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Candace D'Agnolo

5 Steps to Defuse Conflict with Customers

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Ever had a customer who wants her money back on a destroyed plush dog toy because “you said it was indestructible”? In your head, your response is something like, “Yeah right, crazy lady. You obviously weren’t listening because I would never say that!” Or how about an angry customer getting visibly upset saying, “I’m two hours late for my grooming appointment, but you told me I could walk in at any time. It even says so on your website! You have to wash my dog! I have guests coming tomorrow. You’re ruining our entire weekend!” How do you respond to these customer issues without making things worse?

Whether you believe the customer is always right or not, you still must do all you can to make sure the customer leaves satisfied and feels her problem was properly resolved. Follow my five-step process and move from a defensive, stand-your-ground approach to a “the-customer-is-always-right” mindset.

1

Listen. Whether they are coming at you calm, with anger or just plain sass, listen, listen, listen. Let them vent without interruption. If they aren’t saying much, ask questions like, “Tell me more” or “What were you hoping for?” By using this technique, you 1. allow the customer to get it off his chest, and 2. are better able to understand his needs so you can offer the best solution.

2

Empathize. Empathizing with their situation and expressing a genuine understanding of their frustration might be the most important part of helping unsatisfied customers. Make sure you don’t miss this opportunity to connect. Say things like, “I can understand how disappointing this is,” or “I would be just as frustrated. I really feel what you’re going through.” Then repeat the problem they’ve shared with you. By doing this, you’re validating that you’ve heard their concerns and that you understand their problem.

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3

Ask. Instead of offering what you think is the best solution, ask them what they want. I spent years giving a huge discount or a full refund because I feared that bad Yelp review. But the simple questions, “How can I make this right?” or “What do you think is a reasonable solution?” puts the ball in their court. Sometimes they may ask for something you can’t possibly do, but in most cases their request is reasonable. When you solve the problem with the customer’s idea, you know they’ll be satisfied. Even better, you let the customer know you really care and thus deepen customer loyalty.

4

Recommend. If you can do what they are asking, that’s the best result. Get excited and tell them you can absolutely meet their request. If you can’t, politely say, “While I can’t give you X, I really do want to help you, so here’s what I can do …” Provide a thoughtful solution, one that truly helps them. So, back to our customer with the dog who has guests coming … if you can’t give that the dog a bath, give her a free bottle of bath spritz or wipes and a fresh bandana to hold the dog over. Then tell her that for the inconvenience you’ll squeeze the dog in for your first available appointment with a 15 percent discount.

5

Surprise. You can always do more — surprise, delight, and give them a cherry on top. Rather than think you’re rewarding a complaining customer, recognize the situation as a marketing opportunity where you’re converting bad situations into loyal customers who will likely share their experience. Remember, 92 percent of consumers trust word of mouth over other forms of advertising. So give them an additional perk like a future discount or a gift that complements their needs. Approach this situation from an abundance mindset and create a win-win situation.

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As a business owner, you must transition mindsets, from “But I’m right!” to “I truly care about my customer.” Your customers must be happy. Focus on loyalty investment rather than a one-time margin hit. You will spend a lot more to get a new customer than making this one happy.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.


 This article originally appeared in the April 2018 edition of PETS+. 

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PETS+ Live with Candace D'Agnolo

This North Carolina Pet Business Thrives by Creating Unforgettable Customer Experiences

Catch the replay of this PETS+ Live! webinar hosted by Candace D’Agnolo of Pet Boss Nation. This episode featured Wendy Megyese of Muttigans in Emerald Isle, NC. Learn about ways to combat the big boxes and online — the key is to give your customers an experience they can’t get anywhere else — and learn why the business was honored in the 2018 PETS+ America’s Coolest Stores contest.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Boost Staff Morale with These 3 Holiday Sales Games

It’s important to first identify what your goal is.

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WHEN I WAS running my own pet retail boutique, I found that as the busy days of December rolled on, our team would become more and more run down. Every day gets longer and longer. It becomes harder and harder to keep the team motivated. I needed to find a solution, and I discovered that one of the best ways to perk up everyone was to play games.

Using “gamification” in your business is a really hot trend right now because it creates engagement, connection and results.

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Video: Adorable Cat Melts Hearts By Trying on Eyewear for Children

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Video: Cat Surprises Airport Security After Stowing Away in Family’s Luggage

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When it comes to using games as a tool in business, it’s important to first identify what your goal is. Perhaps it’s to move out your holiday-specific merchandise. Maybe it’s to ensure that all the new customers coming in are being added to your database. Or you want to get the team to add on one more item over $10 to each sale. Whatever it is, make sure you pick a specific purpose for your game. Play the game only for up to one week. Games that last longer tend to lose their magic. You can play multiple games throughout the month, too. At my store, we had a different four-day game that would run every Thursday through Sunday. Each game’s tactics were different, and each game’s purpose was different.

Here are a few of my favorite games to play to help you sell more stuff, motivate the team and keep that register ringing to make the most of December.

The Dollar Tree

Tape fake dollar bills on a wall in the shape of a Christmas tree. Encourage your team to ask each customer: “Does your pet have a present under the tree this year?” If the customer says, “No” (or even yes) and that question leads them to purchase a toy, then that team member gets to pull a fake dollar from the tree. At the end of your game, they get to turn their fake dollars into you for real dollars.

Staff Santa Sack

Every time you beat your daily sales goal, each person who worked the floor gets to pull a card from the Staff Santa Sack. The sack can be filled with notecards or something similar, each with a reward, gift or surprise written on it. They can turn their cards into you whenever they want during the months of January or February. The rewards could have ideas like, “Skip my turn to clean the bathroom,” “Go to Lunch with the Boss,” “Pick one item from the store under $20,” “Get a 30-minute paid break.”

Staff Bingo

Play Bingo! Make your own bingo board by filling in the boxes with product names, tasks or questions instead of the typical bingo number. Keep them all the same or make a variety of boards. Hand them out to your team and have them try to get bingo in order to move toward your objective. When they have a completed board, they get a prize.

These are just a few examples of games you could play with your team to keep things interesting and to increase your sales at the same time. If you give one a try, make sure to share your results with PETS+.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Purposeful Outreach: How to Segment Your Customer List and Communicate with a Purpose

The best emails, text messages, direct mailers and thank-you cards are relevant to the recipient and timely.

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MY LAST TWO COLUMNS covered why collecting customer information was so important, what you should collect and then ways in which you could encourage your customers to give their information to you. Now that you have your list, it’s time to communicate with them in a purposeful way that adds value. The best emails, text messages, direct mailers, thank-you cards are relevant to the recipient and timely. So how do you do that?

The first step is ensuring that your list is segmented, meaning that all your contacts are in the appropriate categories/lists. You can mark your customers with “tags” or custom fields inside your software (based on recommendations I covered previously — check out past columns here: petsplusmag.com/dagnolo).

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Segmenting will allow you to send relevant information to customers. Wouldn’t it be better for a cat customer to get a cat-related email from your business instead of hearing about a dog mom event? If the cat customer hears only about dogs, they will stop opening your emails or paying attention to your marketing.

Segmenting takes effort on your part, but once you get a system down, it will become easy for you to send the right message to your customers.

Now that you have them segmented to send relevant information, it’s important to send consistent and timely communication.

Here are a bunch of reasons to communicate with your customers:

  • Newsletter (monthly, weekly, bi-weekly)
  • Welcome to “Business Name Family”/Story behind business
  • New client/onboarding
  • Reminders
  • Promotions
  • Re-engagement for customers you haven’t seen in a while
  • Abandoned carts for online stores
  • Milestone emails
  • Special offers
  • Surveys or other request

And here’s a list of things you could share in those communications:

  • Celebrations
  • Announcements
  • Customer and team highlights
  • New products and benefits of others
  • Breaking news/recalls
  • Vendor stories
  • Your stories
  • Events
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Do’s and Don’ts

So, now you’re building your list. You know why you should be communicating with customers and what to talk about. Now it’s about being consistent in your communication. Come up with a plan to communicate at least weekly with your customers — whether it’s to the whole group or targeted segments of your list.

Sending relevant info is key. The right message must reach the right people. The most important thing about your communication is to communicate with purpose. The purpose of your communication will allow you to ensure you’re driving important and interesting communication that still supports your business.

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Candace D'Agnolo

8 Ways to Collect New and Existing Customer Information

Incentivize new and existing customers to give you more of their information.

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LAST MONTH, I SHARED with you why collecting customer information is critical to your success. Now that you know what you want to collect from your customers, I’m focusing here on how you can incentivize new and existing customers to give you more of their information. In this three-part series, I’ll help you move from sending a random monthly mass email newsletter to truly building an engaged and active customer base. This not only means having your customers’ information, but collecting information as much as possible so you can keep growing your business!

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The most obvious example of where/when to collect their information is at the register and/or the time of purchase. (P.S. This should be a non-negotiable standard for your team when ringing people up). Here are eight alternatives to getting oh so much more information:

1. Require people to register in advance for your events. Google Forms is free and provides a link for you to share on social media or in emails for easy online signup. Eventbrite is also a fabulous tool since you can charge for the event, allow people to attend for free, and you can even ask for a donation! Some of the CRM platforms from July/August 2019 issue will allow you to build landing pages that integrate with their software, as well.

2. Do a raffle. Make sure you have each participant’s cellphone, email and address. An idea for this would be to do an online “getting to know your customers” contest on social media. Have them fill out a survey (all their info), and they get entered to win a gift card for the store.

3. Create an “opt-in” to use in a variety of places. Share it on your business cards, social media, website, emails, videos. An opt-in is when you give something away of value in exchange for your customers’ information. This can be a 10 best tips PDF, an educational video, a gift certificate — the options are endless!

4. Implement a texting service. A texting platform will help you automate the opt-in process in a wide range of places. Use your short text in keyword to get people to join a VIP Club, use it events for easy signup, add it to signage in your store and call it out on Facebook Live videos.

5. Utilize surveys, contests, polls and competitions. Outgrow.co, Survey Monkey, Google Forms, Rafflecopter and Poll-maker are among a few websites that allow you to create these for distribution as well as capturing the data you want.

6. Do a pop-up ad on your website that asks anyone visiting to fill out a brief survey for an instant 10 percent off sent to their email upon completion.

7. Offer a “whatever you can fit in [this box] in 5 minutes is yours” shopping spree giveaway on a Facebook Live video. Or if that’s too much of an expense, do a surprise grab-bag giveaway. Fill a box with whatever you want, cover/wrap it up and tell people it can be all theirs if they enter! Really talk up the goodies in there, saying they can have enough gifts and goodies for the next six months! Include a link where they can register to win.

8. Offer a coupon on their next purchase if they leave an online review of their experience. Platforms like Nextpaw + Broadly can help make this easier.

Last month, you learned why it’s important to collect customer info and what you should collect and track (petsplusmag.com/9191). And now, you have ideas to incentivize new people and current customers to opt-in. I’ll share with you ways to best communicate on a regular basis in the last installment of this three-part series in the October issue. Because aside from sending regular newsletter emails, there are lots of strategies to building raving fans who support your business!

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