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A Holiday Gift

The holidays are nearly here! No matter how much you love this time of the year, it is hard to deny that there is additional stress in the workplace. Customers need gift items personalized at the last minute. Requests to engrave gifts purchased elsewhere become common. Questions like “Do you gift wrap?” surface more often. And with all of the sales offered by big box and online stores, the customers think nothing of asking you for a discount or better price. Frustrating, isn’t it? But as customer service professionals, we continue to smile and treat each customer with respect.

A Holiday Gift

By Fran Carville, CRM, CARCO AWARDS/CARCOAWARDS.COM

(Originally published in the November/December 2021 issue of Insights.)

The holidays are nearly here! No matter how much you love this time of the year, it is hard to deny that there is additional stress in the workplace. Customers need gift items personalized at the last minute. Requests to engrave gifts purchased elsewhere become common. Questions like “Do you gift wrap?” surface more often. And with all of the sales offered by big box and online stores, the customers think nothing of asking you for a discount or better price. Frustrating, isn’t it? But as customer service professionals, we continue to smile and treat each customer with respect.

Our customer demographics may be more diverse in December than any other month of the year. There are the holiday shoppers. There are the corporate customers looking to purchase 2022 perpetual plaques, employee recognition awards, and promotional products for their valued clients. There are organizations ready to purchase their end of the year awards. And, of course, there are the fall and winter sports and academic customers that want “cheap” and feel it necessary to share their opinions about participation awards with you.

Oftentimes, the holidays make us wonder why we work so hard, only to have customers demand the impossible. Sometimes it’s hard not to question why customers seem to feel nothing is enough. Sometimes you are left to wonder if you are doing something wrong. Maybe it is time to take a look in your mirror and reevaluate who we are and what we really have to offer consumers. Maybe now is the time to reevaluate YOU.

EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE

If your customers have shopped in a big box store, a grocery store, or a national chain recently, they will recognize how different your company is the second they walk through your front door. Because a commitment to outstanding customer service will set you apart from other retailers. Everyone likes to feel special, and you know how to do this. In this day and age, it is rare that people are treated to good service, much less the truly exceptional service that you offer.

Stanley Marcus of the Neiman Marcus department store fame once said, “Take great care of your customers and they’ll be back.” When a customer leaves your store, they feel like your best customer. When a consumer calls or emails, they will quickly be aware of how much you care by your attitude and willingness to help.

SHOPPING 24/7

We fully understand that customers want to shop, and when and how they want to shop. If for some reason you did not recognize the importance of shopping from home before the pandemic, it should now be very clear. We understand the importance of allowing consumers to shop however they are most comfortable, and we work very hard to accommodate them.

Knowing that many consumers will shop our websites before coming to our store, we make every attempt to keep our showrooms as up-to-date as our virtual stores. We give consumers more options to shop with us and offer unique, personalized gifts.

QUALITY PRODUCTS

Sometimes we are put in the awkward position of trying to explain our prices, making us feel that our merchandise is unworthy. It is so important to remember that we do not sell necessities. There is nothing in our stores that anyone has to have to survive in life. Everything in our shops is a luxury item, no matter what the price point is.

As savvy merchants, we spend many hours searching for products online, in catalogs, and at trade shows to offer our customers the best quality in every price range. We don’t put items of poor quality in our showrooms or on our websites. We care about pleasing our customers with an assortment of awards for every budget. And we work with each customer to ensure they have options that are affordable to them.

We don’t offer “cheap” products, but we certainly offer “inexpensive ones.” Inexpensive awards can still be of good quality. Cheap, is just, well, ... cheap. As retailers, we know that whether a customer’s choice is the least expensive or most expensive item in our store, it is still a quality product at a fair price.

TECHNICAL EXPERTISE

Occasionally, a customer will make a request you simply cannot fulfill, and the customer will tell you, “All you have to do is....” This always makes me smile and silently want to offer to let them engrave on their grandmother’s heirloom silver, but of course that will never happen. It is just the thought that some consumers feel they know more than you or that you are not as skilled as you should be. Not so.

I remember a story that an art professor once shared with my college class. Pablo Picasso was enjoying an afternoon with a group of friends at an outdoor café. (Stay with me, there IS a point!) He was recognized by a group of tourists passing by the café. One of the tourists, thinking herself to be of some importance in her group, approached the famous artist. She asked if he would do a quick sketch for her on a napkin and autograph it. The artist complied with her wish and as he handed the woman the autographed napkin he said, “That will be $10,000.” “You’ve got to be kidding”, the woman replied. “It only took you a minute to do the sketch!” Without blinking an eye, Picasso replied, “Madam, it took me 50 years to learn my trade. The $10,000 is for my skill and expertise.” (This is where you say “Ah ha”! There is a point! Wait, what was that point again?”)

The point is that YOU are the awards professional. You are not just being compensated for trophy components, you are being compensated for your skill and expertise. You know how to take a customer’s bad artwork and make it look good on an award. You know what fonts work best. You know how to engrave, sandblast, and sublimate. You know how to color fill, how to properly assemble each award, and how to make a customer’s text sound just right.

You attend Awards and Personalization Association seminars and webinars, read trade publications and work with industry experts to increase your skills and knowledge. You take the time to train your employees. Your technical expertise ensures that your customers will have awards that they are proud to present, that they are proud to receive. You are a recognition expert!

THE GIFT OF YOU

How many times have you experienced a less-than-pleasant shopping experience because of lack of a knowledgeable staff, a poor selection of merchandise, or a “who cares” attitude? The awards industry is exceptional in that our retailers are professionals: well educated in our trade and very customer oriented. Never forget the value YOU bring to your business and the marketplace. So much goes into the making of a great award—the quality and variety of our merchandise, our service standards, our time and energies, our education, our skill set, our technical expertise, and our professionalism. You are truly a gift in today’s marketplace. Happy Holidays!

Fran Carville, CRM, is an Awards and Personalization Association past president, educational speaker, 2008 Speaker of the Year, a member of the Hall of Fame, and winner of an Award of Excellence from the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Fran and her husband, Tom Carville, CRM, own Carco Awards in Baton Rouge, LA.

Awards and Personalization Association

The Awards and Personalization Association is the organization for retailers and suppliers of personalized and customized items. By providing education, meetings, and access to a vibrant network of professionals, the Awards and Personalization Association is the one place to ensure the growth of your talent, your business, and your professional community.

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