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Thursday, 23 April 2015 16:41

The importance of the Greeting!

Picture this…. You’re in the market for a new 4K Ultra HD TV. Like most people you open up your laptop, find a reliable website and start your methodical research. Article after article review after review. With no prior experience or knowledge of this new technology you discover most of what is written says different things, gives you different advice and tells you the price you should pay. Confusion doesn’t even begin to describe what you’re feeling.  Something is missing! You finally make the decision that the best way to learn about this product is to visit a local retail store and actually talk to a human being about it. As you pull into the parking lot and look at the big sign above the entrance you hesitate. Why? The perception is that all retail stores are “commissioned” and all sales people will attempt to “sell” us on some type of product or service that will line their pockets but may not be right.

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Let me set the scene: Philadelphia airport, F concourse, Friday afternoon and I am heading home after a long week of training. I had an hour to kill until my next flight so I thought I would grab a quick beer before I had to board. I walked into the bar and noticed that they had just completed a remodel. New stools bolted to the floor directly facing tablets that were bolted to the bar. I have experienced tablets in other restaurants and think it’s a great idea. For .99 cents my wife and I could talk while my son and daughter played video games. We could search the web, or if we choose, place our order. Very cool.

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customer-returnsHow to Get a Customer to Leave with the Same Product They Wanted to Return

A failure to approach returns the way you approach sales is causing you to lose customers. I don’t want to sugar coat that fact because, not only is this a serious hole in most business strategies, but this gap in customer service is fixable. When you consider the cost of attracting a new customer—which is five times greater than the cost of keeping an existing one—why wouldn’t you fix something that’s costing you so much money?

By training your staff to effectively manage customer returns, you can reduce incidences by up to 25 percent. Often this means sending the customer home with the very product they intended to return. We’ve developed four simple steps to help you train your employees to best handle returns and ensure customer satisfaction. 

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Originally published in Twice Magazine

You approach the service counter of a typical retailer, any  retailer, armed only with a defective product and the extended service you purchased on it. You recall back one year ago when you purchased the product. The sales associate spun a glowing tale of being able to take care of you and your product for an additional three years beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. You were skeptical as it was explained to you about all the time, money and headaches that you would avoid if you bought their service contract. By the time they were done you were sold. You wanted the plan, you needed that plan. It was pricey, but the peace of mind it provided was well worth the investment. Besides, the sales associate was just so darn sincere.

Fast-forward one year. As you make the long walk to the customer service counter, it starts to resemble a scene right out of a Clint Eastwood western.  You receive a steely look from the person working behind the customer service counter. You imagine yourself in the center of town on a lonely, empty street while tumbleweeds roll by.

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Saturday, 03 February 2007 05:00

The Last Thing You Want Is A Satisfied Customer


Originally published in Twice Magazine


Ever notice how customer service and New Years resolutions seem to go hand in hand. Did you know that 2 of the most common New Year’s resolutions are 1.To get into better shape 2. Lose weight or to go on a diet. Both of those are exemplary goals but did you also know that of all the people who flood the health clubs in January only 25 % of them are still there on a regular basis in May. And the 90% of all people that were going on that New Year’s diet are off it by February! So have you deduced the connection to customer service?

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Originally published in Twice Magazine


I find it amusing how some retailers talk about their extended warranty program. It seems to me that they think of it as this "thing", that generates a lot of money, but no one should talk in the open about. If you have a good program, that truly takes care of the customer, then why the apprehension? Good extended warranty sales should translate to greater customer loyalty. The more satisfied the customer is, the more likely it is they will be back to shop in your store.

The next logical question is, "What makes for a good extended warranty program?" Here are some of my ideas for an extended warranty program that can achieve profitability for the retailer while offering superior service for the customer.

Are you offering the customer a comprehensive plan?

What does your plan cover? Usually a salesperson will tell me it "covers full parts and labor." I ask them what that means. They usually tell me it means "we cover parts and labor...fully." If however I say we cover normal wear & tear, dust, or power surges, I have just offered the customer something tangible. If your coverage does not include these benefits and others like them, it should. It's an easier sell when I can explain, in detail, what the plan is going to cover on the product, instead of using vague terminology. The cost may increase to add this type of coverage, if you currently do not offer it, but the additional sales would make it worth it.

How often do you train?

Increase extended warranty sales by teaching new hires the program before they get on the floor. When a new hire receives proper training on what an extended warranty is and how to sell it, they almost always succeed. Training should occur during the orientation of your new hires. It could be a worksheet, CD ROM, or training video. When interviewing a potential sales person, you should let them know they are expected to offer these plans to the customer with an expected success rate. One manager told me that during the interview he had the person attempt to sell him a plan. He is not looking not for the ideal presentation, but eye contact and their ability to communicate.

