Articles by Lisbeth Calandrino

How Much Does Your Excitement Matter to the Customer?

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

A smile and excitement are worth quite a bit if my experience in New York City was any indication of it.

During my recent visit to NYC I was in Penn. Station. It so happened it was “National Oatmeal Day” so the Quaker representatives were handing out free oatmeal. It was interesting watching the response they were getting from consumers. . Some of the reps. were very enthusiastic, smiling and making a big deal about the day. Others didn’t smile and just tried to get people to take the oatmeal. The ones that were smiling and excited were getting people to take two; the ones who didn’t smile literally “couldn’t give the oatmeal away.”

I kept thinking back to something I say in sales training. “Remember whatever you have it’s catching to the customer.” The person with the highest or lowest energy will shift it to the other one. If you’re excited, it’s catching, if you’re miserable, it’s catching. It was incredible how obvious it was today.

I took the oatmeal with a smile on my face. I also took a good look at it and read the ingredients. The woman’s excitements made me curious and want to know more. Hey, not a big thing; we’re just talking oatmeal now!

I consider NYC the place for looking and shopping. I had an appointment in the city but instead of taking a cab, I choose to walk the 1.4 miles. (Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea in heels.) I went into several stores to watch salespeople and look around.

My favorite store is Desigual out of Spain. The clothes are very arty and super different. The people, who work there is darling, just like the store. They laugh with the customers and talk about how you have to be careful how many of their prints you wear together, or you’ll look like a clown! I left laughing and energized. They truly have an energized brand.

For me NYC is energizing. There are many different types of people, interesting fashions and the most helpful that I know. I left my phone on my car seat and had to keep asking directions to my destination. I choose to ask many people to see what type of reception I would get. People took out their phones to look for directions, some walked with me to make sure I was heading the right way.

We all need to reenergize. Some of us get it from alone time and others from other people. Getting refueled is about connecting with yourself and who you are. Get out of the house and go to the movies, get to the gym. I enjoy being around people who have lots of energy because I feel lifted. In fact, it will carry me thought many days of work. I also love when I can share my energy with others. Energy goes both ways.

If you get a free moment, check out your energy and the people around you. Are you in a major slump? People can energize you as well as deplete you of your energy. Take a minute and think about yourself.

Remember what the flight attendant says, “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping anyone else.”

Lisbeth Calandrino
Fabulous Floors
Associate Publisher & Director of Consumer Research
lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com

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“Undercover Boss” Uncovers Bad Leadership

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

After watching season after season of “Undercover Boss” I’m thinking we need a show called “Undercover Employees.” They could find out what their bosses are doing.

“Undercover Boss” is an American reality television series, based on the British series of the same name and producted by Studio Lambert in both countries. Just as the title suggests, the boss goes undercover to see what his entry-level employees are doing.

Two things that seem glaring; there is little customer service training and “bosses” don’t know what’s going on in their businesses. In fact, most of the bosses are amazed at what’s going on!

I was watching the “Undercover Boss” last week and was disturbed by the boss’s decisions. He was very generous with the employees he worked with, giving them large sums of money. The problem, as I see it, is that people were getting money to help with their “troubled lives” but weren’t asked to “better themselves” or attend schools, so they could obtain leadership positions.

My hunch is the people will spend their money, have great vacations or new toys but what will they have learned? I believe that people will be more apt to change if there are some conditions to these generous gifts. In fact, I feel so strongly about it, I sent a letter to the “Undercover Boss” and sent some customer service books. I don’t know if I’ll get an answer, but maybe the letter with my suggestions will get read! My biggest gripe, where in the business world do people get free handouts with no “strings attached?” And what’s the point if the gift isn’t connected with your business?

One great thing about the program is that bosses get to understand their employee struggles and help them grow. One of the best ways to help them grow is to provide opportunities for them to advance within the organization. Promoting good employees is essential to their learning.

In order for a business to perform adequately the “boss” must be able to communicate with his employees.

There must be a way for the boss to know what their employees are doing without spying on them. This reminds me of mystery shopping; another task that I think is ridiculous. If you think your employees are not acting appropriately they probably aren’t. This problem usually starts when a company doesn’t have a suitable training and accountability program. Teaching and training is one thing, if you don’t hold people accountable for what’s expected to don’t waste the training program. CEO’s must create a business model that is in line with the customer’s and employee’s needs.

Everything goes back to customer service and how customers are being treated. Front line employees are the ones who need the training and usually get the least amount. Because they’re not seen as the ones who “bring in the money,” they typically don’t get best training.

So far, 100% of the companies have leaders who have no idea of what’s going on in their businesses. How sad.

