Sept. 16/23 2013; Volume 27/number 11
By Lisbeth Calandrino
Statistics tell us a lot of customers walk away because of employee indifference. In the age of “a store on every block” as well as the Internet, you can’t afford to have indifferent employees.
It may be time to review with your employees the value of a lifetime customer. Particularly because it’s no longer “word of mouth” that keeps us going, but now “world of mouth.” Custo-mers who feel neglected will not post on your Facebook page or bother writing a testimonial on Yelp or Citisearch. You might just as well have a sign outside that says, “Go elsewhere.” Basically, indifference costs big money.
What produces indifference?
Do your employees matter? When employees don’t feel loved, they stop loving customers. Do you share trade show information with your employees? Do you bring them back any “goodies” (anything from trade magazines to new-product samples)? Employees need information about their trade and ammunition to sell the next customer. Without fresh information, like the rest of us, they get stale and bored. I know that learning brand new things keeps me sharp and excited; when I start getting bored, I know it’s because I need to learn something.
What can you do to get people excited?
Several of the retailers I know review their monthly figures with all of their employees, sharing where they made and lost money. They also plan sessions with their employees for the upcoming year, including events they will hold and planning for sales. Sitting down and having these meetings will force you to think about next year. It will also make your employees know they are important and their opinions matter.
I know retailers who refuse to ask their employees what merchandise they should buy for their sales. Their reasoning? “I’m the one who has to spend the money.” Your employees should know what sells and what customers want to buy.
Setting quotas for your store in all departments is critical. Decreasing customer and installation complaints will improve your relationships with your customers and increase both customer retention and referrals. All of your employees need to understand that customer retention and referrals eventually translates into money. The more customers you keep, the more new customers you will get for the next year.
Share what you can with your employees
When possible, have everyone share some of the profit so they realize they do make a difference. If employees are chastised for making mistakes with customers, they will be cautious about their relationships with future prospects. Instead of trying something new, they will shy away and tell the customer it’s not their job. Some employees even tell the customers how bad it is to work in your store.
I know an owner who doesn’t want anyone to call the customer after the installation. “Why bother them?” he asks. “If we talk with them, they’ll find something to complain about.” Isn’t it better they complain to you so you can fix it rather than have them broadcasting it over the Internet? Can you imagine how many referrals he’s lost?
Remember, referrals and word of mouth are more important than ever. The Internet has isolated us and in many ways makes it more difficult to build relationships. Selling doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it happens because of the relationships your employees build with the customers.