COSTomer Service

COSTomer Service

by Sid Raisch

New customers have been a boon of 2020 in 2021. There are clear signs that the gain is slipping, and we need to take fast action to secure the customer. The first rule to building our business is to keep your customers (including the new ones) or it will take even more new ones to make up for those we don’t keep. By my definition, a new customer isn’t yet a real customer until they come back. They are a distinct possibility of becoming one if we handle their experience well.

Let’s pause a moment and ask ourselves, “Where have these new customers been?” That’s an important question, but one for another day. They’re here, and now we get to welcome them, integrate them, and keep their interest. Exactly how are we going to do those things? What is the plan?

Have we thought that box stores have also gained new customers? We’ve seen many of their customers discover the new world of the independent garden center recently and may have missed the point that the first place that people who didn’t know what a garden center was would go to a box store. How well have the boxes done at welcoming, integrating, and keeping the interest of plant newbies? There’s no indication that they have done anything new or better than they had in the past. This means those people are up for grabs if we do this right.

First, let’s look at how the box stores capitalized on their opportunity. There’s a phrase I’ve heard attributed to Walmart that says, “the best customer service is to be in stock.” Who could argue that when the last thing you could find in a box is someone to help you find something that isn’t there? A Rural King store is new to our town, and to this point, I discovered a sign there indicating that they have the same priorities as their brethren box stores. (see Rural King's sign on right below.)

The same “in-stock” idea is important to independents, although it doesn’t add value that customers are willing to pay more for.  The point here is to go further with adding value and earn those new plant customers while also being in stock on Seasonal Never-Outs that customers should reasonably expect us to have in stock.

When a customer arrives home after buying a new plant from a box store, they may not even be aware that they lack some important ingredients to their success. It’s the same as getting home with paint then discovering we forgot to buy a brush, a drop cloth, and a ladder. Where’s the fertilizer? They won’t even know they need it when the plant is struggling, or even after it is dead. If we look at the purchases of customers in our own stores it doesn’t take much math to figure out that most of them also arrive home without fertilizer because we have never sold enough of it to prove otherwise. That’s a shame and another discussion for another day.

One of the first things that will happen to someone who buys a plant from a box store is that they’ll discover that the answers to questions they didn’t know they had aren’t found where those plants came from. Most won’t even bother to ask there just like we wouldn’t bother to waste our time trying to ask if we had a question about something else that we might buy at a box store.  “Who you gonna call?” Yes, the local independent plant sellers. Is this a problem, or an opportunity? You decide.

When it comes to plant questions, there’s chaff mixed in with the wheat. Some of the customers who bought plants elsewhere and then came to independents with their questions are the newbies, potentially the wheat. Others will be revealed to be chaff – the “bound and determined to buy plants cheaper at all costs” until the death of the plant do they part ways. Those are people I call COSTomers, and they need to be identified and dealt with properly before the cost grows. This is also the title of this article. It wasn’t a misspelling.

We needn’t allow frustrations with the chaff to get in the way of harvesting the wheat – the customer who just experienced and learned exactly why buying a plant from a box isn’t a good value. It is relatively safe to assume that most regular customers have also brought plants home from their trip to buy hardware and groceries, and equally important to clarify for them why buying from an independent is still a better value. How we go about doing that is up for grabs.

Executive Principle #1 is, “Leaders Clarify Reality.” The point of this article is to clarify these opportunities that I’ve recently been focusing on to help clients develop their solutions for them. If you see them as important opportunities for your company I can help.

I once heard Zig Ziglar say, “It’s better to pay a little more than you’d like than to invest less than you should because when you invest less than you should, you sometimes lose – everything.” He may have been talking about the value of a consultant.

Before procrastination or other busyness steals another year from you Text or Call 937-302-0423 or send an email to [email protected] .

Sid Raisch is an advocate for family business leading growth, change, and results throughout US horticulture. Redefining the business future for consumer horticulture by understanding how the end-to-end supply chain needs to be redirected is a skill Sid has honed into an art. He has understanding and insight through inquisitive observations and extensive experience and has served as a trusted advisor helping transform both national and local businesses into more profitable and sustainable businesses. Developing national and international educational programs that create change in culture, community and company provides Sid venues with a front row seat creating effective and innovative business models.

Sid is a Certified Value Builder System Advisor, and currently serves as Chief Strategist and the Swiss Army Knife of Consultants to The Garden Center Group clients. Contact Sid at [email protected] or call or text  937-302-0423.

REMEMBER: Your interaction (by phone and email) with Group Service Providers such as Sid Raisch, Steve Bailey, Tim Quebedeaux, Robert Hendrickson, Jean Seawright, and John Kennedy are included in your retainer!

Share this post:

Comments on "COSTomer Service"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment