300 Seconds

Customer Perspective: Staff Behavior

Wrapping up this week of looking at our stores from the customer’s perspective, we’ll end with the most difficult observation of all: the staff.

Do members of your staff…

  • … greet customers in a timely manner?
  • … smile when they answer the phone?
  • … check in with customers as they browse?

Or negatively, do they…

  • … look at their cell phones while on the sales floor?
  • … have conversations with each other instead of helping customers?
  • … ignore customers because they are busy with their tasks?

Can they be identified as staff through name tags, uniform, apron, etc? Customers hate to ask, “Do you work here?”

Do they give up when the book isn’t on the shelf, or do they make the extra effort to help the customer?

At check out…

  • … do they say aloud, “Out of ten?” when accepting a $10 bill for payment? This will help prevent the “But I gave you a twenty…” comment that might follow later.
  • … do they ask for a photo id when the customer requests it on their credit card?
  • … do they count back change?

These things might seem trivial, but they help give the customer piece of mind, and you’re helping to ensure the cash drawer doesn’t end up short at the end of the day.

I know it can be difficult to look at ourselves and our staff in a critical manner. If you don’t think you can do so objectively, it might not be a bad idea to hire a mystery shopper. In this “perception is reality” world, the outside perception is the only one that matters.

Customer Perspective: Restrooms

This week, we’re spending 300 seconds each day looking at various areas of the bookstore from the customer’s perspective. Today we’re heading back into the, um… restroom.

While it’s probably not fair, customers will judge your store by the state of your restrooms… public or not. Cleanliness is the most important factor, but you should also consider the availability of extra supplies. To prevent someone from walking out embarrassed, make available extra TP, towels, hand soap, air freshener, etc. It’s also not a bad idea to keep a plunger under the sink.

Many bookstores hang book posters on the walls, because of the captive-audience factor. If you do this, take a look to see if the books you are promoting are on-hand or available to order. If the poster looks tired, remove it.

Customer Perspective: Store Front

Continuing with this week’s series of looking at our store from the customer’s perspective, take a look at your store front. You’ll want to do so while driving from multiple directions, while walking down the street, and from the parking lot.

These days, the chances of a new customer navigating to your store through GPS are very high. From these different vantage points, you’ll want to see if your store signage and street number are clearly visible. That computerized voice might say, “You have arrived,” but until you see your final destination, you are still in transit.

From the parking lot, approach your front door. Look to see if your hours are clearly marked and whether it’s obvious that you are open or closed. Also, look to see if there are any obstacles along the way that might make it difficult for someone to enter the store. Keep strollers, walkers, and wheelchairs in mind while you look for obstacles, too.

Once you’re in the door, look around you’re entry area. Have leaves blown in? Is the floor wet because snow has been tracked in? Are there any areas that look especially tired?

Finally, look around to see if customers will see any messages you’re trying to convey? Do you offer events? Would customers know that? Are there book clubs to join? Is any of your signage out of date?

Anything you can do to help customers locate, enter, and stay in your store will be a good use of today’s 300 Seconds.

Customer Perspective: Look Up

We’re going to continue throughout the week with 300 Second exercises to look at your store through the customer’s eyes. Yesterday, we looked around the bookstore at eye-level, but today I want you to look up.

  • Are there any cobwebs that have appeared overnight?
  • Are there any expired lightbulbs?
  • Do you have hanging mechanisms dangling about with no signs or banners attached?
  • Is the sign for cookbooks still hanging in the same spot, even though you moved the section a while ago?
  • Are there potential areas for display that have been overlooked?

I know you’ve heard the expression, “perception is reality.” While we can’t force customers to think of us in a positive manner, we can try to eliminate potential negatives.

Do you see what I see?

Clutter has a way of sneaking up on us. Especially during the holidays. It becomes part of the landscape, and often we don’t see it until we consciously adopt a customer’s perspective and look around the bookstore.

Take 5 minutes today and do just that. Look around the store and see what your customers see:

  • Are items misplaced about the store because what seemed like a good idea in Fiction was later rejected in History?
  • Was that stack of books placed there because you were interrupted while shelving?
  • Did that cardboard display work its way into a walking path? Is that why it’s looking a little tired?
  • Are there too many cardboard displays placed around the store, making it look haphazard and unplanned?

This isn’t the first time you’ve decluttered, and it will not be the last. It’s not meant to be a “finally, everything is in its place” moment, because that will probably change within the hour. Instead, this should be treated as a periodic process. If the objective is to create a welcoming space, we need to stop every once in a while and ask ourselves, “Would I want to spend some time shopping here?”