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Celebrity Clients Are Cool, but Never Forget Who the Real Stars Are

Repeat after me: “Every customer who walks through my door is a VIP”.

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I’VE BEEN AN ECP on the Upper West Side in NYC for the better part of the last 30 years. Over the years, my Manhattan store, The Eye Man, has seen a virtual who’s- who of television, stage and screen walk through the doors.

In the early ’90s, I remember a particular client, an attractive woman in her 50s, who asked if she could bring her husband in for a pair of glasses. She intimated that he was a bit of a celebrity, but didn’t disclose his name. To accommodate her, I told her we could keep the shop open late one evening so that he could shop undisturbed. So, one brisk, fall evening after the shop had officially closed, I waited for our after-hours appointment and opened the door to one of America’s beloved anchors, Dan Rather.

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I greeted him as I would greet any customer, with a warm smile, a handshake and quickly locked the door behind him. Then I set about my business. He was here, after all, because he needed a pair of frames and no amount of swooning over his fame or accomplishments was going to get that job done. I felt he appreciated that professionalism and although there were a dozen things running through my head to ask about some of his most recent news features, I concentrated on helping him find what he was looking for with regard to my field of expertise … eyewear.

Dan and his wife spent approximately an hour with me that night, and what struck me most was how interested he was in everyone else. He asked specific questions, and he really listened. He didn’t posture, he didn’t demand extra attention, he was humble, and gracious and in an extraordinary way, he was very “normal.” I think he appreciated that I treated him like I would any customer in the store. I was attentive, but not overbearing. I was interested, but not stupefied by his celebrity. I offered my opinion when asked and I helped him get what he came for. In return, he gave me something … a reminder of the power of asking thought-provoking questions and truly listening, and how important that is in making people feel understood and valued.

There have been many more stars over the years, and for a few minutes or an hour, each lit up my store like a Broadway marquee while they shopped. I think the main thing these chance encounters have taught me is: The real superstars in our stores are “regular” people, the everyday men and women that share our names and the experiences they have within our stores with their families and friends. These people are the silent sales people that go unnoticed, yet many have given out your card or referred you to a friend and have added to your business. So, remember to make every customer that walks through your door, calls your business, or interacts with you on social media feel like a VIP. They’ll leave feeling like a superstar and will help lead you to your own type of blockbuster success.

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Richard Baum has held various optical roles at a number of stores, eventually owning and operating several retail locations in NYC. His current ventures are I and Eye Optical and Vari Eyewear (varieyewear.com), which provides convertible eyewear options.

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