museums&MORE Spring 2013
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Training your staff to help understand the customer experience.

Strong inventory and a steady flow of museum guests certainly help museum stores succeed, but it’s up to your staff to truly reach all your store goals. From the moment a potential customer walks into your retail space, the opportunity to create a fantastic customer experience begins.

Interactive displays, engaging music, appropriate scents, strong signage and total store communication begin to be absorbed by customers right away. What should not be overlooked, however, is how well the customer responds to your store. Training your team to help identify the customer experience is an important component to their responsibilities — ultimately helping your store offer dynamic customer experiences.

To help your team understand your customers, it’s important to train them on what it is they should be looking for. While we don’t expect them to be trained psychiatrists, it doesn’t hurt to teach them about consumer behavior and the why of the buy.”

Customers don’t shop for ‘things’; they shop for ‘reasons.’

The idea that customers need things can be challenged with the idea that customers want things. Yet ultimately, it’s not the thing that they are buying. It’s the reason they are buying something for.

Are your customers shopping for a souvenir to help remind them of their museum experience? If so, they are helping to shape a memory. Are they buying a gift for their grandkids? If so, they are buying because they love someone. Try to understand the emotions behind each customer in your store to best support them in what they may want to buy.

Remember that what they have going on in their lives will ultimately impact their decisions to buy something or not. Also remember that eight out of 10 candy purchases are not because someone needs candy — such as for a holiday or other special event — but rather because consumers feel like they deserve it. That’s their emotions talking to them. Let this be your rule of thumb for all potential purchases from customers.

Customers like to know interesting facts — but not about you.

Keep the small talk focused on the customers. Store employees often get lost in chit-chat with customers that take them off track of their main goal, which is to support selling and create sales. Focus on the customer and their interests, beginning with why they are visiting the museum or your store. Resist chatting about your own personal interests or other personal details, even if the opportunity allows. Be friendly, but remember to always keep the conversation about them.

People in general are most comfortable with what they know about. And what your customers know about is THEM, not you or your store. Try to get to know them and as a result, you will be able to better support them in your store.

Customers love engaging in hands-on experiences.

Don’t let your museum still the entire spotlight! Your store offers a fantastic venue for hands-on, interactive opportunities. Encourage your customers to try out products and engage in demonstrations. Be sure to identify that these things are fun, easy, exciting, interesting… you get the idea. Avoid being too “salesy” here, and instead focus on how they are feeling during these interactions.

Are they having fun? Laughing? Surprised? Nervous? Speak to the emotions your customers may experience during these interactive events, allowing you to support a more natural sales opportunity. For example, if they had a great time and mention their son would love it, encourage them to buy it as a way to spend time with their son. Remember, what you want to avoid is selling the product and instead sell the experience.

Customers want to be engaged by all their senses — whether they realize this or not.

The best retail stores know how to get all five senses involved with their customers. This means you want your store and your staff to engage with customers through scent, touch, taste, hearing and sight. Whether the scent of a candle, the sampling of chocolate or the touch of a product, there are many ways you can engage customer senses.

To test how your store currently responds to all five senses, put together a test study with at least three but ideally up to 10 people responding to each sense. Simply provide them a form that identifies each sense, then have them list experiences from your store pair up with each sense. Reward their time for this with complimentary museum passes or a gift certificate to the store. If finding 10 people seems like a tough task, enlist your store employees to each ask a friend or family member to help with this. Pretty soon you will have 10 willing participants.

Customers enjoy feeling good about what they buy.

Remind your store guests that a purchase from your store helps keep your institution alive. Most institutions are not-for-profit, so sales from stores help contribute to the livelihood and operations of the museum at large. Plus, if you have product that is Fair Trade Certified, organic, made from a local artesian or has other attributions that give back in a good way, let your customers know.

Finally, remember that how you deliver your trainings should vary on what’s best for your business. You can do mini-trainings once a month, offer quarterly trainings that are an hour or so each or hold day-long sessions once a year. Find a schedule that makes sense for you — but also your store, your associates and your overall success. Your reward? Stronger customer experience and sales.

Customers body language speaks volumes.

If you’re making eye contact with a store guest and they are deliberately looking away and engaged with something or someone else, take this as your first clue that they aren’t entirely listening to what you are saying. Customers can tell you a lot without ever saying a word, and your staff should understand how to read their body language to help support customers in their store experience.

Distracted customers, such as someone on a phone call or a parent keeping their kids from touching everything, aren’t lost causes when it comes to sales, but they are certainly harder to support. Identify store policies to deal with these challenging scenarios, but also remind your staff to graciously “back off” from customers who simply don’t want any customer service.

This is when your store signage, strong displays, engaging products and other retail tricks help push your sales. These same retail tricks can help encourage positive body language, as well, so be sure to combine all your retail strategies to ensure the strongest retail experience for your customers.

Finally, be realistic with the fact that every customer is different. As a result, there is no one way to support customers. Recognizing this and then providing training to your staff to offer customer service tips to a variety of customers can help ensure everyone receives an outstanding customer experience.

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