At the NAIBA Discovery Show in Washington D.C. last weekend, I had a chance to sit in on a very informative and entertaining session titled “Prepare for the Unexpected and Worst-Case Scenarios”. The session was led by Robin Bell from Chesapeake & Hudson and Susan McAnelly from Browseabout Books. These two brought insights from both outside and inside the store. It reminded me that the unexpected happens daily in stores and is not always catastrophic, as is the case with the unexpected events Binc deals with, but can be equally as disruptive to the business at hand. Their presentations and the audience participation that followed reminded everyone that anything can (and often does) happen in a bookstore.
Susan began by humorously recounting experiences with cranky customers, touchy technology, ill-behaved children, temperamental plumbing, demanding authors, delivery snafus, “showroomers”, Mother Nature and more. Her talk elicited nods, groans, laughter and applause from the bookseller audience. Many had experienced the same issues and freely shared their solutions and suggestions. The underlying theme was always, “keep smiling and don’t lose your temper”. It certainly made me wonder how I would react under those circumstances. Could I be as cheerful when cleaning up after a child with “potty issues” being overseen by a doting (but unhelpful) parent?
Robin gave the booksellers some great advice from an outside perspective on how to put your best foot forward to customers. She reminded the attendees that their first impression on a customer comes in the first 7 seconds of contact, so the welcome to your store is critically important. Since for most customers the reason for leaving a store without purchasing is due to poor customer service, this should be everyone’s #1 priority. Whether in person, on the phone or via the internet – find a way to connect with your customer, make them feel welcome and do your best to give them what they are searching for. Robin passed out a very useful handout for booksellers to take back and share with store staff.
Both Susan and Robin admitted that it isn’t always easy to please every customer and there even may be times when removing them from the store is appropriate. But with some practice, and a concerted effort, many of the most trying customers can be won over. These lessons can serve us well, as we go about our work, or just for life in general.
I always manage to learn something new at each IBA show I attend, and my respect and admiration for booksellers is constantly renewed. My next stop is the Heartland Fall Forum in Minneapolis. I wonder what I will learn there . . .
Post by Kit Steinaway, Office Manager, Binc Foundation