Is it fair to treat un-equals as equals?
Not in retail, that's for sure.
Some managers believe that fairness means all employees must be treated the same, or equally. I suggest that this belief represents a misguided understanding of fairness.
In fact, there is nothing more unfair than treating un-equals as equals. In the retail environment you will seriously, and adversely, affect the morale and performance in the store by applying this old idea of being fair.
Performance of sales associates depends on many, many things. Some of those things are out of the Managers control. Things such as emotional problems, personal life issues and health concerns - things which tend to weigh heavily on an individual and could affect their ability to perform in their work - are out of a Store Managers control. That is why it is so important to capitalize on the things that are within a Managers control. They include incentives, recognition, treatment, scheduling and training, among other things.
High performers deserve to be treated differently than mediocre or poor performers. This is not to say that fairness suffers. On the contrary, it supports the meaning of fairness. Is it not fair that those who achieve great results receive greater rewards? Is it not fair that those who achieve great results receive the 'fruits of their labor' in other ways also? Of course it is. Not providing greater rewards and recognition to these individuals would be very unfair.
Now let's look at some of the ways in which the high performer can be fairly treated, recognized or compensated in the retail environment.
First, and foremost, is compensation. You do not need to follow guidelines which treat all individuals the same. Just as experience and length of time with a company count, level of performance must also count. When all other things are equal, performance must be the differentiator. Performance must be taken into account when looking at compensation packages and promotions.
Beyond compensation, the high performer should reap other, non-monetary rewards. For example, if a particular shift is coveted by employees then the high performer should get that shift. If a particular day off or, perhaps, a special assignment is desirable then the high performer should receive it. Some would say that this is unfair but it is not. High performance is what we want, what we strive for, what we talk about, what we pay for, what we expect, what delivers the best ROI and what we need to build, or maintain, a thriving business. How could it possibly be unfair to provide good things for those who are clearly and consistently delivering high performance?
Management who claim that it is only fair to treat un-equals equally are probably unsure as to how to deal with things any other way. They believe that everyone should be treated the same. They don't know how to tell the staff that the high performer for the week does not have to clean the stock room or the wash room. They don't know how to deal with the complaints of the mediocre or poor performers. They take the path of least resistance and treat everyone the same.
High performers who are treated the same as everyone else will look for a place where they are recognized for who and what they are.
How to Make Your People More Effective?
Any business that is open to the public seven days a week, twelve hours a day (more?) is bound to run into some communication issues.
No manager is accessible to employees, or customers, seven days a week, twelve hours a day. This could create problems if communication channels are not properly set up.
Here are some steps to follow in setting up good lines of communication in a business where people work many different shifts:
Issue a weekly newsletter to all employees and place the newsletter in a 'mailbox' with the employees' name on it. The newsletter should include all items of importance and interest to employees.
Buy a notebook and ensure that all management personnel are instructed to note any communication with customers/employees that requires any follow up whatsoever.
Ensure that dates, times and details of conversations are recorded in this notebook. Each member of the management team must check this book before starting their shift so that they are up to speed the moment they start work.
Advise all staff that open communication is a must in their workplace. Make sure they understand the value of information sharing. The more anyone knows about their business the more successful they will be.
Be sure to ask questions anytime communication 'falls through the cracks'. This is not something that can be ignored. Good communication between management and team members is a major part of the ongoing success of your business.
Customers should never be witness to a communication breakdown. There is absolutely no reason for them to be involved in the inner workings of your store/restaurant. All of your team members - both management and staff - must be able to provide the customer with what they need when they need it. It is absolutely unacceptable to tell a customer to come back when the manager is in. Employees must be empowered to make decisions when called upon to do so.
Product Knowledge: Use it appropriately
I cannot stress enough the importance of product knowledge when it comes to making sales. Those who have learned everything they can about the products they sell have a distinct advantage over those who don't. Given the option, customers would choose to talk to the person who knows the most about the product they are considering.
Good product knowledge will help even the most reserved sales associate. It gives them confidence knowing they have something of value to tell the customer.
Make no mistake about it, in the sales business you had better know your stuff.
Having said all that, I must also point out that overuse of product knowledge can be a very bad thing. How, you say?
I went to a specific store to purchase a specific product. As I entered I was greeted with a warm, welcoming smile and a very enthusiastic 'hello'. The salesperson approached me and started to tell me about a current promotion. She did a great job letting me know how much she knew about the product. I was impressed with her presentation of the product and, of course, her knowledge of the ingredients and where they came from and how good the ingredients would be for my skin and, and, and.
The only problem is that the associate did not stop talking about the product long enough to find out what I needed or wanted. She did not find out why I was in the store in the first place.
Listening is more beneficial than talking, particularly because you need to figure out what your customer needs and/or wants. You will get your chance to dazzle the customer with your knowledge of the product only if you can keep the customer engaged long enough to start building rapport. Don't blow it early by going on and on about a product that your customer may have no interest in whatsoever. To figure this out ask questions and listen carefully to what she is saying and then use your knowledge appropriately. Otherwise, it's a waste of your time and theirs. Your time aside, customers of today do not feel warm and fuzzy about someone who wastes their time. Don't be that someone.
Always remember that your objective in using product knowledge in the sales process is to procure an immediate or future sale, not to showcase your talents.
Customer Returns: They're Good For You
Most consumers have had reason to return an unsatisfactory product at some point in time. Maybe it was defective, or a bad fit, or the wrong color, or they found it for a better price, or maybe they simply changed their mind. For some, returning merchandise is no big deal. For others it isn't so easy. Consumers have plenty of reasons not to return something. Some of these are inconvenience, uncertainty regarding the company's policy and even fear of embarrassment due to mistreatment by store personnel. Some believe that, if they do take the product back to the store they will have to be ready for a fight.
