How to make your customers work for you

Jane McCall Highway To Training

Lessons to be learnt from my past and how to put them to good use now.!

While enjoying a meal with friends the talk inevitably moved onto business and  I was as usual, in full flow on my favourite subject, the retail environment and the part customers play in all areas. 

I was suddenly taken back in time to my first shop it was a CTN, if your memories go back that far you may recall that stands for confectionary, tobacco, newsagent mine was situated in a local community and sold all of the traditional products, the exceptions at that time being alcohol and grocery. 

What leapt out at me about those times was that I knew every customer who used the shop regularly and so did my staff, most of them by name. 
Remember this point it is important

I wanted to introduce some new ranges, already thinking along the lines of the convenience stores of today, but I did not want to pay out money to buy the new stock hoping it would sell, so I decided that the best way to minimise the risk was to involve my customers.  This I did, asking my customers what their opinion was on the new lines we were proposing to introduce. 

A note was made of all the feedback received personally and from my staff, overall my customers had stated that they would welcome the new ranges and would buy from me, by taking the time to do this exercise the risk to the business had been minimised, more importantly my customers had been involved and their buying decisions had been taken on board.

Naturally this led to more ideas, either I wrote to, or handed out letters to the customer base, firstly thanking them for their continued custom and support for the shop, then told them about a promotional range of goods that we were considering bringing into the shop, the range would be good value for money, and I would have no problem recommending these products to them.

Did I receive a positive response, did this work, did my sales improve?

You bet it worked, what I am highlighting to you here is quite simple, customer contact and the human touch.

My store would get many more of our customers to buy our offers than Mr Slick company who relied on a corporate identity, call centres, mail shots and the like.  Because of the relationship built in store by all of the front line staff and managers there was trust present in all transactions.

In the daily interaction with my customers I would also ask them to recommend the shop to their friends and neighbours, as there was certainly much more on offer inside than just newspapers which they could benefit from.  Remember always encourage your staff to follow your example.

In this age of distance selling, call centres and computers and the internet, all of which have their place.  Consider the refreshing change in local shopping, where customers are treated once more as individuals whose needs are met and exceeded and where customers are asked what products and services they are
looking for, or would be interested in buying from you. 
If you doubt this is a means to grow your business I challenge you to try it.

Remember, never underestimate the power of investment in your customer base and the value of the human touch, it makes so much difference.

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