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.
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.
Keeping it short and simple for the busy holiday season, this next tip may seem minor, but at the end of the day you’ll thank me.
Here is tip #8
CHANGE YOUR SHOES AND SOCKS
This time of year retailers spend for more time on their feet and far more time running back and forth than any other time of the year. By the end of the day your feet are killing you.
Two things you can do to help your feet get through this busy season are:
Change your socks midday
Alternate the shoes you wear
I used to keep a pair of socks in my office. During the Christmas season when I was working 7am to 9pm I would often change my socks in the late afternoon. Just that one act alone made my feet feel refreshed and gave me a little more spring in my step.
Not only was that good for me, it was good for my customers. It is hard to hide foot pain when interacting with other people. Like I said before, your last customer deserves the same level of enthusiasm as your first customer.
Alternating shoes is another way to keep your feet fresh. It gives your foot a different feel because different shoes work the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in different ways.
Encourage your employees working those long shifts to do the same. They will thank you. Their feet will thank you.
PS My routine was to buy quality shoes with, comfy, supportive inserts, change my socks frequently, and switch between my dress shoes and my tennis shoes regularly. At night I would sprinkle baby powder into my shoes to help them dry up and smell fresh by morning. This tip won’t show up in any book on customer service, but it will affect your bottom line when you have more energy to work with those late-in-the-day customers.
Of all the Christmas Quick Tips I will give you, this one will be the hardest to master and quite possibly the most rewarding when you and your team do master it …
Here is tip #7
LEAD WITH THE BEST
Your customer is looking for solutions. Yes, at this time of year we call them gifts, but at the end of the day, they are really solutions to problems.
When you offer suggestions, unless the customer has given you a price range right up front, ignore price altogether and start by showing the best solution you have.
It doesn’t have to be the most expensive. It just has to make the most sense.
The tendency of most retail salespeople is to sell from your own pocketbook and start by offering the cheapest solution. That doesn’t win hearts (or build profits). You can use the cheapest solution as the fallback when they balk at the price of the best solution, but always lead with the best.
A customer will expand his or her budget if the product offered truly fits her needs.
You are a solution provider. Your job is to provide the best possible solution first. Then the customer can decide what she’s willing to compromise to fit her budget.
Teach your team that goal number one is to solve the problem in the best way possible. Always lead with the best.
PS Never open with the question, “What’s your budget?” First, they almost always lowball you well below what they would actually spend for the right product. Second, it pigeonholes you and often keeps you from showing her the right product. She’ll tell you when it’s out of her league, and you can adjust your offerings from there.
PPS Some of my favorite stores have successfully talked me into buying a more expensive item than I planned. I love those stores because in each case the solution was worth the expenditure. On the flip side, there are stores I won’t visit again because they tried to upsell me something that wasn’t the bestsolution to my problem. Always lead with the BEST.
Keeping it short and sweet, here is another simple, easy tip you and your team can do to make the holiday experience a better one for your customers.
GIVE THE COINS BACK FIRST
If you’re a regular, you know this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. It shows both a lack of caring and a lack of training when the cashier hands me the bills first and then dumps the loose change onto my already occupied hand. The coins inevitably spill and now I’m wasting time on my hands a knees for a couple dimes.
The best thing you can do is teach your staff to “Count Back” the change.
The second best thing you can do is to at least have them place the coins in the customer’s hands first, followed by the bills.
Please, please, please teach and do this. Not only will you avoid those awkward hands-and-knees moments, you’ll subconsciously make your customer’s day (or in my case, you would consciously make my day and I would probably let out a rebel yell of joy!)
PS Yes, I do think it is a big deal. There are little things that have bigger meaning. This is one of training and caring. A cashier taught the right way instills far more confidence than one who is bumbling around and making you drop stuff.
Since your time is tight, now through December 21st I’m keeping these blog posts short and simple with tips, tools, and techniques that make a difference.
Here is tip #5
START CLOSING AT CLOSING TIME
Yes, you’re tired. Yes, these are long days and you want to go home. Yes, waiting until closing time to wash the counters, count the change, empty the wastebaskets, etc. will make you have to stay a few minutes later.
Yes, your last customer of the day deserves the same enthusiasm as your first customer of the day.
Make it taboo for anyone on your team to mention how tired they are. This is your moment to make hay. This is what your whole year has been built around. You’re supposed to be tired at the end of the day. Just don’t let it show.
Treat the last customers with the same enthusiasm as the first customers. Don’t go around the store closing things down and making them feel unwelcome. Instead think of them as the icing on your sales cake and give them the red carpet treatment.
Even if you have to fake it.
It not only pays now with bigger sales at the end of the day, it pays down the road as a customer treated well is more likely to come back than a customer treated like a nuisance.
PS I was guilty of this far too often. It is the one mistake I wish I could go back in time to fix. Yes, they are long days for you. Have you ever considered it has also been a long day for your customer? Treat her with kindness and enthusiasm and not only do you get the sale, you just might make her day.
For the rest of the Christmas season I am keeping these blogs short and simple with one tip, tool, or technique you and your team can use to make this season rock!
Here is tip #4 …
NEVER SAY NO
You are going to be asked quite often for products you don’t have. Either you’re out-of-stock or you don’t carry that product (or maybe you’ve never heard of it).
When the store is busy and you have other customers waiting to be helped, it is easy to simply say No and move on to a customer you can help.
Resist the urge.
Train yourself and your staff to Never Say No. Try out these phrases instead …
I have some coming in soon. Can I arrange to have it sent to you as soon as it comes in?
Are you looking for that particular item, or can I show you something similar?
