I happened to attend the opening of a Williams-Sonoma store last
night. Nothing interesting about the opening, given there are more
than 600 stores in the Williams-Sonoma portfolio of six brands. But
there’s a story here about how Williams-Sonoma does business.
I happened to meet Mary Lester, wife of Chairman and CEO Howard Lester
last week and that’s when Mary invited me to the opening. Because this
store was opening right in the Lester’s backyard so to speak, they were
there. Upon seeing me, Mary warmly greeted and welcomed me and made me
feel at home in her “home.” And the rest of the store team was no
different with so many of them checking in with me, seeing if I needed
anything. And it wasn’t about me, that’s how they treated all of the
guests in their home.
The social graces that are missing from so many aspects of our lives
are indeed alive and well at Williams-Sonoma, and that comes directly
from the Lesters.
Social graces are so important in everything we do everyday. You can
and should be offering those social graces to truly differentiate your
brand in retail.
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY
Working retail is really about being the consummate host.
Everyday you’re welcoming guests into your “home”. You’re inviting
them into to experience, to share, to shop, to discover. Shouldn’t you
and your team be acting like the most gracious hosts?
So, how do you do that? You employ simple social graces.
Think about when someone comes to your home. There are a number of
motions you go through to ensure the experience is what you want it to
be for your guests.
- Warmly greet guests (by name if possible) – we love to be called
by name. I was staying at the Plaza Athenee in New York a couple weeks
ago and within a day, nearly everyone working there knew my name. The
bellman who helped with my luggage when I checked in on Monday didn’t
see me until Friday. And that Friday morning, he said “Good morning
Mr. Kraus.” I was impressed to say the least. Learn your customers
names. Then use them.
- Engage guests with conversation – talk about anything. It
doesn’t have to be about what you can “help them find.” It can be
about the weather, how their day is going, what they’re spending their
weekend doing. The fact of the matter is that people love to talk. So
- Offer something to drink or sample – It’s rare in retail to feel
truly welcome in the store. Williams-Sonoma is always sampling
something. If you aren’t in the sampling business, offer them a glass
of water. Your best customers especially will appreciate the gesture.
- Do something unexpected – good deeds don’t go unnoticed. Make it
your mission to do good deeds for your customers. Throw a sample into
their bag. Give them a tiny free gift once in a great while – vendors
can help support this. People love freebies. Make your guests feel
- Write a thank you note – nothing says you care more about your
customers than a follow-up in the mail. It’s personal, it’s mailed to
their home, and it says that in this hectic world, you’ve taken time to
Social graces truly can help make you stand out in the crowded world of
retail. Just think of welcoming people into your home and you’ll be on
your way to becoming truly unique in the world of retailing today.