This month’s column is premised on the Socratic Method—contending with a series of questions and reflecting on your answers.
Socrates, high atop the hills of Greece more than two millennia ago, knew something about teaching life lessons. He learned that asking leading questions about a subject he wanted students to explore and understand produced better results than simply lecturing. So here goes.
Are you in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy or a caricature of your former self as a retail jeweler? If you covered up the name on your store and brought in some blindfolded women, could they tell which jewelry store they were in? Would they recognize the same product lines and point-of-sale displays you had in the sales cases and windows six months ago? Twelve months ago? If they were asked about the last time they got a catalog, postcard, e-mail, or personal note from someone in your store, could they answer the question?
Do you think the robust economy over the past eight or nine years has resulted in a minor boom for jewelry sales, especially for many new nontraditional jewelry retail outlets? Have you gotten your fair share of this new business? If not, why not? Do you think women have the sense that they have enough cheap and cheery jewelry, especially in today’s anemic retail sales environment? Are you guilty of having too much “me too” jewelry? Are you trying to improve and differentiate your customers’ buying experience in your store? Are you underestimating the sophistication of your customer and her desire for better-quality jewelry at a fair price? Are you dedicated to providing significant added value to your customers’ purchases? Are you making efforts to surprise and delight your best customers? Do your customers leave the store thinking they’ve made an excellent purchase at a fair price?
Are you doing anything differently today to compete with emerging retail jewelry channels? Are you starting lose business to the Internet? What was your experience when you launched your Web site? Do you have a Web site? Were you disappointed with the sales it generated? Are you doing anything to change your e-commerce strategy? Have you put up anything new on your Web site in the last seven days? Do you refresh a portion of your Web site content at least once a week?
Have you asked your customers, after the fact, if they were happy about their purchase and if there was anything else they’d like you to do next time they’re in the store to improve their sales experience? Did you ask if they would buy more jewelry from you? If they said they wouldn’t, did you press them to find out why they think they won’t be buying from you? Have you heard of some of the easy-to-use and inexpensive online survey companies like SurveyMonkey.com? Did you thank the customers with whom you spoke for their time and candor? Did you offer them a thank-you gift in the form of a nice engraved mechanical pencil or pen (with your name subtly etched on it), a Post-it Notes pad and holder (with your name lightly shadowed on both), or a discount coupon?
Have you changed some of your sales cases, rearranged in-store lighting to create dramatic new effects, and replaced or rotated out at least 20 percent of your old point-of-sale neck forms, counter pads, and display stands in the past four months? Have you talked with vendors about supplying you with new postcards, brochures, and Dura-Trans posters to freshen up their materials? When you placed a new incremental order for their product, did you ask for some additional merchandise, exclusive to your area, on a temporary consignment basis?
So many questions, so many answers to ponder. Socrates was on to something, wasn’t he?
“Can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, and to follow out logical implications ofthought. … Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, and deep, and usually focuses on foundational concepts, principles, theories, issues, or problems.”