May 10, 2018
Creating Customers for Life
I remember buying my first shotgun shortly after my eighteenth birthday and the fun I had heading to the woods with my older brother. Since he was former military, selection, training and education with my new shotgun were quick and somewhat easy. Enjoyment and confidence certainly followed.
Several years later, still prior to the era of the online world we now live in, I was faced with the challenge of purchasing my first handgun. Research was completed by way of the supermarket magazine rack, but, most importantly, I relied on the knowledge, expertise and experience of the gun counter salesman.
Then, providing great customer service was the key to driving a successful retail business, beating the competition and creating loyal customers for life. Fast forward 30 years and consider what has changed in firearms retailing and how FFLs today need to sharpen their edge to be successful.
The internet poses tremendous competition in today’s retail environment. Whether it be firearms, ammo or accessories, your customer has a vast array of choices. It’s a much different landscape than the one in which I bought my first firearm, but there’s one thing that hasn’t changed for retailers wanting to attract and retain loyal customers (especially given online competition): It’s still that great customer service I experienced before the internet gave me so many choices. That means that, as a modern firearms retailer, you need to consider how you want to be attended to when you make a potentially life-changing firearm purchase.
It isn’t rocket science, but rather people science! Consumer studies have shown for decades that most people are willing to consider attentive service, “TLC,” emotional support and understanding over price. In other words, if the purchaser feels confident and intelligent when they are making a purchase, price (and the internet) may become secondary.
So what steps should you take now to create the “feel-good” shopping experience that fulfills your customer’s emotional needs and keeps them coming back?
- Educate your staff about the level of customer service expected from them. Every team member who interacts with a customer must be passionate about providing the greatest and most reliable information to every customer, every time. It’s their duty to believe in this, exude passion and genuine concern always and avoid showing strong opinions unless the customer asks for them.
- Greet and meet every customer, offering your name and asking theirs. When you greet someone to your home, you welcome them with enthusiasm, a smile and open arms. This all makes someone feel good. So why not greet your customers the same way?
- Lead by example. Your team may have to break some old habits and learn new ones. Smiling for every customer, being on their A-game every day and showing genuine care may not be easy for everyone. Practice makes perfect, and someone must be the coach to help the team win. Be the coach.
- Teach your sales team to really listen to each customer. Have them inquire as to why that customer is there, why they chose your store, and work to find ways to understand their needs and concerns. Once the customer knows your staff cares, they will be more confident in any sales transaction they make and grateful for your support and interest. Don’t rush the sale. More than selling a gun, it’s about building a trusting relationship.
- Fulfill their needs. If you did well to this point, your customers are sure to have faith in you and will likely make a purchase. Remember to suggest everything that will make the purchase a success and include ammo, eye and ear protection, secure storage, custom accessories, a holster and, of course, training. But this too, is like selling the firearm. It’s not about how much merchandise you can move, it’s about making sure your customer has everything they need when they leave your store to head to the range and begin enjoying their purchase. The last thing you want is for them to get to the range or a class for the first time and discover they’re missing a crucial piece of equipment, which will leave them wondering, “Why didn’t my salesperson tell me about that?”
- Thank them for visiting your store! There’s no better way to create loyalty than by thanking your customers for shopping and spending their hard-earned cash with you.
A little TLC goes a long way. If you can figure out how to have every customer leave your store with a warm and fuzzy feeling versus being rushed, you create the potential for a life-long customer. Don’t you like spending money with people who make it a fun and rewarding experience? I do. So make tomorrow your first day of super customer service and avoid the pitfalls from this recent video (and becoming the next viral posting on YouTube).
About the Author
John Bocker is an NSSF Security Consultant Team Member and the Managing Director at JB Group, LLC, based in Denver, Colorado. JB Group is a business security and strategy consulting organization specializing in ATF/FFL compliance and protecting FFLs against unexpected losses resulting from burglary, robbery, unnecessary risks and internal control failures. Call John at (720) 514-0609 for more information.