Life is Retail

I’m a relationship guy.

I want to talk to the people taking care of my car, my dry cleaning, my home. I like contact (can you tell I’m a recruiter?)

The merchants I choose I do so because of the value of their products and service. Others might be cheaper but value is paramount for me. While I don’t waste money I’ll gladly spend more for higher value. [This is kind of how salaries are set by the way.]

I seek out certain merchants.

Do your customers seek you?

Even within the corporation where most of our transactions are internal we live and die by customer experience. Here’s what I’ve learned about success from the vendors I do business with over and over.


I use specialty stores – coffee nook, hardware center, flower shop, dry cleaner, etc. I don’t use big box because I want to work with people who focus, who do one thing very well. The vendors I choose are expert in their areas. What they don’t do well, they refer.

My mechanic works on engines, not tires, not AC. He’ll refer. My clothing shop works on clothes, not shoes: they refer. But each one knows as much as they can about their work. They focus. Want to be more succesful at work? Figure out your focus.


The merchants I patronize talk about themselves, not their competition. Its a lesson straight out of Apple’s play book: there’s no time (or need) to tell customers what’s wrong with other providers if you spend your energy showing them what’s good about you.

Also-rans try to build themselves up is by tearing others down. ‘We can’t deliver the project becuase IT is late, we can’t move because Finance won’t release the funds,’ etc. Stop it. Stop wasting time talking about what’s wrong with others – show us what’s good about you. People are drawn to that.


Delivery still matters. When I do business locally people tell me what to expect. You can have this Tuesday, this is the part you need, no – that won’t solve your problem. The message is unambiguous. I know what to expect.

Do your customers know what to expect from you? Are you clearly conveying the details and dates and deliveries of an assignment? When you clarify expectations on the front end you avoid confusion on the back end. There’s a big difference between ‘I’ll get back to you’ and ‘I’ll get back to you today.’


Finally, ask yourself a simple question: are you a delight to work with? I’m serious…

Do people look forward to talking with you or do they eye the phone with dread knowing you’re next on the call list. How long do you think you’d survive in retail if people didn’t enjoy dealing with you?

Guess what: life is retail.

All of working life is exchange and interaction. If people enjoy yours they’ll come back for more building understanding along the way. This is called relationship: knowing what parties bring to the table and how everyone can be more effective which, you guessed it, helps you.

Even in a virtual space where you seldom actually see a customer anymore relationships and contact matters, perhaps even more. We all know good – and bad – customer service when we receive it, so think about how you provide it.

Or not.

Take a tip from the professional merchants in your life: service is the sale and business is booming.



8 thoughts on “Life is Retail

  1. Pingback: Life is Retail | Succes met je Talent |

  2. Life is retail in that we are always selling ourselves. I find less people are as live “contact” relational oriented as you are, Christopher. I sure wish they were all more like you though, and I’m serious about that! If I were to generalize, less people care about focus and actually desire one-stop shopping and all that’s inferior with it, to save time and money. Merchants often comply, to stay in the game, I think, even though it costs them and their customers. In the virtual space, computers are doing a great job at keeping up the relationships….think Amazon, who knows what’s next on your to buy list even before you. Today I find plenty of people ready to throw the focus, character, expectations, yes, even the delight out the window for a relationship with an Amazon, or a Computer Chat salesperson. Contact on a screen isn’t the same as in person in my book either, but maybe my age has something to do with that.

    • Interesting Pam, and I think probably not age as much as character. Interestingly I see Generation Z – and we have to be careful about stereotypes – moving away from tools to real relationships. The fact that handheld devices have been around all their lives helps them dismiss them easily focusing more on qualitative interactions. You then, are actually very hip for being into relationships!

  3. Like you I patronize local businesses and especially local craftspeople, those solo fix it, build it, install it guys (yes, they are all men). They are people who love their trades and the freedom solopreneurism provides. And as you say they are truly invested in their customers and that investment is returned. I also patronize the local merchants to because I want them to have successful businesses so they stay open and are rewarded for their work and risk. Most are close by, making access easy and personal. Your post is a treasure and hope it inspires others to examine what they do and how.

    • Thank you Dawn. I especially like to patronize local business people – I just believe in being local as much as I can. And yes, I want to work with those who really specialize in one thing or another: to me, that says passion. Thank you for reading and especially for commenting – I so appreciate you Dawn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s