February 20, 2020 /
Comments Off on Don’t be so warm. Sell.

Don’t be so warm. Sell.

Here are the real mystery shop results from a chain of fitness centres.

If you asked the prospective customer what they thought of the service, they’d say. Awesome.

100% of people received warm service.


62.5% of people were NOT invited to take up a paid membership.

Image  of table showing 62.5% closing rates

They are not closing.

What’s the good of giving ‘nice’ service if you don’t sell.

Measure what’s important, not what’s cheap and easy.

January 29, 2020 /
Comments Off on Shuddup and take my money

Shuddup and take my money

Imagine this. It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and I’m riding along the coast with some great buddies. One of them casually mentions a great café he visited with his wife the previous weekend.

It’s got outdoor seating in the car park of an old timber mill with the café located in an old shipping container. In the timber mill there is a florist, Potter, and other quirky stores.

“Sounds perfect!” I said.

Cafe in shipping container

I took my wife there, and it was everything it was pumped up to be. On top of everything, the food was fantastic. 

The owner/chef was also very accommodating of my dietary pickiness.

I asked for a Rueben sandwich without bread. Hey, at least I didn’t ask for a decaf soy latte.

I wrote a good Trip Advisor review and decided to take my cycling friends. I mentioned this to the owner as I left and he beamed a big smile.

“I’d love to have you all come by” he said unsurprisingly.

Though the café is slightly out of our way, the crew were more than happy to try somewhere new.

A couple of weeks later I rolled in with a dozen cycling friends. Our typical breakfast stop involves a big feed and at least two rounds of coffee.

Group sitting at coffee shop

I had a chat with the owner as we entered to ensure he remembered me.

“Of course I do, and thanks for the TripAdvisor review man!”

I didn’t expect streamers like the ones thrown as people left on ships after World War II, but I was expecting a little more acknowledgement.

The crew loved the place and the breakfast, although the coffee was a little ordinary. But here’s the problem. 

The café is relatively new. If you get the opportunity to get potentially 12 ravenous guests come to your cafe every week, you might make a little special effort.

Here are some simple steps the café owner could have taken to grab the market.

Acknowledge the entrance.

Make a big deal about a new group of people coming into the cafe for the first time. Make them feel welcome and appreciated.

Check on the table

Get someone to come to the table regularly to make sure that everything is okay. But get that person to come and have a real and engaging conversation. Not just a throwaway line like “everything ok?”

Clear the table

The group ordered a round of coffees before breakfast. Come and clear the table so they have a clean environment upon which to enjoy their breakfast.

Make more money

Nowadays, café owners have a portable point of sale machine. Get someone to walk to the table after breakfast and ask if anyone would like an extra coffee. Although the café is walk-up service they would sell coffees as they clear the breakfast plates. It’s literally money being left on the table because most people will say:

”Oh, why not”.

You may even sell a small sweet desert.

Make it free.

If you don’t want to pester people with an upsell, consider giving away some free coffees especially for the first visit. Imagine if the owner walked up to the table and said:

“thanks very much for coming to the cafe, let me get a free coffee for anyone who is interested.”

I can’t imagine any situation in which that would be a bad idea. At worst, it might cost $.40 a coffee but it’s almost guarantees return purchases.

Business acumen and customer service

It’s not rocket science. The problem is that the owner is so obsessed with the food and its presentation that he’s lost sight of the human touch. 

Simple business acumen can get some of that money that is being left on the table, and the customers will be more than happy to give it to you.

Indeed, they will thank you for taking the money.

Business smart and customer service I’m not incompatible, in fact they feed each other.


September 09, 2019 /
Comments Off on The ultimate test of good customer service

The ultimate test of good customer service

The ultimate test of good service is to sell something.

My friend Kon goes into a shoe store to ask for some specific shoes only to find they are out of stock.

They frustrate him so he goes to the company’s other store 20 minutes away. He then tries another store of the same retailer. Still no luck. In an effort to ‘serve’ the customer, the store suggests he goes online – thus losing control of the sale.

To make matters worse, Kon hates buying shoes and clothing online. They tried to help him but didn’t.

The purpose of serving customers is not to be their friend.
The purpose of serving customers is not to be ‘nice’
The purpose of serving customers is to sell…. and
The purpose of the customer’s visit is to buy.

Don’t be confused, and don’t be scared to make this clear to staff.

(Cover image https://t.co/oWoPaqi1MY?amp=1)

October 06, 2016 /
Comments Off on Episode #19 Customer Service is overrated

Episode #19 Customer Service is overrated

Guess what. Customer service is NOT necessarily the most important driver of sales.

That might sound strange coming from someone running a Mystery Shopping company, but I see it time and time again. Companies focusing on the wrong things.

Sure service is important, but it’s also important to ensure that:

1) your products are on the shelves
2) the promotions are correctly displayed, and
3) that the product is recommended.

Our research shows that on average there are 53 item categories missing in a single big box grocery store.

