... and that’s completely okay.
“Customer service isn’t about telling people how awesome you are, it’s about creating stories that do the talking for you.”
This is a stellar example of doing exactly that, and Morton’s deserves all of the attention they received (and more) for making it happen.