Thursday, October 8, 2015

Everyday Elegance

I know, I know.  It's been way too long.  And the last time I posted, I promised I would try to post more often.  It's not for a lack of trying.  I hate to sound cliche, but time really does fly by when you're having fun.

Regardless, we're back together and I love this moment.

I wanted to start this post with "I was thinking about retail the other day..." but I think about retail all the time.  When you work in retail, regardless of what goods or services you're selling, you're always thinking about retail.  A trip to the local Target or Sainsbury's isn't just a quick trip, but an absorption of best practices.  You're constantly looking at what others are looking at, what're they buying or not buying, the level of service, what are others doing. 

Competition in the retail marketplace has never been more intense - when it comes down to it, anyone can get anything at any time.  Whether online or in your local retailer, nothing is out of touch or off limits.  This is where the brand loyalty and customer experience separate the professionals from the amateurs.  Everyday elegance is key.

What is everyday elegance?  That feeling you get when you know you're being paid attention to, with the right amount of care, where you accomplish your tasks, possibly more, and leave appreciated and excited.

As a retailer, I understand how frustrating it can be when customers are shopping by themselves and have a Bluetooth earpiece - they may be engrossed on a phone call, or listening to an important podcast or their favorite song.  You want to greet them and offer your services, but don't want to interrupt - so when I'm shopping solo, I make sure to take the most obvious headphones I have, so it's clear to the associate I'm focused on something else.  With eye contact, a quick wave or smile, and a motion of the phone, the associate will get the message you don't want to be bothered.  When you've wrapped up your business, you can get to business wherever you may be.

The other day I was visiting the local Nordstrom department store.  I was shopping by myself, really just enjoying the day.  I had nothing particular on my shopping list, and was happy to be enjoying the moment.  Since I was by myself, I made sure my iPhone was fully charged and my headphones in hand.  I was so pleased to wander - both mentally with the music, and physically in the store.  Watching what people were gravitating towards, how the merchandise was displayed, traffic patterns, and how customers and associates interacted.  The approach is most important to me - you want to be friendly, engaging, and offer your services, without being too pushy or persistent.  You want to be genuine and professional, friendly and casual, good and poised.  In "the rail" department, I believe her name was Caroline - such a fabulous interaction.  She saw I was on the phone, made eye contact, waved a hello, and then went about her business.  Once I concluded my conversation, she reapproached, introduced herself, and let me know she didn't want to interrupt while I was on the phone.  She told me about some new products that I "just had to see" and offered her name, for any requests or assistance needed.

I was so impressed. 

I went upstairs to the second floor and began to navigate the hustle and bustle of the cosmetics and fragrance department.  I felt like I was in a train station - people everywhere, loud music, women getting primped, slathered, and pampered with the latest potions, lotions, and perfumes.  I made my way to the Tom Ford Beauty counter, and casually smelled a few of the fragrances.  Tonya, like Caroline, was spot-on.  The most welcoming smile, genuine love of her brand, and passion for her craft - I was absolutely blown away.  Product knowledge, tips and tricks, and ability to drive the business were so very obvious.  The best part - Tonya's sales presentation and interaction appeared effortless. 

It didn't stop there.  I wanted to pass along the positive compliments to management.  In less than the blink of an eye, Alyssa was there to tend my needs.  Kind, compassionate, and concerned, I shared my thanks and praise.  The look on her face was absolutely priceless.  You could tell instantly that everyday elegance was a corporate culture prioritized at Nordstrom.  It takes a lot of work, but very clearly pays off.  I told her I wouldn't mind putting my thoughts onto paper, so she shared the details of her supervisor.  The very next day, director Trevor phoned me to thank me in person, and invited me to say hello in person on my next visit.  From the top down, this is everyday elegance in action.  

That's exactly what everyday elegance is - the ability to meet and exceed your clients' expectations, while gifting them with an experience like none other.  You're confident.  You're competent.  You're an expert in your products and services, friendly and approachable in demeanor, and value the client more than the immediate sale.  It's not what you sell, but how you sell it. It's the relationships that matter most.

You don't have to be in a traditional brick-and-mortar store to experience this everyday eleganceB.Brooks is my floral authority - and I've only ever ordered online or over the phone.  The customer service is beyond.  Once you've created a profile, you're greeted by name every time you phone.  They remember who you send flowers to, your preferences, billing/paying details, and important dates.  Imagine a consortium of the best florists worldwide, all linked by one best friend.  This best friend ensures the best quality, design, and service every single time, no matter where you may be sending flowers to.  Want to send Dutch tulips to Tokyo?  No problem.  On a budget, but still expect a wonderful bouquet?  No problem.  The friends on the phone at B.Brooks will make it happen, with the freshest, most fragrant flowers you could ever imagine. 


Everyday elegance can't be manufactured.  It must be genuine, practiced at all levels of the organization, and be a priority.  This culture is in the DNA at Christian Dior.  Each boutique leaves you not just with a shopping trip, but instills in clients an air of elegance and passion for craftsmanship and iconic codes.  Even the fashion shows present this culture - like an unexpected mountain of flowers.  Monsieur Dior adored flowers, especially the lily of the valley, so to see Raf Simons honor this at his most recent Parisian presentation, not only gives nod to the fashion founder, but thrusts the brand even more into the state of everyday elegance, a floral fantasy for all.  

For me, it's all about that experience.  As a customer, you want to know that your places of business prioritize this focus.  Show care in the way you display merchandise; provide the right amount of attention and service to your clients; listen; respond accordingly and react with fervor.  Smile, say thank you, and follow up. 

Everyday elegance isn't reserved for exclusive boutiques and high end shops.  You can be warmly greeted anywhere.  Happy employees make for happy customers.  As a manager, constant coaching and communication in-the-moment are the name of the game.  Do you have any upcoming special events?  New product launches?  Limited releases?  Arming your associates with a timely hook, something new and exciting to share, are the perfect ice-breakers.  Imagine walking around your local general store and being greeted mid-aisle by an employee.  They ensure you're finding everything alright, welcome you again to the store, and point your attention to an end-cap display of seasonal products.  That is everyday elegance.  Something a little extra, showing you're valued and appreciated.  Or at the checkout counter, having the associate look you in the eye and telling you "thank you for shopping here; we really appreciate your business" and concluding with a smile.  Those little touches, that extra effort, that is everyday elegance


Paz Efrat said...

Thank you Joseph! This is a very well-written article. You've shared many important insights, which can be applied to all kinds of businesses, outside of retail… and even to relationships in life in general.

I wonder if you could write on how to apply this philosophy of Everyday Elegance to other industries - beyond retail and service industries to corporate/Enterprise sales, for example.


Joseph Shippee said...

Absolutely, Paz. And thanks for the comment. I'll add your request to the editorial calendar.