As a marketer and ad manager focused on hooking that shiny new customer, I didn’t consider my existing customers. I was so enthralled with developing effective creative collateral, making clever ad buys, and planning the calendar out so it would coincide with the merchandise I was bringing that I lost focus on the business’s mission. I was so concerned with the peripheral that the goal was shrouded in transactional statistics and measurements and had little chance of having an ROI beyond a week.
I was reminded of this when my oldest daughter, going into her senior year in high school, expressed interest in getting back into the guitar again and wanted to get a new one. She has one already, a junior size, but she’s grown a lot since 3rd grade. I gave her a look that said a half-hearted “no” was coming.
“Kiddo, you haven’t picked up your guitar since middle school…. What’s going on?” I asked.
She went on and on about she could lose herself in the music and wanted to learn some of her favorite songs. Well, that’s fantastic, and I’m all for it – learn away. But how does she expect me to fork out $150 for a guitar she found at the local music store when the old guitar has been neglected in the back of a forgotten closet for years?
Any parent can tell exactly where I’m going with this. Why would I spend my hard-earned money so she could have something new when she hadn’t taken care of the one she already had?
If that’s true in parenting logic, then isn’t it also true in business logic? Shouldn’t we take care of our existing customers before spending a king’s ransom looking for new ones?
How do you measure success? Of course, we measure success as a company very easily; by profit. More profits = more success. As a company, that’s true. That can’t be it, though. You can’t call the employees together and say, “let’s all go out there and be more profitable,” because that doesn’t mean anything to the people who are supposed to make it happen. Like any other group of people with a common mission, a retail operation is only as good as the least effective person in the chain. I’m not too fond of clichés, but it’s true. The goal of a business is to stay in business, and you need profits to do that. If the money runs out, the lights turn off. A different way to approach this is by department.
To me, MARKETING was two-fold. Can you buy spots or placements at a value, and can you put something creative in those positions to entice the audience to respond in a way that will make the door swing? Social Media spending is very hit-and-miss because it allows the advertiser to play around with the messaging until you hit on something that works. We’ll define “works” as getting clicks and translating those clicks to spending and wallet share. I see a lot of ads for furniture on social media, and many are product/price/event-driven. I think I know why. If the marketers are graded on clicks and spending, that’s what they will go after. Once the marketer gets them in, the customer is passed off to the next department, which is usually sales in some capacity. Marketing then continues to drive more traffic to the profit centers. They rarely circle back to close that loop they opened by getting the existing customers involved, remaining in their isolated world of hunting for more and more click-throughs. Here, the opportunity is to engage with the purchasers to build affinity further and turn them into repeat buyers.
In comes the SALES department. Who doesn’t love a salesperson? Especially a furniture salesperson. When a customer comes in to experience the store in person and is greeted by one of your finest, is there a prescribed and sickeningly sweet cadence of insincere “howdy ma’am” that must be uttered under penalty of write-up? Let me ask you, would you like to be greeted in the way salespeople are greeting customers in your organization? I hope that answer is yes, but I do see some absolutely brutal greetings out there. Before the front door closed behind the customer, I witnessed a sales guy stick out his hand to introduce himself: “Welcome. I’m Raul, by the way. What’s your name?” Too soon! The appalled look on the customer’s face said it all. She wasn’t ready to even think about talking to Raul, let alone touch him.
Marketing did their job and got the opportunity in, but Raul killed any chance of a deal going down as the customer got on her phone, did a lap around the store, and left the building without so much as a wave. Raul wasn’t aware of the softer side of selling – the people side. There are a lot of Rauls out there. Imagine how profitable a store could be without salespeople freaking out your pipeline. Raul could be anyone on your floor that brings down the building’s average ticket and closing rate by doing things not centered around the customer’s comfort. Don’t fire Raul. Train Raul. Show Raul that there’s another way. In my estimation and without any scientific survey other than my own observations to rely on, I’m going to hazard that 20% of most store sales staff are black belt Rauls. If you could show 20% of your sales staff how to close 20% more business, do the math. How many more dollars would you have, but how many more customers would you have that get an opportunity to take to the next step with you and buy something?
The next step is the DISPATCH. The customer has left your store with nothing but a receipt and a promise of future delivery. Hopefully, the promises and commitments made on the floor regarding delivery lead times will meet expectations by this time. This dispatcher has the same opportunity to be a difference maker as everyone else in your organization.
How many times have you sat on hold fuming and waiting for someone to make the music stop and ask you how they can provide 5-star service only to brighten your day with a great attitude and willingness to exceed expectations? I want to think that everyone in my call center would be that way, or they wouldn’t be in my call center. A great personality and a smile in the voice can be infectious to coworkers and humans on the other end of the phone who have a topic in mind to discuss. If you know, you know. Dispatching and routing is an art form, and the job can be done well by a pleasant person who cares versus the DMV type whose only motivation to come to work is to check a box and wait for the clock to tell them it’s time to be miserable somewhere else.
Now the DELIVERY TEAM has its opportunity to shine. Your delivery team has the toughest job behind enemy lines and is the least thanked. They sit in traffic all day and do a tough job, but they have to present themselves like they are more excited than her to set up the furniture. These folks are really the Seal Team 6 of your organization. They will usually provide the customer’s final experience, so interaction will more than likely be what is remembered, fondly or otherwise. The spear’s tip is often where the war is won, so make sure that point is razor sharp and the guys going to battle are prepared with the tools they need and the attitude to match.
Now what? Do you send a text via Podium’s platform and ask how things went? What do you do with what you learn? Who is responsible for accumulating and aggregating that data so your organization can celebrate the wins and learn from the losses? Does your customer care team respond to angry-grams by apologizing for falling short and sending a coupon for a future purchase or a delivery refund and then cast them adrift to decimate your Yelp page?
When salespeople are not closing on a busy day, that’s burning ups. When businesses don’t take care of their existing customers, they’re burning customers, and customers are never burned in a business that maximizes profits. Perhaps part of your budget to acquire new customers might show a better ROI if you use it to get existing customers to feel good about being your customer and not just someplace they found a sofa that worked. It’s much healthier to have existing customers that continue to come back and buy from you versus only focusing on getting brand new customers.
If I had it to do over again, I’d do nothing but make sure the people that spent money with me in the past are waiting in line to do it again and again.