By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding
Note: A glossary of italicized terms appears at the end of this article.
Sometimes I just have to SMH when I see all of the initialism used in modern day communication.
JTLYK, there is a difference between acronyms, abbreviations and initialisms. Most readers probably know that an abbreviation is a shortened version of a word (such as abbrev.). An acronym is an invented word made up of the initial letters or syllables of other words, like NASA or NATO.
Fewer probably know that an initialism is a type of acronym that cannot be pronounced as a word, but must be read letter-by-letter, like FBI or UNLV.
FYI, customer loyalty — specifically to the level that your business enjoys — is directly tied to the two initialisms in the headline: VIP and DYKWIA.
We often hear that loyalty among the shopping public is dead (or dying) but it simply is not true. You’ll normally suffer from the fallacy of composition when you believe that your preferences are the preferences of the rest of the world, but here’s an exception: Think about the last 12 weeks. Is there a restaurant, resort, retail store, library or park that you can’t wait to visit? The kind of venue that makes you mutter, “When this thing is over, the first place I want to go is [fill in the blank]!” That is customer loyalty at its highest degree.
Shoppers become loyal customers for life and raving fans when you treat them like a VIP — a Very Important Person. It’s the restaurant where the servers know your name, your seating preferences and your favorite beverage, all provided for you without having to ask. It also comes from the store or resort that treats you partly like family and partly like a guest. The employees don’t mind taking a few minutes to listen to your stories and experiences and are more interested in gathering information than trying to sell you on a solution.
Businesses convert customers to VIPs by thanking them for their patronage via phone calls, texts and that most ignored but most valued piece of communication, the thank-you card. They let their VIPs know about preferential pricing and even give away a no-strings gift once in a while, just to let their VIPs know they care.
There is an ugly, dark flipside to creating VIPs. IMNSHO, businesses lose the opportunity to create loyalty when their paying customers have to ask, “DYKWIA — Do You Know Who I Am?”
It can start as a small frustration, as with an automated phone answering system. You know the kind, where you have to push 1) for Sales, 2) for Customer Service, 3) if you never had chicken pox and 4) if you want extra pepperoni. Let me give you the 411 on that: There is no business that saves enough money on the cost of live operators to make up for the lost revenue caused by those annoying systems.
Another frustration is asking customers to prove who they are. On a recent stop at the cable company store I had to show ID to pay a bill. Sure, I was dropping off a payment for someone else, but do they really care who brings them the check?
Poor in-store experiences can make customers feel like SMHID, and topping the list is being ignored. There is an unwritten rule in some larger stores with multiple commissioned salespeople to never speak to another salesperson’s guest (or “up,” as we used to say). While this may maintain harmony among your team (“She tried to steal my up!”), it also makes your buying public feel unacknowledged and insignificant. It is important for your managers and sales team to understand that shoppers don’t visit your business to provide an income for your staff; they visit to fulfill a need, want or service.
Here’s a tip from blogger Donald Cooper on how to transform your business from creating DYKWIA to VIPs: Think about your favorite place to spend time or money, the one you’ve been itching to get back to since late March. Invest 20 minutes to write down (yes, with pen and paper) all the reasons you miss it and the many qualities and services they offer. That’s the easy part.
Next, on a separate piece of paper (you can use the same pen), take 40 minutes to write down how your business can duplicate those same services and qualities that makes you a loyal, raving fan. Include details on who needs to make the changes, what assets and venues can make it happen, and add in realistic start and completion dates.
TBBH, it is not going to be easy. This is a pivotal time for sustaining and growing business. Retailers who TCB by creating an atmosphere, both in store and online, where people want to visit will survive, flourish and grow.
A Glossary of Popular Initialisms
DYKWIA: “Do you know who I am?”
FYI: “For your information”
JTLYK: “Just to let you know”
IMNSHO: “In my not so humble opinion”
OMG: “Oh my God”
SMH: “Shaking my head”
SMHID: “Scratching my head in disgust”
TBBH: “To be brutally honest”
TCB: “Take care of business”
VIP: “Very important person”
Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.