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The Honey Don’t List

Furniture World Magazine


By Gordon Hecht

There are many habits on and off the sales floor that can lower sales and also customer satisfaction.

The Vernal Equinox isn’t a Chevy SUV, it’s the start of spring. This year it arrived on March 20 at 11:33 am.

Warmer weather, light rain, and blooming flower buds remind us that it’s time to start the “Honey Do” list, as in “Honey, do me a favor and clean the flower beds,” or “Honey, do me a favor and paint the deck.” After a few springs, the task list becomes habit, and each time we complete a chore on the Honey-Do list, we make life a little nicer for ourselves and our families.

I’ve heard that anything we do for 21 days in a row becomes a habit. In our retail world, we can develop habits too. Unfortunately, some of those actions keep our businesses ordinary. They become sales prevention habits rather than serve to build sales, service and profitability. I call these the Honey-Don’t List.

Sometimes negative behaviors manifest because they are expedient, and a good portion of these are not customer friendly. Look and listen around your retail empire and check how many of the following are happening in your business.

The Pointer

A shopper enters your store and asks for a specific department or product area. Since your sales team is familiar with the store layout, they POINT the customer in the right direction. It seems like a sound practice, but it opens up the possibility that your shopper will get lost again, become frustrated, and leave without buying.

Nordstrom grew from a local Seattle department store to a national chain because it paid attention to customer service. Pointing was a forbidden practice in their stores. Instead, associates were encouraged to walk with shoppers to their desired location, even if it was the restroom.

Help your shoppers out, walk and talk with them rather than send them on a Lewis and Clark adventure.

The Fast Talker—Part 1

Even in this age of emails and texting, an amazing amount of communication still occurs voice-to-voice via the telephone. Many customers don’t pick up incoming calls from unknown numbers to avoid phone scams, so many follow-up calls from retailers get shunted to voicemail.

It seems like the goal for many sales and service people leaving messages is to win the race for most words spoken per minute. The result is that shoppers hear a garbled name and a return phone number they can’t understand. They need to play it back several times and some people get frustrated and just give up. It leaves the caller clueless regarding why their calls are rarely being returned.

Instead, when leaving messages, callers should always clearly state their name and the business name. Then, slowly pronounce their phone number. Finally, help your shopper out by repeating the message starting with “Once again, this is Jenny Tutone from Bob’s Bedding at 203-555-5555. Please return my call.”

The Fast Talker—Part 2

Your website, print and electronic advertisements feature your store’s phone number so that people can call your store to get information about your products and services.

Good phone etiquette starts with a happy greeting. It can be off-putting for shoppers to hear a rush-job greeting such as the business name spit out in 2.4 seconds. It’s better to thank the caller, state the business name and the employee’s name, and then ask a simple question. Some stores post the script next to the telephone. You can write your own or start with “Thank you for calling Sleep Central. It’s Tim Ticketwriter. How can I help you?”

The mobile phone carrier I use instructs its customer service people to finish their greeting with, “How can I make your day sparkle?” It makes an impression, don’t you agree?

Clear The Vulture Pit

Your shopper has seen your ads, gotten the phone information they requested and braved traffic to visit your store. They pull open the door and see several salespeople gathered near the front door, seemingly ready to swoop on to the next victim.

Retail sales is a social event, and it can be fun to socialize with the other team members. Shoppers are there to buy, but they generally don’t want to be sold something. Although they don’t want to be ignored, most don’t want to confront a barrage of RSAs upon entry.

Make it a practice to keep the salesperson who is on point near the front door. Everyone else should clear away. One successful store manager I know would hold his fingers out in V formation (like the victory or peace sign) to remind his team to break up the “Vulture Pit.” It may be lonely waiting by yourself, but you’ll remove another barrier to making a sale.


Habits are hard to break and may require that same 21-day period of practice. Store leaders can ensure a remarkable shopper experience with training, coaching, observation, and reinforcement. So spring forward this season by ending the Honey-Don’ts and rewarding the Honey-Do’s.

About Gordon Hecht: Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.hecht@aol.com