Christian Retailing

Great expectations Print Email
Written by Dr. Steve Greene   
Tuesday, 24 July 2018 10:52 AM America/New_York

Dr Greene web
Dr. Steve Greene (Sean Roberts)

Your store’s customer service will determine its future

Familiarity breeds contempt” is one of those common expressions that appear to come from the book of Proverbs but fall well short of spiritual insight.

The phrase tends to indicate that the more time we spend with someone, the more likely we are to miss fresh and valuable experiences from the relationship. “I know you. I know how you will respond.”

I’d like to amend the expression and offer a cautionary exhortation: Expectation breeds contempt. Sometimes we see only what we expect to see. Many work teams are trapped in the zone of expectancy. Perhaps booksellers wake up every morning with dismal expectations. We look out of gloom-fogged windows and expect to see pieces of the sky littering the ground.

Some ask, “What’s the use? There’s a giant in the field, and all we have is a slingshot and a rock.” Trade news is filled with data that suggest there’s little we can do to rebuild foot traffic. Convention exhibitors and attendees gather in hopes that others will join them to develop a plan to sling the shot heard ’round the industry.

Some will suggest I’m waving pompoms for an “0 and 12” team. The coach’s home has a moving van parked in the front yard. No, the coach didn’t order the van; the fans did. It’s time for a new leader.

Leadership in our industry has the opportunity to agitate acclimation. We must lead others away from their daily routine. Leaders must shake up artificial boundaries established by their teams and tear down those “falling rocks” signs. We must pull down the paradigms that hang from the rafters of the shop like last year’s backyard corn crop.

Leaders must fight the gravitational effect of performance expectations inside and outside the store. Effective leaders continue to enlarge the performance arc. We must develop work teams who look beyond the problem in an industry full of opportunity.

We need change agents to invite a few bulls into the bookshop. There’s no need to hold on to what isn’t working. Change must percolate from the ground up.

We also need leaders at store level who are willing to sit at tables with their customers and listen. We must ask better questions than “Are you satisfied with the customer service at Amazon?”

I believe the only way we can attract new customers to our stores is with higher levels of customer service than ever offered in the industry. We need to rethink, redefine and revive what we do and how we do it. Revival must begin with leadership and emanate from everyone on the team.

When I visited my favorite bookstore last week, I found nothing to revive. I didn’t bother to ask for the shock paddles for the heart of the store. It had flat-lined. Management just didn’t know it.

I truly believe more of our bookstores close due to service issues than industry shrinkage. Which came first? Poor customer service or declining customer counts?

Great customer service is marketing. It’s the best marketing. When we deliver memorable service, customers return.

When I worked in broadcast television during my years in marketing consulting, I learned that most business owners have an inflated opinion of the customer service they provide.

I met with over 1,000 business owners throughout my career. Not one time did an owner tell me they had a problem with customer satisfaction.

Based on customer satisfaction research for most of those clients, customer service was a major problem, and owners were delusional.

When we shuffle out poor service, we should stop all forms of advertising. We don’t need new customers to find us with our service down. I’ve told many store owners, “All advertising can do for you now is help you go out of business faster. You are running people out the back door faster than we can bring them in the front.”

Consider this oft-quoted rant from a Seinfeld episode: “No soup for you.”

Maybe chasing customers away is a sign of a wildly successful business. We’ve all met people at a service counter who seemed too bothered to serve. Does your team dish out no-service stories that could be developed into Seinfeld scripts?

Find ways to overserve at every opportunity. Do what others cannot or will not do. Exert every ounce of energy toward the delivery of a customer service level that exceeds any business in any industry.

When is the last time you surveyed your customers? The truth might set you free.

We cannot allow performance contempt to creep into our organization. It’s just too familiar.


Dr. Steve Greene is publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His Charisma House book, Love Leads, shows that without love, you cannot be an effective leader. Follow his Love Leads blog and listen to his Love Leads podcast.

 
CBA plans to ‘interrupt’ industry for the cause of Christ Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 12 July 2018 05:26 PM America/New_York

ShowFloor Unite2018 croppedCBA, the Association for Christian Retail, moved its annual convention to Nashville this year. The location, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, along with significant funds given to CBA member retailers to pay for show expenses were factors that drew Christian retailers to the Unite convention.

CBA reported that more than 1,700 people, a 10 percent increase over last year, attended the July 8-11 trade show. Representatives from 35 countries also attended.

Although the gift section of the exhibit floor appeared to be full, some gift companies either did not attend Unite or went from one show to the next as Unite and the Atlanta gift show at AmericasMart overlapped. 

“For the most part, we sold out our booth space,” CBA President Curtis Riskey said.

CBA is also in the very early stages of establishing strategic alliances and is challenging retailers and suppliers to look at the industry in a fresh way.

“Many great things are birthed in times of great fire, turmoil and crisis,” said Eddie Roush, the new chairman of CBA Service Corp., who has invested $1 million in CBA, including retailer show reimbursement. “Many Christian retailers are suffering because they have not yet adopted new ways of marketing their businesses, and at CBA’s Unite 2018, we have provided them new tools, insight and inspiration in order to thrive.”

