Home » Management » Page 2

Category: Management

Self-Diagnosis Tool #3 – Customer Service

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, 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.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

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.

Self-Diagnosis Tool #1 – Core Values

I told you yesterday what I would do if you hired me to look at your business. Thirty questions inside of five topics to figure out what bullets you need to fire to get your business to the next level. Since one of my Core Values is Helping Others, I’m going to use the next five posts going over those questions more in detail so that you can try to help yourself. (Note: you can skip this post and just hire me to do this for you. Or you can read on. Your call …)

KNOW YOUR CORE VALUES

A business not aligned with the owner’s Core Values will not last long. You’ll constantly be fighting against yourself. If you haven’t done so already, take a few moments to read the eBook Understanding Your Brand (free download). Then download the Branding Worksheets. Those worksheets are designed to help you uncover your Core Values.

Toy House Character Diamond and Core Values
The Toy House Character Diamond – our Core Values that drive our business.

Mine are Having Fun, Helpful, Educational, and Nostalgic.

Once you know your Core Values, take a look at your store’s actions. Do they align? Actions speak louder than words.

SHOW YOUR CORE VALUES

You can figure this out two ways. Either first make a list of your Core Values then below each value list all the ways your business shows that value. Or make a list of everything your store does and then group those actions by similarity. That similarity will almost always align with one of your values.

(Note: this is page two and three of the Branding Worksheets.)

For instance:

  • Having Fun: Toy demos throughout the store, Monthly and weekly events including story times, game nights, and themed parties, Always willing to open a package and see what is inside
  • Helpful: Free Gift Wrapping, Layaway, UPS Shipping, Car Seat Installation, Carry-out and Delivery Service, Assembly, Gift Suggestions, Gift Registry, Bike Repair …
  • Educational: Free classes on buying baby products, Educational brochures on buying toys, Articles and links on our website, Posting of articles to social media, Email Newsletter, Educational signage throughout store, Belief that all toys teach (and knowledge about what each toy teaches)
  • Nostalgic: The Birthday Bell, New Baby, Birthday, and Christmas presents, A permanent history display, Classic toys like Lincoln Logs, LEGO, Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Slinky

You can see from that list how I incorporated all four Core Values into the day-to-day business operations.

ADD VALUE WHERE IT ISN’T

If there is anything on your list of actions that doesn’t fit into one of your values, how can you change that?

For instance, when I first learned about making my own values more apparent, I changed two things right away—my phone message and the bathrooms. Our phone message was very business-like and boring so I injected a little humor into it. Our bathrooms were dark, dingy, and plain. We added new light fixtures, painted the walls, and then posted fun and informational signs on the walls. Neither of those cost much money, but they turned negatives into positives.

We also bumped up those values where we could. Not everything on the above list existed before I decided to make those values more apparent. The history display, the educational signage, and an extra emphasis on toy demonstration stations all came from trying to make our Core Values more apparent and obvious.

ADD IT TO THE BACK END, TOO

I also attempted to make the back-end of the business more in alignment. I used my core Values in the hiring process to find people who shared those values. I tried to make our trainings more fun, helpful, and educational. I encouraged continuing education by helping pay for my staff to take classes and attend workshops on their own (even if it had nothing to do with selling—learning is learning and continued learning is a mindset).

I also used my Core Values in my advertising message. I learned quickly that ads filled with Nostalgia spoke to the heart much more deeply than anything else. I made sure every ad spoke clearly to one of my values.

One truth about human nature is we prefer to do business with people and businesses we like. We like people and businesses who share our values. Look at your strongest fans and followers. They share your values. They are part of your tribe. They figured out the values you’ve only so far been showing subconsciously. Imagine what will happen when you start showing those values consciously?

Here’s one more benefit …

When your business is perfectly aligned with your Core Values it will never feel like work!

I can honestly say there was never a day in 24 years where I woke up and said, “I’d rather be anywhere than at Toy House.” There were days I didn’t want to wake up, but not to avoid going to the store.

Aligning your business with your values helps you enjoy your business even more. It puts you in a better mood which puts your staff in a better mood, which puts your customers in a better mood. It also helps you attract the kind of customers you prefer—people who share your values. It also makes your decision-making much easier. Does what you’re about to do align with your values? Then do it. If not, then don’t do it.