Offer a Replacement Plan on less expensive items:

A replacement plan is a great way to increase revenue. Many retailers either do not offer extra coverage on smaller, less expensive electronics, or put little emphasis on this type of program. The plan is a great way to improve customer service and remember, today's small electronics customer is tomorrow's big screen and Appliance customer. The customer could replace it in the store, (getting them back in) or you could have them mail it to the administrator to process the claim (less work for the stores). Either way the customer is thrilled because they are getting a new product. A replacement plan does not guarantee huge profits by itself. Proper price ranges must be developed based upon product mix and customer acceptance. If you can make the price attractive, simplify the procedure, and offer superior customer service, the customer will buy it.

Are your plans priced properly:

Do you price solely on margin rate and/or rate of sale? A combination is best. If you price your plans as a value to the customer, you will make your margin goal by more units being sold. Once again, the more plans you get in the customer's hands, the more likely they are to repeat the purchase or renew their plan. Pricing must be reviewed by product line. Example: For every ten VCRs you are selling 6 plans. That's obvious to me the customer sees the value. Camcorders however, you discover for every ten sold, you are only selling two extended warranties. Are you properly priced both short term and long term when you consider renewals? If you drop the price can you increase sales enough to generate incremental margin? Is it worth it?

Become a partner with your third party administrator:

TPAs are becoming a commodity in the industry. How you interact with them can make a difference in the running of your program. Constantly challenge your TPA to develop new ideas to improve your business. You will not always use their recommendations but it should keep your program on the cutting edge. Set up regularly scheduled meetings with your administrator. Have them give you status reports. Communication between the retailer and the TPA is crucial to the success of an extended warranty program.

Selling extended warranties has become integral to the success of retailers in the marketplace today. What kind of program do you have? The best program offers your customers both value andthe outstanding customer service they have come to expect from your store. The best program that builds customer loyalty, reduces returns and keeps them coming back. To me this is what having long range success is all about. A well run, successful extended warranty program is something to be proud of.

Take an objective look at your existing program. Identify the strengths and weaknesses and discover solutions to improve it. This self-analysis will help you develop a profitable program that offers your customers superior customer service.

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Originally published in Twice Magazine


What is good customer service? This is a question that many in the retail environment ask, and I've been giving it a great deal of thought.

What is the definition of good customer service? I'm not talking about return policies or ease of shopping. I'm talking about good old-fashioned customer courtesy. We spend so much time making the shopping environment high-tech and flashy that we forget what really gets us sales: If the customer likes the people in the store, they'll buy.

In training seminars, I teach one simple rule about customer service: Treat the customer like you're glad they're shopping in your store. If you can't do that, then maybe retail, or for that matter any business where you interact with customers, isn't for you.

Lately I've noticed that people don't seem to care that you're a customer in their establishment. Why do so many sales associates react like I'm bothering them when I have a question? Why does the person behind the car rental counter refuse to look up the entire time I'm at the counter? What the heck is going on?

I believe it's crucial to teach the art of being nice. A lot of companies have rules about greeting the customer within a certain time frame or space. What ends up occurring is that customers get greeted because the salesperson was told it's policy to do so. Why not teach the fact that customers like to be greeted? Or better still, why not make it policy to hire people who like to talk to people? If you need to spend a long time teaching someone how to greet the customer in a friendly manner, perhaps you've hired the wrong person.

Maybe it's a reflection on society that people aren't all that polite to each other in everyday life. I don't pretend to have the answers to society's problems. The point, sad but true, is that some people need training on the art of being nice to customers. Why? Here are some possible explanations:

  1. We hire to fill holes.
  2. We don't interview properly.
  3. We don't teach customer service expectations.
  4. Appraisals aren't performed objectively to address the level of associates' customer service.
  5. Management isn't setting the example on the floor.
  6. Morale is low in the store.

Conversely, here's what you can do to change things:

Stop filling holes and start hiring the right people. Hire people you would D.I.E. to have on the sales floor, those with desire, interest and enthusiasm.

  1. Look for people who will talk freely during the interview. Do they get you into the conversation?
  2. Get more than one opinion. Use other members of management to offer their insight on the potential new hire.
  3. Create an abbreviated quarterly appraisal. An annual appraisal sends the signal that behavior will only be reviewed once a year.
  4. Add an extensive customer interaction training section to new hire orientations.
  5. On mystery shops, assess "associate demeanor toward customer."
  6. Ensure that upper management is setting a positive example when visiting the store.
  7. Review your recognition and reward programs for excellence in good customer service.
  8. In any sales training make sure a big part of the selling process is getting the customer to feel comfortable with the sales associate.