Roush is also president of The Roush Foundation, which helped to organize and underwrite Unite 2018.

“We feel we need to rebrand Christianity,” he added. “We have taken the holy name of Jesus and diluted it, where people have lost hope in His power to give hope and new ideas to our business owners who are struggling. We have come to interrupt our industry for the good of furthering the cause of Christ.”

Most of the training at the show was offered free of charge for retailers, who took advantage of the opportunity to learn from inside and outside experts on retail topics.

“We had so many people not only sign up for education workshops but also attending,” Riskey said. “A lot of years we would measure somewhere between 20 and 40 on average who would be attending a session. This year there are many that averaged well over 100.”

Riskey was encouraged by the increase.

“We’re talking a lot about change,” he said. “There’s change needed, because obviously you can’t expect to do the same things and expect different results. But when I see those folks taking workshop sessions and things like that, people are starting to realize they do need help and are seeking it. Hopefully they found a lot of really good things here.”

CBA brings Unite back to the same location next year, June 25-28.

 
Charlotte Pence promotes Center Street book at Unite Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Monday, 09 July 2018 04:47 PM America/New_York
CharlottePence Unite2018 cropped
Center Street author Charlotte Pence visits Unite 2018.

Charlotte Pence, the middle child of Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, talked with Christian Retailing about Where You Go: Life Lessons From My Father. The Center Street book is set for October release.

Pence, who is starting her college career at Harvard Divinity School this fall, wrote Where You Go for her family but then decided to share it with the public.

“I’ve kind of been writing it, I feel like my whole life,” she said. “I’ve been writing down lessons that my dad and my mom have taught me and so being able to put that into print and share that with other people has been really fun and special.”

Pence’s father was elected to Congress when she was only 6. After he served as a congressman for 12 years and then as Indiana governor for four, he assumed the vice presidency.

Being in the public eye has “been pretty constant in our lives ever since I was very young,” Charlotte said. “It’s just kind of part of life, and I tell people it’s just what my parents do for a living. It’s not the most important thing in our life, but it’s definitely a constant presence. But I think that they’ve really protected our family through it all, and we’ve stayed really close.”

Although she is a “political child,” Charlotte believes readers will be able to relate to the stories and lessons she shares in Where You Go. She also hopes readers will “think about the ways in which they’re teaching others in their life and think about the ways in which they’ve learned from those around them.”

At Harvard, she plans to earn her master’s in theological studies; then Christian retailers can expect to hear more from her.

“I’ll be studying religious themes in literature, and I still want to go down the writing track,” she said. “I’m hoping that God’s going to challenge my thinking and my writing and really enrich my storytelling.”

 
Worship Him marches Christian retail into the future Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 10 July 2018 12:47 AM America/New_York

Christian retailers went to church Monday night at CBA’s Worship Him service during Unite 2018. CBA’s annual convention is being held July 8-11 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville.

Jekalyn Carr (Lunjeal Music/New Day Christian Distributors) kicked off the musical portion of the evening as she reminded participants through the power of song that God is bigger than anything they might face.

With his crowd-pleasing band, Jason Crabb (pictured) continued the theme of expecting big things of God, praying, “Bless us, Lord. Bless us, Lord. Send your presence.” Crabb mentioned his recent CD release, Unexpected (Daywind/New Day Christian), but sang one classic not on the current CD that really roused the crowd, “Working on a Building.” He also gave away a Rahab’s Rope product, which benefits the poor in India.

Sandi Patty brought her resounding voice to the service although she is no longer touring regularly. While she sang a number of favorites, she also played and sang a quieter song, declaring that “Jesus is a faithful friend in the in between,” referring to the “in between seasons” of life. HarperCollins Christian Publishing releases her new book, The Voice, on Nov. 6.

In a welcome by CBA President Curtis Riskey before the music started, he promised that Unite 2018 was “not business as usual.” The service did seem different than usual with the challenge by one key speaker, Eddie Roush, chairman of the Roush Foundation, which gave a million dollars toward CBA member retailers’ show expenses.

Roush, who is also chairman of the CBA Service Corporation, stood with a Bible held high declaring many of the names of God from the Scriptures. When Roush was young, his pastor-father sang “There’s Something About That Name.” He talked of facing troubled times and said God’s Word warned of that ahead of time.

Roush went on to talk about the power of words, to say that Christianity needs to be rebranded and that the Christian products industry needs a dramatic change in its business practices and strategies.

He spoke at length about the fact that there is no such thing as a “Christian business,” but that only people can be Christian: “Can an organization or corporation be born again? The answer is no.”

He talked of the rebranding of Christianity that’s needed because evangelicals have become “especially paranoid.” Christians “seem to be governed by fear.” He added: “We fear change, any change. … Perfect love drives us away from fear.”

A former lawyer, Roush seemed to speak against the Christian baker who recently won his Supreme Court case for not baking a cake for a homosexual couple and against the alliance of believers with right-wing politics. He called out double standards and hypocrisy among Christians and called for compassion rather than cruelty.

“We abuse the name of Jesus for our personal gain,” Roush also said, calling on the industry to become “consumer centric.”