Before you look at anything else, first make sure your business is aligned with your values. Then make sure those values are apparent in everything you do. Often that will solve some of the problems you are facing. More importantly, it won’t get in the way or hold you back from the other problems you’re trying to solve.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS A big shout-out to Roy H. Williams of Wizard Academy and David Freeman from Beyond Structure who were instrumental in helping me uncover my own Core Values and learn how to harness their power. Roy helped me find Having Fun and Helping Others. David helped me find Education and Nostalgia. Yeah, those values were there all along, but uncovering them, dusting them off, and being them more openly and consciously has helped me in more ways than I could have imagined. It will help you, too. If you need help uncovering your values, if you’ve done the worksheets and aren’t clear on your answers, shoot me an email.

PPS What if you are the manager, not the owner? I get this question a lot. If the owner is an absentee owner, the business will likely take on more of the values of the manager. But be forewarned. If those values aren’t in alignment with the owner, the manager will eventually get fired because the business isn’t “going in the right direction.” That’s why it imperative to hire managers who share your values whether you are there or not. Every member of my team had a healthy dose of Fun, Helpful, Educational, and Nostalgic bones in them.

When Do You Become an Expert?

Back in December I published my thousandth blog post. Each post takes about an hour and a half to compose on average, so I’ve dedicated about 1,500 hours to blogging. According to Malcom Gladwell’s “10,000-Hour Rule” in his book OUTLIERS I’m 15% of the way there to being an Expert blogger.

I spent twenty-three plus years working full time retail at the management level. Assuming 2500 hours/year (50/week), I have 58,750 hours of experience working retail. Believe it or not, but that still doesn’t necessarily make me an Expert on retail.

One of the reasons is that the 10,000-Hour Rule requires you to “practice the right way” for those 10,000 hours. Just having years of experience in retail doesn’t mean you’re any good at it or getting better at it—especially if you aren’t practicing it the right way.

It is the continual practice that Gladwell believes is the key. Continual practice, however, is severely lacking for most retail employees.

Just because you trained them back when you hired them does not turn your staff into rock stars.

Experience is only valuable if you are also Learning and Evaluating while Experiencing. 

Famed scientist Niels Bohr had his own take on how to become an Expert … “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”

That is awfully hard to do, so as John Luther said … “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

According to Bohr and Luther, you have to fail and learn from your failures (or at least learn from everyone else’s). 

Here is my own recipe for becoming an Expert:

  1. Learn
  2. Do
  3. Evaluate
  4. Repeat

Follow those steps over and over. Learn, Do, and Evaluate. The third step is the trickiest because it requires brutal honesty to really be able to Learn more. Yet it is also the most vital because because your future Learning requires proper Evaluation.

Sometimes that Evaluation leads you to the conclusion, “I need to Learn from someone else.”

That’s what happened to me in 1996 when I took over the hiring and training for our staff. I started reading all the books I could find on hiring. When those didn’t match my own evaluations, I wrote my own book.

It happened to me again in 2005 and led me to take classes on Advertising and Branding from Wizard Academy where I learned whole new tools for measuring my business, many of which I share in this blog.

It happened to me once more in 2012 when the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association asked me to write a book about the Financials of a typical toy store. I spoke with several accountants until I felt comfortable enough to translate accountant-speak into retail-speak.

It happened to me in 2013 after having already written three hundred blog posts and knowing I still needed to learn more, so I hired a writing coach to help me understand and write more clearly for my audience.

When do you become an Expert? I think the real answer is … When you’re smarter than most of the other people in your field.

How do you get smarter than most of the other people in your field? When you Learn, Do, Evaluate, and Repeat.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The idea for today’s post came late last night. I was thinking how much I would rather write about “winners” this year than write about the mistakes others have made. Those posts are more fun. Those quotes, however, reminded me that learning from our own mistakes and the mistakes of others is our best path to becoming better ourselves. Hopefully I’ll still have plenty of winners to highlight this year. Please send me stories of the retailers and small businesses doing it right in your area. We can learn from them, too. Please forgive me if there are a lot of posts about businesses doing it wrong. My hope is to save you from being one of them.

PPS If you feel stuck in your Marketing & Advertising, Hiring & Training, Customer Service, or Inventory Management, let me know. If I can’t be the resource you need to get to the next level of Learning, I often know the right direction to point you to find that resource.

Invest in Your Education

Yesterday I gave you seven things you could do with your money when you have a windfall because of a better-than-expected season. Here is one more thing to do with that extra cash …

Invest in Your Education.

Invest in making yourself and your team smarter and better. Invest in training to equip your team with better tools for selling. Invest in classes that teach you more about advertising and marketing. Invest in programs that help you better manage your money.

“Always invest in this thing (your brain).” Darius Foroux

If I were to put “Invest in Your Education” in the priority list from yesterday it would solidly be #3 right behind Cash Reserves and Pay Down Your Debt.

