11353658_sLast week on a particularly nice spring day, my Mom and I decided to have a nice lunch in downtown Greenville, SC.  If you haven’t visited downtown Greenville, I strongly recommend it as it is a thriving example of urban renewal with many quaint shops and restaurants.  Many of the brick textile mills and related buildings have been converted into both residential and cozy retail spaces along a heavily shaded main street.  With a myriad of choices from every corner of the globe, Mom decided that she wanted to eat at a very small Mexican restaurant with brightly colored umbrellas flapping gently over small bistro tables on the sidewalk.  At most, the tiny restaurant held 14 tables between the sidewalk, a covered open area, and inside seating.  Luckily Mom and I snagged one of the tables right next to the sidewalk in the open area so we could do some people watching while munching on our quesadillas.

The servers seemed busy, but stopped immediately to make sure that we had found a table.  Another server welcomed us as he ran a large tray of sizzling fajitas out to another guest, and right behind him was another server who gave us some menus and took our drink order.  Since all the servers had to pass by our table in order to get to the sidewalk, with each and every pass they happily acknowledged us and checked to make sure we needed anything.  When one of them noticed we had put down our menus, she pulled out her order book and quickly jotted down what we needed, grabbed the menus and was on her way.  We had numerous requests from all of the people working that day to refill sodas, need more chips or simply to thank us for stopping.  The interesting thing is that this restaurant obviously had a very specific standard around making sure that EVERY guest was warmly welcomed and any needs were addressed prior to having to ask.  It didn’t matter who had our table, or who was making the tip, they all worked together to create a very delightful experience.  (They also had great quesadillas which didn’t hurt either!).

I also want to share another example of creating very specific standards in a very unlikely place.   I am quite responsive to the change oil light in my car, and drive a lot of miles so it illuminates fairly often and I respectfully locate the nearest Jiffy Lube.  After moving to a new city I was happy to find a quick oil change store right around the corner, but I soon found out that that this oil change store wasn’t at all like I was accustomed to.  At this oil change shop you pull into one of three lanes, that almost always has at least one technician ready to serve you.  After gathering some information, they ask you to pull forward over a pit and remain in the car while they change your oil.  My technician asks me about the kind of oil I would like, and almost like a scripted play the technician and the “pit” guy sort of yell back and forth a series of “checks” that they are performing.  This same scene is being played out in each of the three bays.  You can’t help but notice the specific standards around how these guys remove an air filter and put it in your hand to review along with a new replacement for comparison.  Every single time I go, they make sure all my directional and brake lights work by asking me to perform the exact same functions at the exact same point in the oil change.  At the same time, there is this loud exchange between the pit guys and the technicians regarding whatever they are doing under my car.  At the end of the oil change, my technician yells out “Bay 3 Clear” and steps back to motion me out of the bay and finally sees me off with a “beep beep” on the car horn.  You would have to see it to really appreciate it, but this is an “orchestrated” oil change and unlike anything I have seen. I am sure that more than one oil change technician has quit that shop because he simply isn’t into putting on the “oil change show”.   Maybe I am wrong, but I would love to see the training involved to get old grease monkeys to learn about how to finesse the oil change with checklists and scripts.  There are a million oil change shops, but I go to this shop for the experience (and quite truthfully the oil change is maybe 5 bucks more than anywhere else…but worth it).   I have to also give props to the management of the store, because I know how easy it would be to let the show “slide” and simply just change the oil.  This store has a standard of performance and sticks to it.  Moe’s Southwestern Grill has a standard that every employee is supposed to acknowledge people coming through the door with a wildly loud “Welcome to Moes!”, and Disney leads the pack on creating intentional scripted experiences for their guests.

People are sick of the same old experience, and in many cases it is the same old bad experience they are sick of.  Intentional specific standards are things that are unexpected, and probably not necessarily natural to the employee.  In our industry, the truth is that if an owner doesn’t decide to craft, train and hold accountability for specific experiential behavior standards the future is bleak.  If as brick and mortar stores we intend to extend our existence down the path of lowest price and best selection, the internet will ultimately be the victor.  The selection is infinite, and overhead costs negligible and they will win this game.  The winners are, and will continue to be those retailers that add value to the shopping experience through their customer touch points.

Does your organization …

  • Have creative written non-negotiable standards of behavior for their associates in every department that create a memorable and rewarding shopping experience for the guest.
  • Train every associate on these standards, and provide ample resources to practice using the skills before engaging with a real customer.
  • Hold accountability and be uncompromising regarding the consistent and high quality execution of the skills

We cannot continue to “train” new and old associates on an antiquated sales model, or attempt to use Store Managers to train when they lack the skills and time to produce measurable results.  Being nice and knowledgeable isn’t good enough. I want to craft and train a sales model and related behaviors that wow our guests.  I have the experience and resources to affordably provide customized online training solutions to allow your organization to thrive in a contracting marketplace.  My programs encompass the spectrum of Human Performance Improvement methodology, and I would love to build something for you today.  Contact me at jhughes@furnituretrainer.com for more information.