You’re Not from Around Here, Are You? Social Etiquette or Regional Bias?

Meme - Don't take offense if I call you Ma'am

There is a trend in Social Media that kind of pisses me off. I’m wondering if it pisses you off, too.

Lots of memes are dictating REGIONAL social etiquette (see image). WHY is that? Social Media lives online – a.k.a. WORLDWIDE!

The uppity tone is giving me agida. It is as if you are “less than” if you don’t use their regional vernacular. So here’s my rant.

What’s disrespectful in one region may be normal in another.

I grew up in Tampa, Florida and was taught to use Mr., Mrs., and Miss as respectful titles, and not ma’am or sir. My dad was Air Force and the only sirs and ma’ams I knew were in uniform. If you were close to a friend of the family or neighbors, you respectfully added an Aunt or Uncle to their first name. It wasn’t until I moved to Atlanta when I was in my late 20s that I learned of the ma’am and sir protocol. Yes, I had heard this practice on TV, like on the Andy Griffith Show, but I had never experienced it in my places of residence – until I moved to Atlanta.

Yes, it made me feel old to be called Ma’am.

I was only 27 when I moved to Atlanta.  And after decades here, it is still hard to hear someone call me ma’am. I didn’t raise my son with that practice because it is still foreign in its feeling to me. I am sure that is my military family history at fault for my discomfort, but to hear a little child say, “Yes, Sir” to an elder just seems strict and unnatural to me.  But, that’s me and my upbringing. But you won’t see me making a meme about that!

In business, too?

Another difficult adjustment in Atlanta was the custom of holding the first 2-5 minutes of business conversation focused on social exchange. How’s your spouse, is Johnny enjoying his new school, heard you went to Hilton Head… etc… So, I had to learn this practice or run the risk of alienating southern business associates. Big adjustment for me as, in Florida, we practiced simple greetings, then on to business as, in that region, it was considered rude to waste another business person’s valuable time with what we considered time-wasting chatter. Again, regional differences…

Yes, I understand the desire to maintain one’s cultural differences. BUT, in today’s mobile society, let’s consider that perhaps it is disrespectful to expect a newcomer to assimilate so quickly and additionally, chastise them for it. The average home sale frequency is every 4-7 years as opposed to the old days when one lived most of one’s life in one place, so life is not the same as the slow, old days.

SOCIAL MEDIA lives everywhere – and behavior can’t be observed as mutually exclusive to your cultural region.

The only cultural differences in Social Media are in the different platforms – LinkedIn, Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. and that difference is a matter of tone, not language. Social Media has brought the world closer together in a shorter time than any time in history. Why would you try to enforce a cultural divide online?

So . . . Don’t take offense if I DON’T call you Ma’am or Sir, and I won’t take offense when you DO.

Thanks for listening!

Note: I just got a tweet from @supplies3D recommending I include N. Florida in the “Southern” way. He’s right. From Central Florida to South Florida you have mostly Northern U.S. transplants and their influence is deeply set. North Florida is very much like the old south.

 

#1 rule for retail success

Attentive salepeople are key to customer retention

The number one rule in real estate is Location, Location, Location!

In retail, the number one rule is Customer Service, Customer Service, Customer Service!

Recognize who butters your bread

Splash campaigns, discount driven events, and other such tactics are great for driving new blood into your location, but they often exclude motivation for existing customers to return.

Your bread and butter customer is your best marketing tool. Reward these loyal repeat customers with birthday / anniversary rewards, holiday gift cards, and most important, personalized service. The more exclusive you make your existing customers feel, the more likely they are to spread the word about you to their friends – and that now includes their social networks.

Keep your finger on your customer’s pulse.

Do keyword searches in social network venues like Facebook and Twitter or you may miss a negative comment about your customer service. It’s so easy to return a timely twitter response to an unhappy customer’s tweet to ensure that the customer you have already invested in comes back.

So sure your existing customers are happy?