My real recommendation, though, is that this should be a fixed part of your yearly budget. You and your staff are simultaneously your largest asset and your biggest expense. Whether you look at this as the former or the latter will make the difference whether you are truly a customer-first business winning the race to the top or not.

If I were to prioritize where to spend the time and money on training, the list would look like this …

  1. Selling/Customer Service: You’ll reap the benefits of this right away because your staff starts converting more of your current traffic into sales.
  2. Hiring/Training: You’ll see quickly who is cut out to be a retail sales clerk and isn’t when you up their game. Next it is time to up your game and find better people.
  3. Marketing & Advertising: I’ve heard many business owners lament, “If only I had more traffic …” First learn how to better take care of the traffic you have. Then, when you spend your money to learn how to get more traffic, you’ll reap twice the rewards.
  4. Managing Your Money: Good sales and a growing market cover a lot of sins. Those sins get exposed at the first downturn. Make sure you are measuring and managing the right numbers to protect yourself for the long run.

In a few days the dust will settle on 2018. As you set your priorities for 2019, keep this list in mind. I’m sure you can probably think of a few retailers (cough, Sears) that didn’t (cough, Toys R Us) invest in (cough, Kmart) becoming better at (cough, Bon Ton) what they do.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I will be rolling out some new training programs based on the list above. Last fall, if you recall, I launched The Ultimate Selling Workshop designed for working directly with you and your team. Next month I will have newly revised programs, some designed specifically for working with business owners, some to work with managers and assistant managers, and some to work with your whole team. The priorities you set for 2019 will dictate much of the success you reap this time next year.

Christmas Quick Tip #18 – Cut Them Some Slack

We’re almost to the end of your very busy season. These posts have been short and sweet to keep you moving. Hope you have found them helpful.

Here is tip #18 …

CUT THEM SOME SLACK

I’m talking about your customers. You’re going to get some really rude customers over the next few days.

Some of them are rude people in general. You can ignore them and just be grateful you aren’t living their life. It must be miserable as hell.

Some of them are generally nice people feeling the stress and pressure of the season. You never know what is going on inside someone’s head and heart. They may be worried about the budget and bills they need to pay. They may be mourning a loved one who isn’t with them through the holidays for the first time. They may have problems at work or problems at home. They may be running late or just received bad news. They may have had an Alexander-and-the-Terrible-Horrible-No-Good-Very-Bad-Day kind of day.  More often than not, you’re just the straw on that camel’s back. Heck, it might not even be about you at all.

Cut them some slack.

In fact, the best thing you can do is kill ’em with kindness. Go over-the-top out-of-your way to be friendly, nice, and helpful to them.

To the first group who is always miserable, that’s the best way to annoy them, anyway.

To the second group, you just might turn someone’s day around for the better.

That’s called The Christmas Spirit! Spread it far and wide!

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Have a pep rally with your staff and make the next three days all about killing them with kindness. Be the Joy you want people to have this holiday season.

PPS The rudeness tends to go away on the 24th. I’ve always said Christmas Eve was my favorite day to work retail. On the 23rd it was “my” fault for ruining their Christmas because I didn’t have the one toy little Johnny wanted that he put on his wish list in October. On the 24th they were just happy we were open, that we had lots of toys still in stock, and we gift-wrapped everything for free.

Christmas Quick Tip #17 – Give Your Staff a Break

In an effort to keep you moving this busy season, these blog posts will be quick and simple.

Here is tip #17 …

GIVE YOUR STAFF A BREAK

I know the tendency this time of year is to shorten lunch breaks and maximize your staff to handle the extra crush of customers these last few days as they do their last-minute shopping.

Guess who else has to do some last-minute shopping?

Your staff does. If you can give them an extra 15-20 minutes for their lunch breaks or send them home a few minutes early if it has slowed down, you’ll do wonders for their energy and their morale.

You can also plan to have some meals for them. Bring in sandwiches from a local deli. Get pizza from the pizzeria down the block. Those little things that they don’t have to do help them get their errands and last-minute shopping done.

Give them a break and they’ll thank you with more energy for your customers.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Add in a little praise and recognition and they’ll rock these last few days for you.

Christmas Quick Tip #14 – Get Away

In the interest of time during this busy holiday season, these blog posts will be short and sweet so that you can get back to business more quickly.

Here is tip #14 …

GET AWAY

No, I’m not suggesting you take a holiday this time of year (wouldn’t that be nice?). But I am reminding you that you need to leave the store for an hour or two each day. You need to go home and rest or go to a restaurant and have someone serve you.