Spending millions on store design, technological advances and merchandise training is important, but you run the risk of diminishing your return on investment if you're not looking at your human resources and customer service training.

Who knows, maybe it will spill over to our everyday lives. One can only hope.

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Vision Magazine

Originally published in Vision Consumer Electronics Magazine



Is that the impression the consumer gets when they call your customer service number?

If it is, you need to review how much was budgeted for product returns.  You did plan (remember You Gotta Have A Plan!) for the amount of product that will be returned and budget for the impact on sales, expense and cash flow didn’t you?

A recent survey of consumers showed that more than 70% of them regard a toll free Call Center to be very or extremely important when they have a question or a problem. Only 5% considered a web site as an important source that they would use to find answers to their questions.

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Thursday, 24 September 2009 05:00

Sales Process -Let’s Call it What it is!


Originally published in Twice Magazine

Sales Process -What’s in a Name?

It seems like everybody wants to “repackage” or “re-brand” the sales process these days. They call the sales process anything and everything but “Sales”. It also seems that everybody wants to re-title salespeople anything other than “Salespeople.”

They are referred to as “Customer Service Rep”, “Customer Relationship Advisor”, “Service Counselor”, “Customer Experience Team Member”, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for customer service, creating a great customer experience, and making the salespeople feel “warm and fuzzy” about their title and their job, but it is a sales process and they are salespeople. When did “sales” and “salespeople” become dirty words?

Sales Process - Getting Back to Basics

It’s a noble profession, when done right, but maybe that’s part of the problem, often enough these days, it’s not being done right. Today, a great salesperson is as rare a find as financially stable retailers! Could it be that all these “Customer Relationship Advisors” don’t realize that they are in sales since it’s not part of their title?

What about the sales process? Do they even understand the basics of selling? Do you think that they even own a book on selling or the sales process?  Speaking of books, I read a sales book not too long ago in which the author explained that he was against all systems of selling. His rationale was that selling systems focus on the “sales process,” which he deemed bad. I’ve spent over thirty years perfecting and teaching the sales process. I’m a big fan of it!

Sales Process -Square One, Greeting

Maybe I’m “Old School”, but I like actually being “Greeted” by someone when I walk into their store. More often than not, I’m the one that does the “Greeting”, and judging from the reactions that I get, I must not be very good at it. I guess I need to find some better way to get their attention without interrupting their personal conversations with other “Customer Sensitivity Professionals”.

Sales Process -  Qualifying the Buyer

Moving through the sales process, I’m never offended if they take the time to properly “Qualify” me, I’m funny that way.I actually think it’s easier to sell me the right product when you take the time to ask some questions about my lifestyle and my use of the product. Walking me around and reading all the fact tags may seem to be low pressure, but it’s one of the quickest ways to end our “relationship”. What happened to learning the product? When I used to sell, that’s right “sell” I took the time to actually learn how the stuff worked so I could demonstrate it to the customer.

Sales Process - Know Your Product!

Now that I think of it, I can’t even remember the last time I got a fantastic product “Demonstration”. Wait, to be truthful I do remember. I was buying a pair of shoes and the “Salesperson” was trying to “sell” me some waterproofing. She pulled a tissue out of a tissue box on the counter, sprayed it with water proofing, showed me how to hold it between my two hands, and proceeded to pour water on it from a cup she had behind the counter. I was amazed that the water ran right off the tissue without soaking in at all. She skillfully commented at that very moment, “Imagine how it will protect your leather.” All I could say was “wow”. As a professional “salesperson”, she correctly recognized my comment as a buying signal and proceeded to the next step in the sales process.

Sales Process - Closing the Sale

She “Closed” the sale by recommending that I get two cans of waterproofing with my new shoes. SOLD! Now that’s selling! I felt like throwing a fake “objection” her way just to see her work, but I didn’t have the heart. I also recognize that her time is money, as did she, since she was already starting the sales process by “Greeting” another customer while she rang me up. She was a true salesperson that really understood, that done right; the sales process will create a great customer experience, deliver exceptional customer service and forge a lasting relationship. If you are wondering what her title was, her name tag just said “SALES”.

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Originally published in Twice Magazine


Christmas is coming, and I'm sure that once again a leading consumer advocacy magazine or television news show will take another shot at the extended-warranty business.

As someone who has spent more than 20 years training retailers on how to successfully sell extended-service plans (ESPs), I'm always amazed that these outlets consistently display their prejudice and lack of knowledge toward the service-contract industry as a whole.

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