These 3 easy tactics can help you learn more about how to maximize the repeat business of your existing customers:

  1. Make an arrangement with fellow retailers and friends to secret shop each others stores occasionally. The value of the little customer service details that have been forgotten or ignored by you and your staff can’t be ignored.
  2. Spend more time on the floor connecting with your customers and observing your staff. You’ll learn valuable information about your customers, product, service, atmosphere, operations, logistics, and staff loyalty and satisfaction.
  3. Visit your competition and watch their customers in action. You’d be amazed at how much you learn about your customer by watching them in another environment besides your own.

Customer Service IS your marketing strategy and your repeat customer is your pot of gold. Treat them like royalty!

Neighborhood bars lure customers with the Superbowl

Superbowl Celebrators
Image by williamhartz via Flickr

Who’s going to watch the Superbowl this Sunday?

Even if you aren’t a football fan, the Superbowl is the big neighborhood bar or restaurant event of the year!

Married with children, single or coupled, popular or a geek, male or female… it doesn’t matter! All types will be watching the Superbowl at a local bar or restaurant with their friends.

What fans are looking for…

Smart neighborhood bars and restaurants have been preparing since before the football season started last fall…adding flatscreens, creating killer appetizers and food specials, creating new cocktails, expanding beer selections and scheduling fun events to lure you to come back to their place every week.

This is a golden opportunity for neighborhood bars and restaurants to be able to hit every demographic to expand their customer base. How often do businesses get such a wide range of customer types in one day? Now the big goal for businesses is …

How to use social media to protect your customer service reputation

Image representing TweetDeck as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

They said what about you?!?!

If you aren’t engaged in social media, you may have no idea what customers are saying about your business – and then it can be too late to repair the damage.

Remember the game “telephone”?

Negative customer experiences can be hugely viral and do a lot of damage to your reputation. People love to share victim stories and will post them. Those stories then become a launching point for others who may have experienced even a mildly negative experience in your place of business. Before you know it (or worse, don’t know it), the word is out that your business has bad customer service whether or not it is true.

You must set aside time for social media

Yes, it can be very intimidating at first. Even if you are technophobic, playing around with different features and exploring the support pages will acquaint you with social media tools faster than you might think.

Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are popular and easy tools for social media monitoring. These websites offer desktop or Smartphone dashboards with tools allowing easy access and monitoring of multiple social media sites. Set aside an hour of uninterrupted time to explore them.

The ROI on monitoring social media is huge!

Small business owners are often too busy to handle social media monitoring alone. The best idea is to hire a social media consultant or part time employee. Yes, it’s that important.

Can’t afford to hire someone? Maybe you can – check with your local college or university career center for information on hiring a marketing intern for little or no salary. Marketing Interns are often the most up-to-speed on the pulse of social media and you’ll also have the opportunity to see them work before you decide to eventually hire.

No matter how good your customer service is, winning back an unhappy customer, especially publicly via social media, spreads the news you are a business that cares about their customers!

Check out this link for more information on using social media for customer service monitoring.

HOW TO: Use Twitter for Customer Service

3 Reasons Your Customers May Be Defecting to Online Shopping

Macy's store during 2006 Christimas in San Fra...
Image via Wikipedia

In my experience, most retail sales-floor training is “baptism under fire” with a lot of apologies to both the new employee and ultimately, the customer. And since most hiring is done between customers without proper preparation and investigation before the applicant arrives, this is truly a heartbreak since there are so many super qualified people out there looking for jobs.

Would you pick just any location to place your  business? Would you buy just any equipment for your store? Would you put just any merchandise in it? Then don’t just settle when you are hiring. And invest in good training, too!