This time of year we get in early, stay late, and always seem to be running errands whenever we leave the store. I know. I was part of that grind for twenty four years.

Unfortunately that is a recipe for disaster. If you work yourself too hard you will …

  • Learn to hate the holidays
  • Wear yourself out (often too soon)
  • Get so tired that you accidentally snap at a customer or staff
  • Ruin your health so that you miss out enjoying Christmas Day or New Year’s Day
  • Become so cranky your kids won’t like you

When I was young, my sister and I talked about how our “Christmas” dad was so far different than our friends’ “Christmas” dads. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

Every day take at least an hour break just for you.

No errands. No hiding in your office where they can find you. Get out of the store and try to relax.

Your store won’t implode if you’re gone for an hour (or if it will, then we need to talk about a little reorganization and maybe some staff training?). But you might implode if you don’t take those breaks.

The next ten days will be your busiest stretch of the year. Make sure you take care of yourself while you’re taking care of your customers. It makes the holidays so much more enjoyable.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Since I was working from 7am until 9pm I usually took a couple hours mid-afternoon. Often I would go home and nap. If that wasn’t possible, I would go to a restaurant and read the newspaper. That’s what got me through over two decades of holiday retail sales with my sanity (somewhat) intact.

PPS Put the calmest person on your team in charge. They keep everyone else calm, which keeps the fires to a minimum before you return.

Christmas Quick Tip #13 – Reload the Paper

In the interest of time, I’m keeping these posts short and sweet to quickly give you tips to make your season just a little bit better.

Here is tip #13 …

RELOAD THE PAPER

The next two Saturdays will likely be the two busiest days of your year. One thing we always did during this time of year was make sure we started out our busy days on the right foot.

We reloaded our cash registers and credit card machines with fresh rolls of paper.

Each night before a busy day we took off the half-used rolls and put on fresh ones. This way we were less likely to run out of paper during the day.

Sure, there were those awesomely busy days where we would go through more than one roll per register, but at least those outages came during peak staff times. Nothing looks more unprepared than to run out of paper on the fifth transaction of the day.

We would then use those half-used rolls of paper in January when business was a little slower.

It is a little thing, but it adds up. Reload the paper in your machines before your busy days. It helps.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Also check all your other supplies like staples in the stapler, ink pens that work, scratch pads and notebooks, a fresh “No List”, etc. Take five minutes on a Friday night and your Saturday will be that much better.

Christmas Quick Tip #11 – Catch Your Employees

Christmas is only two weeks away! This is a quick tip to fire up your staff for the final push.

Here is tip #11

CATCH YOUR EMPLOYEES DOING SOMETHING RIGHT

By now, if you trained them well, your newbies should be doing more right than wrong. Pay close attention to them over the next couple days. Find something they did exceptionally well and praise them for doing it.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Simply say …

  • I love how you handled …
  • You did a nice job with …
  • That was really nice how you …
  • You’ve really gotten a handle on …
  • You do (_________) so well!

“There are two things people want more than sex or money… recognition and praise.” -Mary Kay Ash

Give your veterans some love, too.

  • You’ve really stepped up at doing …
  • Thank you for (_________)
  • I’m so grateful for all you did to …
  • You are my rock star!

Build up your staff with praise and recognition and you’ll see their energies rise. 

It will give you the necessary momentum to finish these last two weeks strong.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Don’t stop at just catching them once. Whenever you see energy levels fading, pull out the praise card. It works wonders!

Christmas Quick Tip #9 – Empty Her Hands

This month’s blog posts are short and simple because you’re busy. They are also reminders of tips, techniques, and tools you can use to increase sales, increase profits, and increase customer delight. This tip does all three.

Here is tip #9

EMPTY HER HANDS

If you don’t have shopping carts or baskets, your customers are limited to buy only what they can carry. Therefore, it should be a mission for all of your team to help unburden your customers whenever their hands are full.

Offer to take her items up to the checkout station.

This is good for two reasons. First, it frees up her hands to shop for more items. Second, it helps close the sale because when she agrees to your request to take the items up front she is giving her implicit acknowledgement that she has decided to buy those items.

When her hands are free she will shop longer, buy more, and be happier.

Don’t believe me? Believe Paco Underhill. He researched it for decades and chronicled it in his book Why We Buy. If you haven’t read it, ask Santa to bring you a copy.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Come up with a system for your team when they bring items up front—put a sticky note with a name on the pile and/or have a designated place for piles—something that helps you keep piles organized so that the wrong items don’t go home with the wrong people.