How to Get a 4 Star Rating

As promised, after lambasting big box sports retailers last week and lamenting the radical downfall of customer service in bricks and mortar retail in general, there is some light.
And it’s called REI.

Here is what you can learn about giving your customers a first class buying experience while charging a super premium price. (I can imagine there will be a lot of skeptics out there and push back regarding charging high prices, and I understand.) I will discuss the high price philosophy in another blog.

Here are some of the things that REI is doing to keep customers happy and coming back for more.

  1. Attention when you want it—space when you don’t. Upon entering, a very friendly woman asked us what brought us into the store. We told her we were there for snowboarding boots, and she told us she would have their resident expert meet us in that department and escorted us there personally. And then up came the friendly ski bum. This guy had lived in Colorado, and clearly knew his stuff. He was informative without ego, asked a lot of great questions, made multiple suggestions, and spent no less than 45 minutes with my husband. As to accessories, he made suggestions that were less costly than what we were looking at. But somehow, he didn’t hover unnecessarily. He was present but not pestering. A real master of what it takes to inform, educate, and make a customer comfortable and confident.
  2. Offer alternatives—The selection was impressive, and I think my husband must have tried on 10 pairs of boots where the other guys had maybe two choices. It is always a good idea to offer choice. For us in print that may mean offering alternative paper selections, sheet sizes, response mechanisms, or even, while scheduling meetings, offering the client or prospect the time of day or day of the week to meet. People like to feel like they are in the driver’s seat. Given a choice between two or more options, it is less likely that someone will outright say no.
  3. Entertain and engage—The store is like a museum and can miraculously keep toddlers fascinated for hours. There were bikes to ride, a mini hill to climb, fun toys and other stuff to look at. How does this translate for you as a printer or other service provider? I would have an inviting reception area. Try to have a nice client conference area where you can invite clients to use phone or internet when they are in for a press OK or plant tour. Maybe even have some relevant reading material or access to a TV with something universally entertaining on. Please, no Maury Povich or Judge Judy (personal pet peeves)
  4. Reward loyalty—as a member of REI, you get a 10 percent dividend based on purchases made in a calendar year. In a world where rewards are so miniscule as to seem almost pointless, this is a very impressive program with some real significance if you make purchases of any significance. There have been debates about how a rewards program could work in the print environment, and I would welcome any ideas, feedback or programs that you have implemented and how they are working.

So there you go—from one star to four in one week. What kind of a rating do you think you would get from your clients?

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • Denise

    I work in a retail store that is all about exceptional cutomer service! Great article!

  • David Cole

    We are looking at implementing a loyalty program for our current customers this year. I will be sure to let you know how it goes.

  • RyanSauers

    Kelly, great job here. I love it!!! Talk soon. RTS

  • Jessica Gutowski

    I agree with you on providing clients choices, but depending on their personality sometimes a few choices is better than the whole lot. Especially with the client who truly do not know what they want. I’ve overwhelmed some before with options. Has anyone else experienced similar clients?