Many of the problems could be avoided if the leader spent time reading employee evaluations and staying in touch with their businesses. No matter what business you have, the only thing that makes it work is the customers. The first customer of any business is the employees.

Lisbeth Calandrino
Fabulous Floors
Associate Publisher & Director of Consumer Research
lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com

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Customer Service is not about Technology, It’s About Keeping Up With the Customer

Monday, January 27th, 2014

It’s not about technology; it’s about the customer and how the customer is getting information.

Yesterday I received a call from a floor covering retailer about technology.

“I just can’t keep up with it, he said, I don’t know what to do first!”

This is a common cry from business owners who believe that technology is the key to their existence. They think if they don’t learn everything about it, their business will fail.

Yes technology is changing every day, but that’s not the problem. The problem is finding your consumer. The consumer has found new friends in cyberspace. Instead of starting their product search in your retail store; they are starting their search online. To keep your business alive; you must know the following two things:
A.Who is your primary customer? No, not everyone is a customer. Your customer should be profitable and should want to sing your praises. (This customer is probably a referral.)
B.Where online does your customer hang out? (Everyone has their favorite places to connect.)

Your customer may still be at the Chamber of Commerce or at the Networking Group, but they are also online. To keep up with your customers, you will need to know their favorite haunts. Why spend all of your days on Facebook chasing down a customer and then realize they’re on LinkedIn?

Google has been writing about the Customer’s Zero Moments of Truth, ZMOT to give us an idea of what’s fueling the customer. Instead of telling us “what technology to use” they are telling us to find our customer. I have linked you to an article I wrote for the Albany Times Union on the ZMOT.

Three ideas from Google are worth significant attention. When it comes to the customer, Google suggests the following:
A.Know where your customer hangs out and show up to engage.
B.Show up often. (Don’t be a stranger or ‘one-hit wonder.’ )
C.Know what to say when you show up.

If your primary business is B-to-B, then LinkedIn might be the place to show up. What will you show up for? Note the above. Either join a group connected with your industry and the people you want to know. If there isn’t a group, start your own.

If your primary business is retail, check out Facebook, Pinterest and Houzz. If you’re not sure which ones apply to your customers, ask them.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Most searches start on-line. Our job is to decide where our customers are on-line and meet them there. This is where the dance begins. The idea is to get the customer to engage with you so get to know and trust you. Once this happens they will consider going to your retail store.

Today engagement is all about listening to, and talking with the customer. The days of “telling the customer anything” are over.

Lisbeth Calandrino
Fabulous Floors
Associate Publisher & Director of Consumer Research
lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com

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Closing the Sale Sure is Easier These Days

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Closing the sale still means understanding your customer.

You know, closing the sale in the old days seemed a lot simpler. It really wasn’t. Remember when there weren’t any online tools to support your products or your business? How many of you remember life “before Facebook?”

It’s easier now if you have the tools in place. Some retailers are complaining that customers “just want to look.” It’s not just that customers are “tire kickers” or don’t want to spend money. It’s the customer is being influenced by many other factors before she gets to your store. It’s been said the customer has about 10 connections that will give her information about the product she’s considering. Few retailers know what these connections are. Figuring out what to do is not easy, but it’s not really that difficult. Many retailers just continue to deny the reality of social media and refuse to learn.

Closing the sale means infiltrating the customer’s path to purchase and creating a solid strategy to get to know the customer.

First, you must understand how customers are navigating that path and then designing the strategy. It may mean a revamping of your web site and adding a blog. One of the strategies that is continuing to grow is the distribution of content. According to B2B Content Marketers, last year articles reigned supreme; social media was reported to be the most popular content marketing tactic with an adoption rate of 87%.

Whatever you learn about the customer’s buying path, adapt it to your particular store. You may have to clear your own path but those who embrace the journey are more likely to gain a competitive advantage.

No matter how you do it, Google has one suggestion. Wherever you decide to go, show up with the right content. You need to know what your customers are reading and what they want to see. In my case, are they just looking at floor covering products? I would say it hasn’t changed over the years. They want to experience the product. They want to see it installed in someone’s home and get the “consumer’s advice.” What’s changed is the consumer is the new expert.

We’re been talking about this for years haven’t we? Still many retailers say they don’t have time for pictures and getting testimonials. Those who do will find themselves on Angie’s list with the referrals.

I feel like we’re going backwards to where we were years ago. Show the customer how the product will look in someone’s home. Now we can post the photo along with the dialog on social media, and the consumer can engage with the home owner about the process.

If you’ve done a great job, you’re likely on your way to a new referral.

Lisbeth Calandrino
Fabulous Floors
Associate Publisher & Director of Consumer Research
lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com

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