Seth Godin talked about this in his blog today. I wrote about it back in 2009. You know this adage … A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Your chain is your staff. Your chain is the level of customer service your team can bring to the table. Your chain is only as strong as the worst employee on your team.
Stop and think about that for a second. Who is the worst person on your team? That’s the bar right there. Before you fire him and start over (always a realistic option when you have people who are not performing) here is something you can train him to do that will significantly raise your customer service up a few notches.
He needs to be able to get through the day without saying, “No.”
“No,” is a deal killer. It is the one-word sentence that will kill your business (even faster than, “Can I help you?” and, “Did you find everything?”)
It is a word that needs to be stricken from your vocabulary, or at the very least, only offered with a quick modifier. It kills all the mojo.
“Do you have this product?”
End of conversation. End of interaction. End of sale. End of business.
There are millions of products out there. You have 5,000 in your store. The chances are pretty good that your customers will ask you for something you do not have.
How your staff answers goes a long way towards your success. Here are some alternate answers that always work better.
You can ask why.
“What exactly are you looking for in that product? Why do you want that product? What are hoping that product will do for you? We might have something else that will work.”
You can offer alternatives.
“We don’t have that item but we do have this other product that I actually like better because…”
You can give explanations.
“We used to carry that product but had too many problems and switched to this other brand.”
“That brand is only mass-produced for large chain stores. Let me show you something of which you probably haven’t heard that does the job equally well.”
You can offer help in finding the item.
“We don’t carry anything like that. Would you like me to call this other store for you to see if they carry it or anything similar?”
All of those responses are easy enough for any employee to learn. Even your newest hires and seasonal staff can learn these responses quickly and easily. They make your chain stronger because they build relationships rather than shut them down.
Work with your staff to eliminate the word No from your vocabulary. (If they can’t do that, fire them and start over.)
PS Here is a good staff meeting exercise. Think of all the questions a customer might ask to which you might say No. (Do you price match? Do you offer bundled discounts? Do you give a price break for people who pay cash?) Then come up with alternate answers you can use instead of saying No.
PPS One savvy retailer I know keeps a clipboard up front with a “No List” for every product a customer asks that they don’t have. If the same product comes up time and time again, she figures she needs to look into carrying that product because customers are thinking of her store as a place that would have it.