Friday, January 29, 2010

Not in Stock?

“I can’t believe you don’t have it in stock!”

When I hear that phrase a little piece of me curls into a ball. Knowing what is popular and what customers are looking for is my job and I do it to the best of my ability, but the sad truth is, I am human and sometimes mistakes are made. Or are they?

Each time someone complains about having to order a title they were hoping to pick up today, I have to step back and look at the larger picture. Is this a regular customer? Someone from one of the communities I serve? I say “communities” because, although the shop exists in one community, I serve a number of different communities who all have very different needs.

For instance, I sell to school districts in twenty six states. I’ve found products I believe in, locked in the best possible prices, and have begun to know these schools and what they are looking for. They in turn, share their knowledge of what is needed in the school market and guide me in the best practices for that market. It’s a win/win situation.

I also have a community of retailers who count on me to find the products their customers are interested in. They know that since I am also a retailer I will find a way for them to be profitable while making their jobs as easy as possible. I can find them many products from many sources, hand deliver them and give them the convenience of one simple invoice. They open my eyes to different trends in different areas and share great ideas for my own retail location.

There is an entire community of online shoppers who know me and trust that they will receive what they order. They know that if they are not fully satisfied, I will do whatever I can to change that. This was a huge learning curve and I am grateful to all of these patient customers who have shared their knowledge of the best ways to package and ship as well as how to describe the items for sale. Each morning is a thrill to come into work to discover what sales occurred while I slept.

These different communities all make up what I do and who I am, but a customer that walks into the store doesn’t know or care about that. Why should they? They care about their experience and the service they receive. When I don’t have something they are looking for I feel like I have failed them. Like I made a mistake. Not all of these instances are mistakes, but I do learn from them.

If a regular customer is looking for something I currently don’t have in the store many times they order it. By doing this they are telling me what authors or subjects they enjoy. Next time that author has a new book out or there is a new addition to that series, you can bet that I will have one in stock waiting for that particular customer. The entire store selection is built around the customers. I may not have every “bestseller” in the store at all times, but I do my very best to have just what my bookstore community is looking for. Each book is ordered with a customer in mind. If you walk through the door and find exactly what you are looking for, just know I was thinking of you when I ordered it. Thank you for selecting the perfect books to place on the shelves of your community bookstore!

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