Is it any wonder, then, that some go on the offensive as soon as they enter the store carrying the product? For some reason the customer is not satisfied with their purchase. They parted with their money and, in return, they had an expectation of performance or benefit. Why on earth should they have to fight, or risk embarrassment and abuse if that expectation is not met?
If they're back, product in hand, obviously their expectation was not met and they are not satisfied. Only the most arrogant of retailers would ignore this fact. And it is a fact regardless of the concern. The customer is not satisfied and that is indisputable. Forget the reason - it's simply not relevant. The whole idea is to ensure that you satisfy at this point. Take the opportunity to turn a refund into a sale.
I know that there are people in the retail industry saying "yes, but.". To these people I say, again, that the customer returning a product is not satisfied and that is indisputable. That is all you need to know. It's all that matters.
I do not intend to go into the matter of customers who abuse retailers' policies. Those situations are entirely different and immaterial in the scope of things. Nor will I address the issues created by those retailers with unfriendly customer service and return policies. Those retailers are creating their own difficulties. Enough said.
So, what should retailers do to ensure that all their staff members get it? You know.the execution part of the customer friendly return policy?
Here is the answer:
If you haven't officially done so already, develop a great, easy-to-interpret, customer friendly return policy.
Make sure every employee knows and clearly understands the policy - including the receptionist, mailroom and accounting personnel, clerical and management staff at Head Office, the warehouse workers at the Distribution Centre, the Web Design team and all those who keep the on-line end of the business running, the stock people, sales associates and merchandisers and management at store level and anyone else that receives a pay check from your company. Absolutely everyone.
Ensure that all employees know why the policy was developed and how it benefits the organization.
Repeat the message often and very clearly; communicate the message in every possible form and at every possible opportunity. Post it everywhere.
Establish a procedure to check that the policy is being applied.
Reward success. Consistently.
Teach all employees to make judgments in favor of the customer whenever the policy appears to be vague.
Returns are good for your business. The customer who went to the trouble to make the return is talking to you. Take advantage of the opportunity to satisfy! Most companies pay huge amounts of money for customer-to-company communications such as focus groups, polls, customer response surveys, comment cards, etc. And it is all in the effort to find out what the customer has to say.
Treat the return customer with respect. S/he is actually coming to you and volunteering valuable feedback. How great is that?
Make sure your front line personnel understand their obligation to act on behalf of their company and follow the friendly return policy every single time they are faced with a return. Make sure they understand that they absolutely do not have the right to make your customers uncomfortable during this critical point of contact.
Just because you have a great, customer friendly return policy doesn't mean that it is of any value to your organization. Unless customers see it in action, at the cash desk, it might as well not exist.
10 Common Mistakes Retail Salespeople Make
1. Failing to build a rapport with the customer. From a simple greeting to a little chat about niceties, non-sales directed small talk go along way in developing an easier and more open mood in the customers.
2. Failing to find out customer's requirements.
3. Focusing on their own agenda instead of customer's.
4. Not giving customers the majority of the air time.
5. Confusing "telling" with "selling". Not listening or not hearing what customer is saying.
6. Not knowing the prevailing promotions, specials and regular pricing.
7. Not differentiating the product/service/store/company enough to create additional value in the mind of the customer.
8. Selling too fast, trying to close before the customer is ready to buy.
9. Fail to address objections properly not realizing that satisfactory resolution of the objectives is the shortest distance to purchase.
10. Not taking advantage of add-on sales, as soon as the main purchase is done, which is when customer is most ready to entertain them.
I'm the One
You know me. I'm the one who never complains no matter what kind of service I get.
I guess I just don't think it's worth wasting my energy confronting bad service.
I'm the one who goes into a restaurant and sits for 30 minutes until I get waited on.
The waiter is rude and impatient while I'm deciding on what to order. Then when I get my order it's 25 minutes later and it's wrong.
But I don't complain as I pay my bill.
I'm the one who goes to a store to buy something, but I never throw my weight around.
If I get a snooty salesperson who rolls his/her eyes because I want to look at several things before I make up my mind, I'm still polite as can be.
I'm the one who bought a toaster which burned out in two weeks.
I hated taking it back, but I knew it was under warranty.
All the time they were telling me it was my fault.
At that point, I couldn't think of anything to do but leave.
It wasn't worth getting into a yelling match over a toaster.
I smiled and said, "Thank you. Goodbye."
I'm the one who wouldn't dream of making a scene in public as I've seen others do at times.
But I'll tell you what else I am, I'm the one who never comes back.
How to Impress Customers:
Focus on Areas Where You are Better than Competition
Focus on at least one key benefit that you know compels customers to buy from you, sometimes referred to as differentiation, emphasize the point and clearly communicate it.
Treat your staff with extreme care and attention. Be aware that your treatment of staff usually translates into their treatment of the customers. Make sure there is a team in the store and everyone knows what is expected and what the objective is.
Listen to your customers. Always look for a feedback and suggestions for improvement; teach this skill to your staff as well.
Gaining new customers is about 5 times more difficult (or expensive) than maintaining your existing customers. Treat them like gold and reward the people who have higher percentage of return customers.
Test everything you do for effectiveness and take corrective action or change the process altogether. Never be satisfied with the status quo.
Last but not least, make sure everyone at the store understands that their paycheck is ultimately paid by the purchasing customers. Sounds straight forward but easy to forget.