Customer Service – Ladies’ Night Out

The very best way to get some new blood into your business is to have an event.

One of those events is to host a Ladies’ Night Out.

In our case, our customer profile is 99.9% women. But, as I have interviewed other business owners around the country, I have discovered that a few of them who run businesses that are typically male oriented have found that hosting a Ladies’ Night Out or Ladies Only type of event has been very profitable.

The idea is this:

You want to make women feel like they’re special. Every human being needs to feel special and if you host a Ladies’ Night Out, you’re going to have that opportunity to reach out to your female customers and treat them differently. You want to treat them well. Give them that chance to ask some questions that maybe they wouldn’t have asked otherwise.

Especially if you’re a predominantly male centered service, say an auto parts store, or a woodworking store (not that I am discriminating against women who are in these industries) but when you look at the client base, you are going to establish that generally speaking, most of your customers are going to be male.

By hosting a Ladies’ Night Out, you’re going to cater to a portion of the population, in your case, that you don’t typically reach. BUT, speaking as a woman, I know that I feel really good when someone extends that hand of friendship and says, “I’d like to give you the opportunity to come in and ask any question you want to ask about whatever it is you want to ask.

So, this works both for male-oriented products and shops as well as those that target women specifically. Remember, we’ve tried the Guy’s Night Out and it just didn’t work for us. We are a women’s gift shop and we even tried to host a night when the men could come in and it was men only who were shopping for the women in their life…they didn’t bite. It didn’t matter that we had football/tailgate type party snacks. Unless we were turned into a sports bar, it wasn’t going to fly! We drew in just a handful of men, and even they were very uncomfortable. This is something we’re going to have to work on.

Whenever we host a Ladies’ Night Out we had so many women respond, so this tells me that women really enjoy an invitation to something special and if you treat them like they are special, then they will come back. AND they will remember that you did this.

So, the idea is that you treat them well. Offer refreshments. Remember, because you’re going to have women, it would be nice to offer something that is not a football snack. Get things that women like. We’re talking chocolate, sweets, maybe some nice individual quiches, a bit of fruit…anything that women are going to feel that they’ve been singled out as someone important and you’re making an effort to please them.

One night we hosted a Mojitos and mashed potatoes night. The mashed potatoes were offered with anything you could visualize on them. The mojitos were served by an attractive young man (we kept the rum to a minimum) who had a lot of personality. The women loved it!

As long as you try to please the women, you’re going to reach a good number of them. For the Ladies’ Night Out you can run specials. You can hold a workshop. There is one man I know who runs an auto repair store and on several occasions he has hosted a Ladies’ Car Care Clinic where it is women only and they can ask any question they want.

By the end of the clinic, most of the women provide feedback that they were so happy to have had that opportunity to ask any question they wanted to ask and not be made to feel stupid, not to be made to feel like a fool, not to be made to feel like anything that was derogatory. Women are sensitive creatures.

When you host a Ladies’ Night Out you are going to solidify a relationship with a portion of your customer base that you probably didn’t have a very strong relationship with before.

Let me tell you. The ladies are going to remember this!

Telling vs. Selling

Many retailers make the mistake of thinking that they’re selling when all they’re doing is showing the customer an item.

Selling involves asking discovery questions of your client or customer.  What are they looking for? Why? How will it help them? Will it improve an aspect of their life?

Then you also try to discover what they are not looking for, what they do not want. If you don’t ask, you might be assuming, and we all know where that takes us!

When you take the time to discover what your customer or client wants, you can then sell them on the product by showing how it will solve their problem, make them look good, and feel that you’re doing them a favor rather than trying to sell them something they either don’t want or don’t need.

Bring Customers Inside

For any business, your customer is the life-blood of that business.

You know that you need to treat them well in order for them to return, but aside from that how do you get them to come back? In today’s economy, everyone is really watching their pennies. Let’s talk about ways to get your customer to return to the store without costing you anything but a little bit of time and creativity.

Evaluate your business and what you do to serve the needs of your customer.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my typical customer have a common problem that could easily be solved with my know-how?
  • Can I create some type of instructional material that would explain this to them?
  • Am I comfortable writing a brief instruction manual?
  • Could I talk about it, record the instructions about how to solve their problem?
  • Does it have to be seen? Can I create a short video that would help them solve their problem?

Here’s where your list is going to come in handy. Hopefully you’ve been building your customer database with not only their names and contact information, but their interests and problems that they may have that need solving.Select the group of people who have expressed an interest in solving a problem. For example, let’s say you’re a woodworking shop and you’ve sold a brand new piece of equipment to a hundred customers, but you’ve been getting a few returns and even more complaints that the equipment is too difficult to operate.

Create a short video demonstrating the proper use of that piece of equipment. Explain what the most common problems are that new users may encounter, and then show them how it is done right. This puts you head and shoulders above your competition, because what you’ll do now is email a link to this video to everyone who has purchased this piece of equipment.

Not only do you send that email, but the following week, you call each one of those customers and ask them if they received the email, and whether they viewed the video. If they haven’t, encourage them to do so and promise to call them back the following week. (Make sure you DO call them back.)

If they have received the email and viewed the video, ask them for honest feedback. Find out whether that video helped them to overcome the problems you’ve been hearing about.

By taking the initiative to anticipate the need of a group of your customers, and then fixing the problem easily and with little or no cost, you have ensured that you have a group of highly satisfied customers. These customers are the ones who will remember the extra steps you took to take care of them. The next time they need something, they’ll buy it from you.