We’ve also found that on average there are 13 categories missing from the dairy section alone.

As for recommendations, we recently did a study for a manufacturer distributing in a hardware chain, and found that their product was first recommended 31% of the time. Sounds OK, except they only have one competitor.

For complex products, consumers will still lean heavily on the recommendation.

If the product is not there, or not recommended, you’ve lost before you start.

Ask the right questions and discover the truth.

November 05, 2015 /
Comments Off on Episode #17 – Staff recommendations – the secret sauce!

Episode #17 – Staff recommendations – the secret sauce!

We all know the importance of word of mouth (WOM) in Sales.

But there is one type of WOM which is just as important as a recommendation from a friend, namely, a recommendation from a staff member.

We asked 273 Mystery Shoppers and found that a recommendation from a friend is as important as a recommendation from a staff member and whether you previously used the brand.

We asked them to imagine they were buying a BBQ.

Question: Which Brand would they buy?

  1. Brand A recommended by a staff member? 31%
  2. Brand B recommended by a friend? 33%
  3. Brand C a brand they have used before? 36%

It’s very close to ⅓ ⅓ ⅓, meaning that staff recommendations are as important as the others (yet underestimated).

We ask these questions often in our Mystery Shopping company, so we went one step further and asked:

Question: Imagine you are buying a BBQ. You don’t know anything about BBQ’s.

Which brand would you buy?

  1. Brand A which is recommended by the staff member and they explain why it’s the best for you? 76%
  2. Brand B which has the same price and features as Brand A but has the biggest and brightest store display? 6%
  3. Brand C which is 10% cheaper than all the others? 17%
  4. Brand D which is 10% dearer than all the others? 1%

Staff recommendation blows the others away. It’s even much more important that a 10% lower price. If you want to fight price pressures, get staff to recommend the product and explain why they should buy.

Stockbrokers have known this for years, bankers are a little restricted these days, but most other industries should take heed.

This is easy to fix and important.

The language is easy. This is the secret sauce.

“I’d buy this product because…”

“I’d recommend this myself because….”

“I’m looking to buy one myself next year because….”

An easy important fix, and one of our favourite things to measure.

July 28, 2015 /
Comments Off on Episode #9 – How to get customers to try in store, buy online (elsewhere).

Episode #9 – How to get customers to try in store, buy online (elsewhere).

I’m calling out some retailers. You’ve probably experienced this too, but it’s not good enough.

Last weekend I went shopping for tennis shoes for my son, as well as some clothes.

We travelled 40km South on Saturday to a big Mall, and then 50km north the following day to an even bigger Mall.

The lack of service was astounding.

I walked in and out of 11 stores before I gave up.

  • You walk in,
  • Wonder whether it will be a waste of time,
  • You scurry in to the middle of the store,
  • Maybe grab and touch something,
  • Then decide it’s not for you and walk out.

It happens so quickly.

Pfft. Sale gone.

Just because a customer doesn’t see something from afar doesn’t mean you don’t have something for them to buy.

For the non-Australian readers, excuse the brand names, but you’ll get the idea.

Tarocash (men’s clothing) helped. In fact, the staff member was serving me and another customer at the same time. (We all have patience for that).

The Athletes Foot helped with great enthusiasm and knowledge.

  • These guys didn’t help at all.
  • Zara
  • Topman
  • Glue
  • Shoe
  • Country Road
  • Footlocker
  • Adidas
  • Rebel Sports
  • UNIQLO didn’t help, but then they are more set up as self service (I suppose).

Back to Rebel Sports.

It was the first store we visited but we couldn’t get service and my son didn’t like the colours (but loved the shoe style).

Before heading to the car empty handed, we decided it would be good to go back to Rebel because we knew we wouldn’t get served and we wouldn’t have to feel guilty about buying the shoes on the internet.

But the store was empty and I fear we’d get served.

Oh well, let’s just try on the shoes regardless.

We grabbed different shoe sizes, had them strewn all over the floor, and watched as a procession of staff members walked past us without as much as an acknowledgement.

They were waiting for us to ask for help because they were clearly in their stooped back, shoulders down, hand itching to jump on Facebook, unmistakable bored sort of look. But nothing.

So we tried on the shoes, took photo’s, packed up, and went home to order online (not from them).

All they had to do was say hi.

Oh, and go further? Try this.

Staff member could have said… Find the one you like, you can pay for it here. We’ll have it sent to your local store and you can forget the hassle and uncertainty of buying the right one online.

I would have been sold. But no. Sale lost.

It also happened in Topman. We were standing there with clothes hanging from our arms, only for a staff member to walk past in her swoop of the store and offer a sanctimonious superior training manual pretend smile. So we dumped the clothes in a shitty pile and walked off.

We were there. We were ready to buy. We just had a question.

At the other stores we were simply invisible.

This is not a rant, it merely rammed home to me how many sales are lost at the front door.

Forget about sales skills.
Forget about upset and cross sell.
Forget about features and benefits.
You won’t even get there without hello.