Monday, February 11, 2013

A Tale of Two Stores....

My former boutique a million years ago....

A Tale Of Two Stores….

So I promised myself that if I was ever going to launch a blog like this as a means to offer advice or insight about running a business then it would have to be a completely honest, non-sugar-coated, tell-it-like-it-is approach sort of place or not exist at all.  So, here we go….
It  stands to reason that since I have spent most of my life entrenched in the world of customer service, and have quite literally bent over backwards (not pretty) in an attempt to make my clients happy,  I tend to be a little outspoken when it comes to how I am treated while out shopping.  I won’t go so far as to tell you that I have some sort of ridiculous visions of grandeur where I walk into a store and magically a red carpet is rolled out to greet me, trumpets are sounded to announce me and somebody shows up with a glass of champagne and a puppy, but I do like to be treated as if the hard-earned money I am potentially about to spend at your boutique or store matters.
Case in point, Store Number One ( I have intentionally left out the names because frustrated though I might be, I do have a heart and would prefer that you judge a business based on your own experiences and not hear-say): 
My husband and I have been big supporters of a local antique store for years.  Most of the larger pieces of furniture and vintage accessories in our home have been purchased from this shop because we have a love of all things rusty, old and antique.  So last week, the owner of the shop posted a photo of a fabulous item that I simply knew I couldn’t live without (famous last words).  I immediately jumped in and asked for the price….since they were closed when he shared the photo, he asked me to please call the store, leave a voice mail and they would call me back with the price.  I didn’t really understand why he couldn’t just tell me the price right then and there since he was obviously posting from the store, but okay….  So, I did and after two days, I heard nothing.  I posted another message stating that I had left a voice mail two days prior and didn’t hear back.  He asked me to call during business hours and somebody would get me a price.  So again, I did.  A very kind saleswoman verbally walked me around the shop trying to find the item I was inquiring about, then placed me on hold, then came back, took my phone number and said the owner would call me back in five minutes….another two days go by.  
So, by now, I’m getting a little annoyed, and though I am never one to chase a product I want, for some reason, the tug of this particular item simply wouldn’t go away.  I send a private message to the shop owner telling him I am a bit disappointed that it’s been 4 days and all I want is a price.  I tell him about the messages, the lack of response etc. and instead of apologizing, he tells me he is not currently at the shop but the moment he gets there that morning he will get me the price.  Another entire day goes by.  Late that night I get another private message from him asking me to please call the shop the next day because he was busy and just couldn’t get back to me.  My response?  “No thank you.”  His response?  NOTHING.  Bye-bye forever antique store.

Hello Lovely Clients, Thank you so much for being here, care for a sample?

Store Number Two:

I keep seeing posts online about a wonderful women’s boutique who is constantly posting photos of their items that I think are absolutely adorable.  So, I decide its time to pay a visit to the shop and see if I can’t do a little damage to my credit card.   I walk in on a particularly ordinary day, the shop is empty besides myself and the woman behind the counter.  She is on the phone with what I am sure is a girlfriend and doesn’t bother to look up….okay, I will give her the benefit of the doubt and continue browsing.  Soon enough my arms are getting heavy from the items I have already fallen in love with and MUST try on….the woman is still on the phone… and frankly  I’m pretty sure that I could have walked right out with all those clothes and she wouldn’t have even noticed, but I’m a big believer in karma, and not a fan of the prison system, so I stay to try them on.
Now it’s important to note that I don’t do well with lousy customer service, and though I rarely ever say something about it, I’m not likely to ever visit the store again….but this time was different.  This time I was clearly being ignored and I felt like I needed to do something.  I assumed that the woman who wouldn’t hang up the phone must be a salesperson because surely a store owner, especially in a town where there are 10 other stores just like hers wouldn’t  just ignore a potential sale….or would they?
I approach the counter with my arms full of clothing and am just standing there waiting for the woman to hang up….nope…..she is laughing and having a grand ole time chatting away with her friend.  So, I put all the clothing on the counter and a bit loudly ask if by any chance the store owner is around.  The woman sighs, tells her friend to hold on and says “ I am the owner.”  WHAT???  I was speechless….and for what I know was an awkward 30 seconds, I just stared at her then finally said “nevermind” and proceeded to head for the door.  As if the experience wasn’t bad enough, the woman had the audacity to actually say out loud, “so I guess you don’t want these?”  Instead of saying what I wanted to, I smiled back at her like the lady I am, and kept on walking….
The moral of the story is simple….your clients are worth their weight in gold.  They have no obligation to purchase from you, they are doing so because they want to, because they choose to.  Your job, no matter what is going on in your personal life, no matter how good your business might be, no matter how well or NOT well dressed they may be is to treat them like royalty each and every time they stop in, call, email or whatever.  There are far too many other businesses out there who as a matter of fact, WILL roll out the red carpet and make the client you ignored the one they now celebrate. 
Not every potential client will care if you say hello, in fact some don’t even want your attention, they just want to shop and be left alone.  But on the off chance that they do and you were too busy chatting about Grey’s Anatomy or playing Angry Birds to notice them standing there, then you simply don’t get to sob into your Cheerios when they just stop coming. 
These are obviously two very extreme and truthful recent examples, but when I walk into a major art supply chain ( I love you Dick Blick) and get treated better than I do at a boutique who needs every sale it can get, then something is terribly wrong.
In the end, the message is simple but imperative…..celebrate your clients and they will do the same for you, ignore them and you might as well place a “going out of business” sign on your door because that’s where you’re headed….  Harsh?  Maybe.  An exaggeration of the truth?  Possibly, but do you really want to run the risk of finding out?  If not, then say hello when they walk in, stop texting, answer your emails in a timely fashion, thank your clients and MOST importantly, let each and every one of them know how much they matter because regardless of how amazing  your company is, at the end of the day, your business depends on it!
Have a happy Monday and go BE FABULOUS!

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