K Birmingham

Do You Know Who Your Customers Are? Use Your List

You need to check your customer database.

What? You don’t have one? It isn’t up to date? It didn’t seem important to you?

Your customer database is worth its weight in gold. Without it, you might as well just plan on going out of business…if not today, then soon.

Your existing customers are the most important source of income for any business. Knowing who these people are, understanding why they have chosen to work with you, and catering to their needs, wants, and desires must be your priority.

What amazes me is how many small business owners fail to exploit their very own customer list. You gained those customers at a relatively large cost. To retain them is critical because of the following reasons:

  • If a customer has bought from you once, chances are very excellent that they will do so again.
  • Recruiting a new customer costs much more than it costs to retain an old customer.
  • Catering to your existing customers is the wisest business decision you’ll ever make.
  • Selling to an existing customer is easier than selling to a new customer.
  • Selling to an existing customer is more profitable because you don’t have the cost of acquiring that customer this time.

The problem, however, is that once many businesses make a sale, they’re just looking over that customer’s shoulder to see who is next. Failing to try to make any type of follow-up sale to a customer who has recently done business with you can cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars in lost income.

If you do not have a way to get the contact information for every customer you have ever had in your place of business, you need to get a system in place today.

The best information is to have name, address, email address, phone number, purchasing history, ads and promotions that each customer has responded to.

You can recreate some of your customer lists by getting software and putting the information in by hand from past transactions, credit card receipts, etc. Whatever you do, start on it today and get that information into your database.

The LIST is GOLD.

Teach your customer service reps and salespeople to get the contact information from every person who comes into your store. Larger companies have rewards programs. The customer feels as though they are getting a benefit from the discount they receive, but the business owner is building their list daily by soliciting this information from each customer, and then tracking their purchases and ad responses.

There is no reason that a small business should conduct business in any other way.

Kathleen Birmingham

Have a Drawing Where Everyone Who Enters, Wins!

In order to get people to frequent your store or your shop, you may want to have a drawing. Make sure it is a nice drawing.

One thing that we did is we put together a beautiful, beautiful autumn basket. This was during one of our slow seasons and we wanted to generate a little bit of interest in the shop and get more people into the store. We put together a gorgeous autumn basket with a number of products from our shop. We had a fall scented candle, a pumpkin scone mix, a spiced tea mix mixed in with a few other very nice products. To decorate it we got a couple of bright golden sunflowers with a few other orange and orange-red flowers that went with it.

We put the basket together, arranging it so that it looked very appealing. Once everything was in place, we put a nice shrink-wrap cover on it and completed it with a beautiful raffia bow. It was a truly lovely presentation, and everyone who walked by the shop was drawn in because of the sign next to the basket that said, “Free Drawing”. We got a few folks who had never come in before signing up for the drawing and then looking around in surprise saying, “I never knew you were here!”

The difference between this drawing and most other drawings is that we expanded our drawing ticket. We had people sign up for the drawing for the basket. You can have a drawing for whatever it is that you sell. We asked for more information than just their name and phone number.

We wanted to know why people wanted to win the basket, so we asked them what they would do with the basket if they were to win it. This would have no bearing on whether or not they won the basket. It just told us what items inside the basket that they were most interested in.

You could put together a drawing of a bunch of seasonal products that you have in your store, and then try to discover what it is in that drawing that people really want. Why would they like to win that basket. Some people will give the typical response, “I never win anything, so it would be nice to win for once.” But you are going to have a few people who respond by saying, “I saw this Product in the basket and I’d really like to try it.”

This goes along with my premise that you must get to know your customer. Use this opportunity to get a new customer’s name and phone number/email address, but also find out what they are interested in. Use a little bit bigger piece of paper and just ask a question. People don’t have to answer it. But, if you ask the question, a lot of times people will surprise you and give you more information than you ever expected.

Sometimes all you have to do is ask for it.

Then based on that information, garnered from all the entries, you need to create an opportunity for everyone to win. Obviously, only one person is going to win that basket, and when you call them up and say “You’ve won the basket,” that one person is going to be thrilled. But what if you have another 50, 100, or 200 more entries. You can throw those entries away.

However, instead of throwing away gold. Call them up and let them know that they won something. You call them up, or you email them and say, “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you didn’t win the basket. However, the good news is that I have a 40% coupon off that scone mix you wanted to try, but it is only good for the next ten days.”

Give them a coupon or a discount on whatever product that particular client/customer indicated they were interested in! They may have wanted to try it for free, but if you give them a 30% or 40% discount on one product, they may come in and order it. This might take a little bit of work, but believe me, it will pay off!

This next step is key!

Make it for a limited time only!

You have to give them whatever incentive that works for your business, but make sure you create a sense of urgency. The thing about drawings like this, the thing about making sure they win and that you actually get some benefit from it is that you give them a reason to come in and you make it as soon as possible. We’re all busy, busy people and unless something is right there in front of us with that sense of immediacy, we’re going to forget about it. Suddenly it’s not going to be as important tomorrow as it was today and you’re going to lose out.

So, when you do a drawing so that everybody wins, just make sure that you give it a sense of immediacy. But, also give it a sense of the feeling that you’re talking one-on-one with that customer, which you really can be.

When you give everyone the opportunity to win, then everybody wins.

K Birmingham