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Gratitude for the Unexpected Handwritten Thank-You

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It’s a rare occasion when I receive a handwritten letter or card in the mail. I’d estimate I get fewer than 10 each year, mostly from family members and close friends around holidays and birthdays. I particularly appreciate the ones from my grandparents, who still send me Halloween greeting cards with cartoonish lettering and ultra-cheesy punchlines that are clearly intended for children. The front of my last card read: “I have this haunting feeling that I’ve wished you Happy Halloween before.” The inside read: “Déjà Boo.” My grandmother then wrote a short note, signing her and my grandfather’s names to it. I kept the card because I’m a sucker for a good pun, and also because throwing away my grandmother’s delicate script would have felt like a criminal thing to do.

Jesse
Burkhart



Contributing writer for INSTORE.
I

t’s a rare occasion when I receive a handwritten letter or card in the mail. I’d estimate I get fewer than 10 each year, mostly from family members and close friends around holidays and birthdays. I particularly appreciate the ones from my grandparents, who still send me Halloween greeting cards with cartoonish lettering and ultra-cheesy punchlines that are clearly intended for children. The front of my last card read: “I have this haunting feeling that I’ve wished you Happy Halloween before.” The inside read: “Déjà Boo.” My grandmother then wrote a short note, signing her and my grandfather’s names to it. I kept the card because I’m a sucker for a good pun, and also because throwing away my grandmother’s delicate script would have felt like a criminal thing to do.

But every blue moon, I get a handwritten note that I wasn’t expecting because a holiday was around the corner. I don’t value one handwritten expression over another based on whether I was expecting it or not; the level of sincerity is the only thing that matters. But still, the unexpected ones produce a certain warming effect that the anticipated ones don’t.

I recently received an unexpected thank-you card from the small music studio at which I’ve been taking piano lessons for the past year. After I read the card, I plum forgot that it had been that long. (By my playing, you’d never have been able to tell.) But the music studio was keeping track, and so they sent me this card in recognition of my one-year anniversary.

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The message is pretty simple, as you can see. And though it was awfully kind of the studio to call what I had been making “music,” the words themselves weren’t what I appreciated most. I appreciated that the studio thought enough of my patronage to acknowledge it with what’s considered an unconventional expression of gratitude in the year 2016. I had received physical mail from the studio before; it was usually the latest newsletter it sends to students. That’s what I expected when I pulled the envelope from my mailbox. But opening it revealed a pleasant surprise – one that compelled me to keep it in the same pile as my grandparents’ cheesy Halloween greeting cards.

Sincere, handwritten expressions of gratitude are a lost art in today’s increasingly digital and impersonal world. That’s nothing you didn’t already know. I only shared this anecdote as a reminder of how a personal touch can go a long way toward building customer loyalty. The next time you’re looking for a way to set your business apart from a competitor, remember that the ink still has yet to fade from the oldest page in the customer-service playbook.

 

 

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VIDEO HIGHLIGHT

Wilkerson Testimonials

New York Jeweler Picks Wilkerson for Their GOB Sale

Jan Rose of Rose Jewelers, located in Long Island's famous Hamptons beach district, explains how she chose Wilkerson for her closing sale. Jan's suggestions: reach out to jewelers who have been in similar situations to find out what worked for them, and look for a company with experience in going-out-of-business sales. Once you've done that, the final step is to move ahead and trust the process.

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Editor's Note

We’re All Quitters Someday

A successful ending to your retail career requires planning.

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ALL GOOD THINGS must end. Yet every ending is a new beginning. I could keep going with the clichés, but you get the point: everyone eventually has to move on from jewelry retail. When the time comes, you want to go out on your own terms.

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With that in mind, our lead story takes you inside the transitions of six different jewelry retailers and explains why business expert Seth Godin says that one of the secrets of successful organizations is “strategic quitting.” Everyone reading this issue will leave the industry one day; now is the time to begin planning for it.

That said, many of you aren’t ready to retire, you’ve just lost your inspiration. You’re down and out, dejected, or maybe just bored. We’ve got just the thing for you to help you get your mojo back: our second lead story, “Mojo to Go.” It includes 12 different action items guaranteed to bring the excitement back to your business life.

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If that weren’t enough, we’ve also got what group managing editor Chris Burslem calls “lots of fun and interesting side bits” throughout, including why you shouldn’t discount shop labor, how to sell more safely, what your inventory management strategy can learn from dieting, and of course much, much more.

So remember, it’s not the quitting that matters — it’s how you plan to quit!