Don’t blame e-commerce for your sluggish sales – customers may be switching to online shopping vs. your brick and mortar establishments for these 3 reasons:

  1. Poor hiring and training
  2. Lack of staff loyalty to your company mission
  3. Lack of Customer Connection

Here’s an example:

True story:

I was Christmas Shopping Sunday at Macy’s in Alpharetta, GA (a northern suburb of Metro Atlanta, GA). My growing teenage son needed some jeans, too, so while he was in the fitting room, I noticed some tables marked “Morning Special.” I looked at my cell phone and saw it was about 12:45 pm, so I assumed I had missed it, but since the signs were still up, I asked a passing salesperson when the “Morning Specials” ended. She said she didn’t know and started to walk off.

HUH?! That stopped me cold. Are you kidding me? “I don’t know!!!” ??? Which part about this was the worst…

A. That she didn’t know because of lack of training.

B. That she lacked the loyalty to her employer and therefore was satisfied to tell me that she didn’t know, or…

C. That she didn’t care about me as a customer and didn’t mind leaving me without an answer.

I couldn’t let this go. I quickly said, “You don’t know?!!!” And unbelievably, she said, “No. (pause) I guess I could find out if you want me to.” I said, “Well, yes!”

She came back and said, (and I am not making this up), “Well, it’s either 1pm or 2pm.” HUH, again!!! I was nonplussed. Surprisingly, she seemed to sense I wasn’t thrilled with her answer, and said, “One lady says it’s 1, but I think I saw in the paper that it was 2, so I think it’s 2.”

Am I really having this ridiculous exchange with her? I told her I wanted to know for sure since it was almost 1. She answered again that she believed it was 2. I told her I’d like to know for sure, so she reluctantly left again to ask someone else.

She returned to tell me (yes, you guessed it) … that it was over at 1 pm. I was SOL since it was now 12:59 pm.

Was that salesperson stupid, indifferent, or let’s all say this together…Poorly hired and poorly trained. I have seen a lot of discussions on LinkedIn lately on how important sales training is.  Is this not the perfect example?

So who is really to blame? Yes, the salesperson was negligent and derelict of duty, and she was willing to likely piss me off as a customer who might have trusted her guess that the sale was over at 2, but in the end – it is the employer’s fault.

His/Her poor choice in hiring and lack of good training and follow up allowed the risk that I would be royally upset at the register when told that the “Morning Special” ended an hour ago and I was not getting the discount. Why would I bother to return there to shop after this experience? I might as well shop online…

There are so many potentially bad results from this possible scenario that I don’t have enough room or your potential attention span to discuss. But what is equally concerning to me, is the indifference many employers have regarding employee training. Is it any wonder the staff is not loyal to your sales mission? If you don’t care if they get it right, why should they?

Your sales are based on the response a customer has to your store, your products, and how they are presented.

YOUR SALESPEOPLE ARE YOUR STORE by all accounts and purposes in the eye of the customer. The salesperson answers the phone, is the FIRST point of contact on the sales floor and is responsible for the feeling the customer has as they leave your store – in other words, the behavior and response of the salesperson toward the customer determines the likelihood of whether a customer will come back far more than the merchandise.

So, if the customer has no reason to feel that the shopping experience in your brick and mortar location is any better or more productive than an online shopping experience, why should they come back? Why shouldn’t they buy online if the experience is little different?

Fortunately, the bad taste in my mouth left later when I found a better salesperson who actually gave a damn about me as a customer – a young man who wanted to help me find some jeans with a very cheerful and helpful attitude and knowledge of the merchandise! YAY! Maybe the young lady I had earlier was temporary help for the holidays – but wouldn’t you still want to maximize your sales with properly hired and trained staff regardless of whether they are temporary or permanent?

Spend as much time researching those you employ as you do your products and marketing! And properly train them! (more on training in another post)

In these times, it is an employer’s market when it comes to hiring. Take advantage of it! Unemployment insurance is limited and quality people are spending 1-2 years seeking employment. They may be overqualified, but who better to serve your customer? They may eventually leave for something better, but the influence they have on the rest of the staff and your customers will make it all worth it. You might learn something, too!