Mother's Day Lesson: Make It Easy

It was 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday night at the supermarket a couple of blocks from my home. The checkout lines were as long as the expressions on the shoppers’ faces. You'd think a hurricane was bearing down on the Southern California coast, or perhaps an earthquake had just rattled the area.

But it wasn't a natural disaster. It was potentially a domestic disaster at hundreds, if not thousands, of homes in my community.

It was the night before Mother's Day, and most of the local dads and sons were in a panic because they hadn't yet bought a present. They knew if they didn't come up with something good by morning, they'd be in big, big trouble. The kind of trouble that might make them refugees.

Thankfully, their local Stater Bros was ready. The floral department was stocked - and I do mean stocked, as deep as Valentine's Day - with vases full of roses, potted tulips and corsages in boxes, ready for church. Next to the floral department were strategically placed pyramids of champagne so grand they rivaled those built by the ancient Egyptians … and at 25% off, if you purchased four bottles. Happy Mother's Day balloons were strategically tied with colorful ribbons to some of the bottles for those willing to upgrade to pharaoh status.

The floral department was conveniently located next to the card aisle, which was almost entirely stocked with Mother's Day cards.

And if that wasn't enough, two long tables in front of the express checkout lanes were piled high with boxes of freshly baked cookies, brownies and even chocolate covered strawberries.

I don't know who manages this Stater Bros. location, but they are an expert when it comes to merchandising and anticipating customers’ needs. Most stores market products for Mother's Day, but this one took it to another level. They clearly knew their market: Men seeking a fast and easy solution the night before a Hallmark holiday. Not only was fast and easy strategically located right inside the door, but all three express check out lanes were open and briskly checking out customers who were, as expected, overwhelmingly male.

If you've ever had a sales job, you know the secret to success is to uncover the customer's pain point. In this case, it was two-fold. First, men know they had better present their wives (and/or mothers) with a seemingly thoughtful gift. Second, they need to be spoon fed that thoughtful gift, because flowers, chocolate, champagne and greeting cards are traditionally a woman's domain. There's nothing wrong with that. Millions of women pretend to be interested in football each fall to please their partners. And plenty of men pretend to like sports for their wives and plenty of women struggle to remember their own anniversary date. We are who we are, but compromise is the secret to every happy family.

The point is that Stater Bros. nailed their sales effort. How about your credit union? Have you uncovered your customer's pain point?

It pains me to say it, but many credit unions don't. As a former industry reporter, I can't even count how many ridiculously slow and illogical phone systems I've slogged through. And my three credit unions have provided their own face palming moments. For example, the credit union at which we keep our business account enforces a daily mobile deposit limit lower than most of our client checks, requiring unnecessary trips to the branch. The daily limit on my personal account at another credit union is four times as high. I'm sure the daily limit at Bank of America is even higher. (Your credit union should confirm that your members really want to use your branch, not that you’re forcing them to.)

Customers don't care about your operational limits, examiner recommendations or any other excuses. They just want you to ease their pain quickly and easily. Fail to do that, and you're in trouble like an empty-handed dad or son on Mother's Day.

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