Trace Shelton

Editor-in-Chief, INSTORE
trace@smartworkmedia.com

Five Smart Tips You’ll Find in This Issue

  • Have your kids or your employees’ kids make Valentine’s Day cards and use them as props in your displays. (Manager’s To-Do, page 26)
  • Hold office hours for an hour or two a week for staff to talk to you. (Mojo To Go, page 44)
  • When role-playing sales with your staff, always take the role of salesperson first. (Ask INSTORE, page 58)
  • Renegotiate everything from your lease to Internet, cable, phone and even garbage pickup to save money. (Evan Deutsch, page 52)
  • Use an open-to-buy calculation to balance what you’re buying with what you’re selling. (David Brown, page 53)
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Commentary: The Business

Want to Survive? Go Custom

Tapping into jewelry customers’ desire for individuality is the key to retail success.

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YOU OFTEN HEAR THE words “it’s custom made” when referring to jewelry, but is it really? We all know there is a difference between “off-the-rack” and “custom-made” when it comes to clothing — jewelry isn’t any different.

The magic starts when the customer meets the maker. Each custom piece of art (which is what jewelry really is) should start with a conversation. Then the information provided — including style ideas, desired gemstones, personality traits and tastes, hobbies, work and social environments, favorite colors, you name it — should be incorporated into hand-drawn or 3D CAD rendered images for the client to choose from. Once a favorite design has been chosen, the creation and fabrication processes can begin.

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This specific value-add and brand differentiation is where clients realize the importance of knowing your jeweler. You have to trust the individual making the piece for you — that is paramount.

People are tired of sameness. From rampant copying to boring, uninspired designs, jewelry clients are becoming wise to seeing the same thing over and over again. The jewelry they are seeing does not speak to their individuality because these products are made for the masses on a gigantic scale. The anonymity behind fast fashion and easily consumed products that break or lose stones in a short amount of time after purchase don’t help the cause. Customer service only goes so far; the product has to have its own legs to stand on.

If you are creating one-of-a-kind pieces, you do not have the carrying costs associated with pre-fabricated designs and styles. You do not have to have liquidation sales of old, tired merchandise. You are creating exactly what the client is looking for. Being a specialty shop does not limit you to only creating custom pieces. It empowers you to design out-of-the-box and far-out jewelry that pushes the boundaries of style and uniqueness.

Seth Godin said that “survival is not the goal, transformative success is.” It is not always the strongest that survive, but those most responsive to change. Change is an opportunity that many see as a threat. It all boils down to our individual creativity. There is no competition when you create.

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Shane Decker

How to Avoid 3 Security and Sales Risks

Secure sales techniques not only keep your jewelry safer, they make your clients happier, writes Shane Decker.

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THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, I’m in jewelry stores all over the country, and one thing I’ve noticed is that many stores are packing up their jewelry and timepieces before they close. They start packing up at 5:30 when they close at 6. What if a client comes in at 5:50 because that’s the only time he can make it, and everything is put away? You’ve just told him you don’t want to wait on him. He’ll go somewhere else and become a client there.

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget
Over the Counter

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget

Podcast: Get Your Employees to Act Like They Own the Damn Place
JimmyCast

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Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store
Over the Counter

Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store

I’ve heard salespeople tell such a client, “Tell us what you want and we’ll go get it out.” But by that point, it’s already too late. The client feels like he is being a bother or that your plans are more important than he is. (Not only is the practice of packing up early a sale killer, but your insurance carrier may have a problem with it as well. You’ve got your jewelry all boxed up and sitting on top of the counters for the bad guys to come in and take it out very easily.)

Some stores try to avoid killing the sale by packing up areas where they don’t think the client is looking. But this is silently telling the client, “Hurry up and get out so that we can finish packing up the area you’re looking at.”

Clients hate feeling rushed. They chose your store to purchase jewelry. If you’re in that big of a hurry to get home every night, go get another job! Quit killing the client’s experience.

Another problem I see often is what I call “over-showing.” It’s when salespeople have too many items out on the counter pad. This only confuses the client. It also makes it easier for someone to grab your inventory and run out the door. If you ask enough selling-specific questions, you can dial in quickly on what the client wants and concentrate on one or at most two items. Never have more than three items at once on the pad. But always put the item that interests the client in their hand. It shows trust and gives them ownership.

One final security risk that I see is salespeople walking away from their clients. If you leave the merchandise out in front of them, you make them feel nervous. But if you take it with you, you’re showing them that you don’t trust them. This is a sale killer. Always have someone to assist you to avoid either of these bad options.

Be sales-minded, but also be security minded. Practice store floor awareness. Be aware of other sales associates’ needs. This will make your store more secure, and equally importantly, make your clients much happier with their experience.

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