SBDC Template

Blog

4 Simple Ways to Create Amazing Customer Service

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
By John Bocker


I visited a small specialty retailer tonight and was amazed to unfortunately experience all of the missed opportunities for the establishment to make money!  I could have spent more then $200 but actually left empty handed.  I have been a retailer across various categories for more than 25 years and continue to be amazed at how much under-utilized information and training is available for retail businesses everywhere. Yet when it comes down to providing great service to sell a product, I continue to find the majority of sales personnel in retail missing the primary opportunities to maximize the sale.  Why is this a continuing issue and what can business owners do to correct it?

Retailers across America selling all types of products including tools and hardware, beauty products, apparel, sporting goods, and now even cannabis in Colorado are finding it very difficult to achieve their sales goals and are frequently scratching their heads and wondering why they're falling short of daily sales expectations. Sadly, I also continue to hear from business leaders that “we’ll make it up next week” and other excuses that fall short of addressing the obvious.  In this article I will outline four key areas that can quickly turn businesses around with management leadership focusing on the important selling behaviors that matter most.

These best practices have been proven through “A-Team” exercises over and over again where the best selling employees in the company were assigned to execute to the highest degree possible for a short period of time in a specific store. The behaviors and activities were choreographed, specialty areas were specifically assigned to team members, participants were monitored and supported by business coaches, and all were challenged with “stretch” sales goals.  In every A-Team exercise, the results blew away sales expectations!

1.  Hire the right person!  How many times have you heard this? 
One of my greatest mentors showed me the real impact of requiring retail sales candidates to actually move to the sales floor during the in-person screening process and actually “sell” a specific product to the interviewer.  This simple exercise really challenged the true capabilities of the candidate and revealed whether or not they actually possessed the skill-set, personality, courage, demeanor, presentation skills and product knowledge to be hired as a great sales person. Any candidate can say they know how to sell, and any candidate can say they really want to be a sales person but when you actually put them to the test of impromptu selling, you can quickly and easily validate those who are and are not qualified to represent you well and be a great sales person.

2. Set the expectation

Set the expectation with each sales person that every guest that walks into your business has the potential to purchase thousands of dollars in product if provided the best service and sales attention possible!  We’ve all been amazed when this happens and we celebrate such events but why not think of this as a standard instead of the exception?  When you set the bar very high, it exemplifies the fact that every customer can be the “magical customer” if treated with respect, made to feel important, treated as a “VIP”, and provided outstanding customer service beyond anything he/she can get from any other retailer in the area. Every employee should understand the simple fact that every customer who visits your business will maximize their spend if you qualify their needs, provide a solution, provide great service and build a relationship with that customer.

3.  Engage with every guest

Engage with every guest first by understanding whom they are, where they work or live, their name, their needs and how you can fulfill their total expectations. Today's retail world is unfortunately still filled with sales people who use the old-fashioned and tired approach of “Can I help you?” “Help you find something?” “Find what you're looking for?” and in the worst-case scenario, no approach at all. Today's consumer who is willing to spend as much as necessary for great service and product solutions is just waiting to be over- serviced as a “VIP” and approach that makes them feel special, respected, valued and important. When your customers feel all of these emotions, they become a customer for life and price becomes less important. Great selling is about relationships and rapport and not about price. If your sales people can understand the value of a relationship, you will win in so many ways! This is critical to your success as a retail owner and cannot be left for chance. This process has to be modeled, coached, validated, reinforced, recognized and applauded when executed correctly. Miss any of these aspects of the great sales process, and you will never achieve your full potential as a business owner.

4.  Coach your sales people to genuinely thank and reaffirm with every customer

Lastly, coach your sales people to genuinely thank and reaffirm with every customer how important they are to the business, how excited you are that they have visited with you, confirm that you filled every need that they had and go the extra steps to find out what their future needs are and build a lasting relationship.   Building your client relationship is more important than ever in today’s competitive marketplace. And it's the same reason so many people return over and over to their favorite coffee house, restaurant or lunch spot. There are several great retailers that do this well and if you can model their sales activities and professionalism, you can build your own mini super-retailer reputation and brand that will prompt customers to brag about you and become raving fans of your business. 

And don't forget that if you can build a team that executes to these four points, you owe it to the team to recognize and reward them in creative, sincere, fun and relative ways.


John Bocker is a professional retail and hospitality business strategy consultant specializing in maximizing profitability, risk management, employee integrity, training, and driving success! John is Founder and Principal at JB Group, LLC based in Denver, Colorado where he partners with business leaders to exceed sales and profit expectations.  Visit www.jbgroupco.com or call (720) 514-0609 for more information.

10+ Retail Holiday Marketing Tips

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Our partner location the Larimer SBDC recently held a "Retail Holiday Boot Camp" after hours event. Presenter Alyson MacMullan of Peak Retail Group gave some great takeaways that we wanted to share for retailers to remember as they enter their holiday planning period.

1. Lay all your key dates from November through January (yes, January) on a physical calendar
• Sometimes you may see correlations on paper that aren’t obvious in a digital format.• Small Business Saturday is November 28th this year!
2. Determine your goals for the holiday season
• Do you want more sales in dollars or in transactions? Do you have targets for how much inventory you want to move? Are you aiming for less January markdowns?• If you don’t have data from last year to drive your goals, make sure you begin collecting it this year! What works? What doesn’t?
3. Pick a color pallet for your store displays and stick to it!  
• Highlight high margin inventory in your displays.• Hint: It doesn’t have to be red and green, in fact, your store’s brand colors work very well! 
4. Consider all elements for the in-store experience: Sights, sounds, smells 
• Offer extras like a free stocking stuffer, free gift wrapping and bounce back offers with every purchase.• Do everything you can to keep shopping stress-free and easy for your customers. 
5. Proper staffing is a challenge for retailers during the holidays
• Signs are your silent salespeople. Make them informative and interesting so customers can answer their own simple questions.• Arm your salespeople with mobile payment options so they can help customers avoid lines at the register.
6. Social media is your friend!
• Post every day! Use a planning/scheduling service like SnapRetail, Hootsuite or SproutSocial to help you plan out several days in one easy shot.• People love contests and flash sales, utilize these techniques!• An image is worth 1,000 posts. Show your staff decorating the store!
7. E-mail is your friend too, but be cautious.
• Find an e-mail template and stick with it for the season. It will make your life easier and your customers will recognize your communications.• ONE offer per e-mail only, and keep it clean and concise. People are already stressed during the holidays, your communication should make it easy for them.
8. 12 Days of Christmas Promotions are very effective!
• Drive traffic into your store by offering serious discounts (50-75% off) on a high margin, highly stocked item each day.• These are top secret deals! Resist the urge to reveal the promos early. Pre-schedule deal communication to save yourself a headache.
9. Your merchandise assortment shouldn’t vary dramatically during the holidays; the majority of your stock should be tried and true items
• NEVER run out of your top sellers, that’s a missed opportunity!• Don’t accept late deliveries from your vendors. Communicate clearly and directly when you need your merchandise by and if they can’t meet your deadlines, don’t accept deliveries.
10. Restock key items for January and mix up the look of your store

Sound like a lot of information? We assure you, this was only the tip of the iceberg! 

If you’re a retailer and need help digesting and applying this information, we encourage you to schedule with a North Metro Denver SBDC consultant now to help with planning out your holiday strategy!