“I never ask God for money,” Roush said. “I ask Him for ideas because God always finances His ideas.”

“I’ve come to interrupt the industry,” Roush declared, reminding attendees of the lyrics to a Stephen Curtis Chapman song, “Saddle up your horses. We’ve got a trail to blaze.”

Keynote speaker Clyde Rivers, a U.S. citizen who is the honorary ambassador at large for the African country of Burundi and founder of iChange Nations, closed the night by saying “there’s nothing bigger than God in this world.” But, he added, “His currency is people. There’s no economic famine. There’s a gift famine.”

Rivers talked of Noah and Enoch receiving radical words from God that changed their generations.

“God wants you to do something different,” Rivers told the audience, calling on retailers to “retake the top, which, he said, is what repentance means. Some attendees responded to his altar call, going forward to be honest with God, repent and leave behind the old in a “spiritual trash can.”

Rivers called CBA “the organization that can reframe the world.”

 
CBA Future of the Industry event focuses on world market Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 10 July 2018 04:58 PM America/New_York

FutureOfTheIndustry Unite CroppedTuesday morning’s Future of the Industry (FOI) breakfast continued on from the Sunday’s Worship Him themes. But FOI also highlighted CBA’s new emphasis on big, shared data for the Christian retail industry.

Following a musical set by Curt Anderson at the keyboard, CBA President Curtis Riskey introduced the topic of the FOI discussion.

“There isn’t an industry with a more powerful and important message,” the former Christian retailer declared. Focused on the future, Riskey prayed to the “God of new beginnings.”

The new chairman of CBA Service Corp. and chairman of the Roush Foundation, Eddie Roush invited his business partner, Kurt Ruf, and Clyde Rivers, a U.S. citizen who is an honorary ambassador at large for the nation of Burundi, into a living room setting, asking attendees to listen to their “private conversation.”

Roush talked of the Christian products industry as lacking “tools, vision and even the resources” to expand, noting how big the world market is. He asked Rivers if it would even be possible to pair a retail store in the U.S. with a city or region elsewhere to meet the needs of the internationals there. Rivers answered in the affirmative, saying it is possible to “re-store a nation.”

Roush cautioned against a close alignment with American politics and governments, which, he said, “turns off people, including Millennials.”

Rivers shared what life is like in Burundi and how open the people are to Christianity. Christian music is played in the airport he travels to and can be heard in restaurants as well.

Roush said the industry needs to “clean up our act” to be ready for this “global play.”

To do that, Ruf noted the importance of tailoring customer communication, to “differentiate and personalize.” Ruf observed that “the old spray-and-pray days are over” and that the industry must use data as a tool to target customers in a mobile society. Ruf spoke of isolating consumer prospects that align with key values such as “small town sensibility” and the need to continuously clean the data to be sure it is accurate.

Rivers believes that governments are willing to share data “if we can help them meet their needs.” He’s believes reaching the global market is possible.

“Jesus wants to set the narrative for every community in the world,” Rivers said.

Roush said the way forward is about “spreading the Jesus narrative,” not an American-style gospel. He also thinks Americans will benefit from global partnerships that pair particular stores with regions of the world to meet their needs for resources, even older products, and to hear from them as well.

“Who are the voices in those countries who have something to say back here?” Roush said.

Marilyn Hood, who with her husband, Frank, recently closed their Sweet Spirit store, have been coming to CBA for over 30 years. The FOI discussion gave Hood “a real sense of hope” for the future of Christian retail.

“I’m excited about the future of the industry even though we’re transitioning out of it,” Hood said. “If we were starting today, I would be so excited about having a little city in some other country where we would maybe give a little portion of our income, that we would be maybe taking a mission trip with our customers or even through our church or whatever to go visit that little country and get that sisterhood bonding.”

Becky Gorczyca, executive director of the Association of Logos Bookstores, believes that Logos Bookstores are “customer centric” rather than “product centric,” another topic in the FOI discussion.

“Our joy is matching up the need of the customer with the product and helping those people walk closer to the Lord because of the relationship with us, whether it be conversation or product, and also with the product that has prayerfully been developed by authors and publishers,” Gorczyca said. “I think there’s a very big network that the Lord has put together to take His people where they are and expose them to things that are going to help them to grow. He uses authors, He uses publishers, He uses bookstores, He uses staff people, He uses marketing, He uses catalogs, all these kinds of things the Lord uses to reach His people to bring them closer to Him and to grow them. I am very privileged, as all the local stores are, to be part of that plan. And may we be here for many years, and we plan to be, in order to be part of His plan.”

The Logos association had its annual conference just before Unite.

“We at the Logos Bookstores are optimistic and encouraged about the future,” she said. “The theme for our conference this year was based on Micah 6:8, What would the Lord require of us but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. That is the path that we are going to take, and we think the future is bright if we follow the Lord and walk humbly where He wants us to go. We’re going to continue to reach out to our customers on an individual and relational basis. We’re going to continue to meet customers where they are and often that means that it’s not in our physical stores, but it’s outside of the four walls of our stores. We have been doing that consistently for years, and we’ve decided to ramp that up. We are happy about the future and are looking forward to it.”