MOD Journal

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Don't guess: ask them

By Hal Miller
Published: January 11, 2010
We spend a lot of time talking about customer service and having the right product mix in a store. We even have a feature on the latter topic on page 16, but don’t go there just yet.

The basics of the former are simple: be courteous, be helpful, go a little bit above and beyond to make a customer for life.

Trying to figure out the combination of customer service and product mix isn’t necessarily so easy. You know what sells in your store and what doesn’t, and you’re constantly racking your brain to figure out what to bring in next, and what must go to make room for it, and wondering if the new thing will sell well enough to have gotten rid of the old thing.

How about taking a poll? Not a show of hands or an informal customer conversation, but a hard-numbers kind of thing?

For years, I’ve seen restaurants put phone numbers on the bottom of their receipts that customers can call and rate their experience to win a free dinner or other prize. Many also have customer comment cards on their tables. Most of these businesses have customer service and what the eating public likes down to a science, primarily due to the answers they get from these polling methods.

Why not do something similar in your store? You could have, say, a 5-question poll at the checkout that customers could fill out quickly before leaving. Make it easy for them to answer — multiple choice is always good — and ask them about product categories they’d like to see, if they’d like to see more of an existing category and what items, how their overall shopping experience was and maybe even collect an e-mail address.

Which leads you to the next level: once you collect a solid database of e-mail addresses, there are a lot of online surveying tools you can take advantage of at reasonable cost to collect more data. Plus, there’s the added benefit of the customer feeling like his voice is being heard.

There’s enough uncertainty in business these days. Help yourself by eliminating what you can.

Hal Miller, editor
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