My favorite Smile Story was actually told to me by a customer, not my staff. Dawn had three grandchildren coming to visit her for five days. She wanted to have a different gift to give each child each day they were there. Fifteen gifts in all. Lakisha said, “I’m on it,” and led Dawn all around the store.
A few weeks later Dawn called me. “Phil, I have to tell you that gal of yours was fabulous. My grandkids loved the gifts. My grandson, he’s seven, turned to me and said, ‘Grandma, these gifts are better than if we had picked them out ourselves!’ Thank you, thank you, thank you! And thank Lakisha, too!”
That’s the phone call every store owner and manager dreams of getting.
If you’re regularly getting that call, you’re doing the right things with your staff and with your customer service. Go back to Tool #1 Core Values and Tool #2 Market Potential or wait until tomorrow for Tool #4 Cash Flow.
If you’re not getting that call at all and would be totally shocked if you ever did get a call like that, read on.
NOT AS UNMEASURABLE AS YOU THINK
Many people say Great Customer Service is not quantifiable, therefore it cannot be measured. I disagree. There are numbers you can run to see whether you and your sales staff are doing right by your customers.
I showed you two ways to measure your Customer Service in the post The Right Measuring Cups – Repeat & Referral Business and Units per Transaction. They are good starting points even though neither of those is completely perfect.
Sometimes your Referral Business is because of a product you sell that is hard to find. Sometimes it is because of some Over-the-Top Design element in your store your current customers tell their friends they have to see. I knew a jeweler who had a $30,000 diamond ring, way out of the league for that sleepy summer tourist town. She had tons of traffic right up until the day that ring finally sold. Once the ring was gone, her Referral Business dried up.
Sometimes your UPT grew because the hot item that year had several accessories or attachments. The following year the hot item had all those things included so your UPT fell.
I would still start there and see what you learn.
OTHER PLACES TO LOOK
If I were to come in to your store to do this diagnosis, here are some places I would look to get a handle on your levels of customer service.
- Team Member Handbook – Do you have one? What does it cover?
- Training Videos – Do you have them? If not, how do you handle new employee training?
- Continued Training – How often does the staff meet for training purposes? What are you covering? How do you measure results?
- Your Store Policies – Are they Customer-Centric or Business-Centric? Who do they protect?
- New Hire Process – How do you find new employees? I want to see your Help Wanted Ads, Job Descriptions, and Interview Questions
If you don’t have a Handbook, you should make one. Write out all your policies. Write out all your philosophies. Write out how you will measure their employment. Have an HR professional and an HR lawyer proof it to make sure it is legal. Then give a copy to everyone and use it as your guide. It puts everyone on the same page and helps eliminate confusion from different team members saying, “That’s not how I was taught to do it.”
Training Videos are another way to make your staff training consistent and thorough. They don’t have to be fancy or even perfect. You can shoot them fast and simple on your phone, post them privately to YouTube, and provide the links to your new hires. If you don’t offer Training Videos, how else can you ensure that training is consistent and thorough? One way is to have the same person do all the trainings. Another is to include a checklist of everything to be covered. No matter which method you use, there also has to be a final check. One person who will verify what the new hire has learned and send him or her back for further training if necessary.
Continued Training is a must. Back in third grade I may have learned how to golf, but I’m still a few million hit golf balls shy of going pro.
“An amateur practices until he can do it right. A professional practices until he cannot do it wrong.” (source unknown)
One way we measured the results of our continued staff training was through Smile Stories. Every staff meeting began with Smile Stories where my team would share the different ways they made customers smile. Those stories not only reinforced the culture and the goal of the store – “We’re here to make you smile!” – but they also encouraged the team to actively seek out opportunities to make customers smile.
Store policies should be Customer-Centric, meaning they are in place to protect and help the customer. Liberal return policies, easy layaway plans, and helpful services that make less work and less thinking for the customer are the hallmarks of Customer-Centric policies. If you limit what forms of payment or how much someone has to spend to use a credit card, you’re telling the customer that your nickels and dimes are more important than them. Once your product is no longer exclusive or hard-to-find, they will leave for someone who treats them better.
If you have aligned your business with your Core Values in a market with a lot of Potential, and are taking care of your customers the right way, you should see your Share of the market steadily climbing upward. Rarely does a company get through all three of these tools without recognizing areas that need shoring up. Start working on those.
Tomorrow we do math. (Just giving you fair warning.)
PS If Cash is King, why does it fall all the way down to fourth on the Self-Diagnosis priority list? Because all the cash in the world won’t help you in the long run if your business model is flawed. Those first three priorities are all about your business Goals and Strategies. Buying and selling product is simply a means to the end. Notice how I didn’t say, “We’re here to sell you toys!”? Our goal was much bigger than that. Sometimes your Cash Flow problem is because you aren’t attracting the right customers (Core Values), don’t have enough customers (Market Potential), or are driving customers away (Customer Service). Make sense now? Get those three areas right first. Then you’ll know if your Cash Flow problems are truly Inventory Management problems.
Phil, this was an AMAZING post full of so much useful information. I really loved the story you led with because it shows the power of great customer service. Many managers overlook it, and this issue is only becoming more prevalent with how busy most small business owners are. As someone who believes in the power of customer service enablement, I can confirm that the proof is in the numbers. Your post about “The Right Measuring Cups” is an excellent example, too. Customer service enablement is all about ensuring your team has the environment and tools that truly empower them. Remote work due to COVID necessitates a digital learning environment and toolset, but the results are the same. Empowered representatives will provide better customer service every time, and customer experience is more important than ever. And with digital learning tools, everyone stays on the same page, which helps eliminate confusion (as you noted above). I love how well this piece has held up since 2019!