Children may not have much disposable income, but small-business owners shouldn’t underestimate the power of accommodating the 13-and-under set. Families are increasingly letting kids make buying decisions, so how you treat youngsters can influence whether you win over or lose customers.
As a parent, I can attest to this fact firsthand. My experiences shopping with my 3-year-old daughter have certainly shaped my buying decisions. In the process, I’ve identified different types of proprietors and learned some important customer-service lessons which readers of the Intuit Small Business Blog might benefit from.
3 Types of Shop Owners
Judgmental — Near my house, there’s a great store filled with wares from local artists. Although it’s expensive, I go there to buy gifts and art, because I want to support small businesses and artists in the community. During my last visit, while I was preparing to buy some pricey plates, my daughter sat down in a rocking chair that was situated in the middle of the sales floor, essentially inviting customers to do exactly that. Nonetheless, I immediately removed her. However, as I did, the shop owner said to me, in the rudest tone, “That’s a $2,500 chair.” Yet, if I’d been looking to buy the rocker, I would’ve sat in it, too. So to me, his message was, “Get your monster off that chair you can’t afford.” Never mind that my daughter hadn’t done anything to harm the merchandise. I was offended. I returned about $300 worth of pottery and left. I haven’t been back since.
Playful — On another shopping trip, my mother, daughter, two nieces, and I entered a small boutique that was full of expensive tchotchkes. I immediately got nervous when the shop owner stepped out from behind the register and started toward the girls. I expected him to scold us in one way or another, so I was completely taken aback when he invited the girls to meet his rooster, Roy. For 10 minutes, he entertained them with a toy bird he kept in the shop. The girls giggled while my mother and I loaded up on merchandise. We all left happy. I go back there often.
Prepared — Another time, my kids and I took a piece of art to a small framing shop. The process of choosing a frame can take time, so I was overjoyed when the owner directed our daughter toward a table that was covered in Legos, cars, crayons, and paper. She immediately sat down and began to play quietly with another customer’s child. I praised the shop owner for the setup, and he smiled. “We’re parents, too,” he explained. We were able to take our time making decisions and spent a good sum of money. I will definitely go back there the next time we need something framed.
My shopping experiences with my daughter have taught me some pretty important lessons about customer service, such as:
- Bad news travels fast. As you may have noted above, I wrote about my bad experience first. People are much more likely to share negative impressions than positive ones. Mothers in particular are using blogs, review sites, and social media to share feedback about brands and businesses — and they wield tremendous influence. You cannot afford to upset this very powerful cohort.
- Take it easy on parents. Work hard to leave a good impression on moms and dads. If you make them uncomfortable by following them around the store, making belittling comments, or giving them dirty looks because they bring their kids into your shop, they’ll go elsewhere in the future. Life is busy. Children are parents’ #1 priority. Your store will never be that important. Moreover, there are many kid-friendly competitors out there waiting to take your customers.
- Show kids some respect. Greeting kids with a genuine smile and a “Hello!” goes far with most parents. Never scold a kid, and never assume that they are going to cause trouble, make a mess, or break something.
- Crayons can drive sales. A small table in a corner with nothing more than paper and crayons on it can be a sale saver. That’s because you allow parents to shop and focus on your products or services while their kids entertain themselves nearby.
- Parents are not inherently cheap. Many people with children have impeccable style and taste. They want to buy nice things, and they often do. Don’t assume that just because they have a child in tow they are unable or unprepared to open their wallets.