A recent experience with poor customer service underscored the importance for businesses of maintaining quality and creativity in a difficult market. I recently decided to eat breakfast at a local restaurant. The waitress who served me was a veteran of many years. However, she reminded me of an old saying: “Beware of the artisan who brags of his twenty years of experience when he really only has repeated the same year twenty times.”
She was like that, the perfect example of mediocrity. When I left and went to the register to pay the bill I started to mention to the manager who was cashiering why I only left a 10% tip. But I could tell by her body language and what she said, that she didn’t care either.
Many retailers are feeling the effects of this mushy economy. Speaking as a customer, here is what I would recommend they do to generate more sales during this downturn.
1. Give a damn. Are your employees acting like the waitress and her manager above? Or, are you and your staff going out of your way to greet each customer as they walk in, truly listen to their needs, and then knock their socks off with extraordinary customer service?
2. Empower your employees. Do they have any suggestions on how to increase business or how to reduce costs? Ask them. Perhaps they can teach you how to use Twitter to attract more customers. When price IS the issue, do you allow your experienced staff to negotiate price?
3. Get busy. What are your employees doing when the store is not busy? Are they just leaning against the counters being bored? They could write thank you letters to customers, go back through records and call customers who haven’t been in for a few months and let them know about the latest sale or shipment.
4. Update your point of sale advertising. Is every rack, shelf, cabinet, or table properly marked? Are you sure? Time after time I go into stores and find many displays lacking the appropriate point of sale advertising.
5. Get involved in your community. Is your business active in your community or are you lost in a crowd of competitors? Getting involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life is a great way to raise your visibility without spending a whole lot of money. (Yes, I do work for them, thank you very muchJ )
6. Redeploy your staff to get more sales people on the floor. My mother used to work for a department store in the women’s department. She was one of the top sales people because she helped male customers accessorize the clothes they bought. Yet today when I walk into a Penney’s to buy clothes for my wife or a Kohl’s to buy shoes for my kids, I can’t find a salesperson. It’s infuriating.
7. Talk to your experienced staff. Be sure they are happy. Now is not the time to lose them.
8. Finally, show this blog post to your employees. Challenge them to take it and tailor it to your business. What can they suggest that will increase business or reduce costs?