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  • Developing a Servant's Heart, Part 1

    Share your vision of beautiful flowers.

    Any person that regularly interacts with the public will experience the "thankless" aspects of that interaction. Today's consumers are increasingly cynical and demanding. They expect preferential treatment; they assume your only reason for existence is to satisfy their current expectations.

    But for every difficult customer, many more will be very grateful for your attitude. Florists, who act as servants, truly stand out as exceptions. By focusing on a vision of "sharing beauty," you will find the service you provide more pleasurable for you and your customers.

    Experience your own products.

    Find ways to develop a passion for the products in your shop. Take home flowers regularly. Make it easy for your employees to do the same. Evaluate new gifts. Send cards that you stock.

    The more responsibility you take for your product-knowledge training, the more rewarding you will find your interaction with customers.

    Resolve to be the best example of a servant you can be.

    Each day you have the opportunity to offer excellent service to your customers. And, each day you also have the opportunity to offer less.

    It is hard to "go the extra mile" when some customers will never even notice. But, in the long run, high standards always pay off. Most everyone appreciates excellence. Do it well enough for long enough and you'll reap the benefits.

    View every customer as a person.

    Employ "relationship marketing," building your business one customer at a time.

    Each customer is worthy of your time and attention. The relationship you develop becomes more important than the product you sell. Since we live in an impersonal culture, a "personal touch" in any business stands out from the rest.

    But customers aren't naÇve. You must truly care about their needs. They don't always trust businesses nor do they necessarily believe the claims made about their products.

    If customers believe that your only motivation for "relating" to them is to get them to part with their money, then the "relationship" will quickly deteriorate.

    Ask questions that service each customer's needs.

    The majority of customers entering or calling your shop have something particular in mind they wish to purchase. Assisting customers means developing a relationship that gives you permission to make recommendations. And the key to gaining permission is asking the right questions.

    Forget the question, "May I help you?" It implies the customer is selection-challenged.

    Consider saying, "Are you finding everything you need today?" as a basis for starting a conversation. You know the customer came in with something in mind. You want to help them find it. Or, comment on an arrangement nearby or something that has already caught his or her attention — "Isn't the blossom on that plant beautiful?" or "Have you seen our best selling . . . ?"

    As the customer allows, continue with follow-up questions that help define the particular quest. "Will this be for yourself or a gift?"

    At your next staff meeting, brainstorm potential opening questions and follow-up questions that you can all memorize and try. Consider posting a list. Your goal is to engage the customer in friendly, non-threatening interaction.

    Never make assumptions about the customer's responses.

    Sadly, most questions from sales clerks end with the first reply from the customer. Why? Because the salesperson assumes he has all the information needed. In most cases this isn't true. Communication between people is seldom so cut and dried.

    Without being intrusive, continue the dialogue with customers until you have had a few exchanges. Confirm your conclusions about their needs with statements such as, "It sounds like your mother doesn't care for fancy vases but loves tropicals . . ."

    Take time to hear what each customer is really saying.

    Observe the customer as he browses through the shop. Where does he spend time? Check out facial expressions. Does he look puzzled? Confident? How does he interact with your merchandise? Assess customers' eyes when addressing them. What do you see?

    When conducting sales over the phone, listen carefully to inflections in the person's voice. If they are frustrated, be overly polite… empathize. If they are in a hurry, help speed the process without short-changing their product selection.

    Select products to show each customer based on your assessment of their needs.

    Customers need to learn about and/or experience products. It's part of the evaluation process. But too much information is as bad as too little.

    Limit your initial suggestions to three products or less. Based on the feedback you receive, substitute a new message.

    As you go through the process of placing products in their hands or describing them over the phone, refer to one or two of the items you are not suggesting. Offer your reasons. This will encourage the customer to have confidence in you and will ensure you haven't missed something that the customer wanted.

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