We prefer this brand instead (be direct)
What are you hoping to do with that item? (if you know this isn’t just meant to be a gift)
Can you show me what it is? (if you’ve never heard of the item)
All of these phrases are conversation starters. Often a customer is looking for a specific item because she doesn’t know alternatives exist or she has an idea in her head and can only think of one solution. When you start the conversation, sometimes you find better solutions than the one she asked for.
PS Here’s another tool I stole from a fellow toy store owner. Create a “No List.” Put it on a clipboard up front. Every time an employee gets asked for a product you don’t have or a service you don’t offer, write it on the No List. If one thing ends up on that No List several times, you should consider selling that item or offering that service. Your customers already think you would.
You’re busy. I’m busy. Our customers are busy. So in the interest of time, I’m keeping all the posts from now through Christmas short and sweet.
Here is tip #3
SIGN THEM UP BEFORE CHECKOUT
If you have a loyalty program, birthday club, or email list that you normally ask customers to join, you need to get in the habit of doing that long before they get to check out.
By the time the customer gets to checkout, they are in a hurry to leave. Anything you do then to slow down the line is an aggravation and leaves a bad taste in their mouth. They are not in a sharing mood then.
The best time to sign someone up is duringthe sales process. Not only are they in a friendlier mood, they are in less of a hurry and more willing to say yes.
Once you get them to say yes to your program, you make closing the sale that much easier.
Now is a good time to farm for your lists. Hire a seasonal person to wander your store with a tablet and/or clipboard and sign people up for your loyalty/birthday/email list. You’ll get more takers, close more sales, and keep your registers humming at optimal speed.
PS If you don’t have enough salespeople to have them all doing this job as part of their sales process, hiring a seasonal person for this will more than pay for itself down the road. Plus it gives you one more person on the floor to direct customers where to go and deter shoplifters.
We had two warehouses in our store. We called them “Warehouse #3” and “Warehouse #5” Yeah, I know.
Those names actually made sense based on our phone paging system. The first warehouse was button number 3 on our phone system. The second warehouse – created when the store expanded in 1972 – was button number 5 in the system.
Since the front line staff called those warehouses as often as they visited them, the names made sense.
We also had six numbered doors on the back side of the building. Door #5 was where we sent customers to pick up large, bulky items like Little Tikes and Step2 products or baby furniture. Door #5 was located in Warehouse #5.
A long time ago all of our warehouse aisles were also numbered. Because of reconfigurations, only one aisle number remained. You guessed it … Aisle #5.
Aisle #5 was in Warehouse #3. Aisle #5 was the “junk draw” of the Toy House. All the shelving odds and ends ended up in Aisle #5. When something needed to be put back in the warehouse temporarily, it went to Aisle #5.
My new staff regularly was.
Every year I would ask my staff for a new name for Aisle #5. I would even have been happy with “junk drawer.” But every year they said don’t change it. It will be too confusing.
There are still people in town who call the mall on the north end of town Paka Plaza even though it changed its name to Jackson Crossing twenty-eight years ago!
We are resistant to change. We don’t like change. We cling to the old even after change happens.
So how do you change the things that need to be changed?
Tweaks are easy. Explain why the change is better/easier/faster/more-customer-friendly and everyone will jump on board fairly quickly.
Wholesale changes need buy-in.
Wholesale changes need key employees leading the charge or being the cheerleaders for the change. You need your managers and assistant managers on board. You need your veterans on board.
If you need to make wholesale changes such as completely revamping a policy, changing your hours and/or days of operation, or adding in a new POS system, you need to identify your key people, not by their role (manager, assistant, etc.) but by their likely position regarding the change. You need to know …
Who will be most resistant to the change
Who the change will affect the most
Who will be the most happy for the change
Unless change is a constant in your particular business, your elder statespeople will most likely be the keepers of the we’ve-always-done-it-this-way flame. You need to sit down with one or two of them and have a conversation before you announce the change. In that conversation, don’t ram the new way down their throats. Instead focus on the problems the old way causes. Get them to buy-in on the old way being “broken” first and they’ll be much more open to new ideas.
The employees most affected by this change are your next group. You don’t have to meet with them before (although it helps to have a similar conversation like you had with the previous group), but you do need to meet with them after you announce the change. You need to sit down with them and tell them you understand how much more difficult this change will be for them than the others. You need to tell them what you’re planning to do for them to help them through the transition.
The third group is who you want to call on when you announce the change. Get them to give their input right away and their positivity will infect the rest of your group. They will become your head cheerleaders.
Follow this blueprint and you will have much quicker and better buy-in by your team. You’ll still have some trials and tribulations. You might have an employee or two who won’t adapt well to the change. You might even have to fire someone over this.
You will likely also have a dip in productivity while you go through the transition to the new procedure. That’s okay and expected. You’re in business for the long run, remember?
The right changes now will keep you in the game long enough to wonder why people still remember what you did twenty-eight years ago.
PS We changed computers and cash registers once on my watch. We changed hours several times including being open Sundays year-round. We changed closing procedures, too. We even closed for three days to totally revamp, renovate, and relocate every product, shelf, computer, and cash register in the store. The more I followed the above blueprint, the better each change happened.
I had a gal on my staff a few years ago who was a hugger. She hugged me when I hired her. She hugged me when I changed her position from seasonal to permanent. She hugged me when I encouraged her to pursue her dream job. She hugged me when that didn’t work out and she came back to work for me.
I had no problem hugging her back.
In today’s #metoo world that might not be such a safe position. Hugging your staff, especially your female staff if you are a male boss, is probably a no-no.
But I had no problem hugging her back because to her, the hug validated her and made her feel appreciated. (Plus, if I were to need a defense, she did initiate the hug.)
Each person on my team had a different way of feeling appreciated.
Some needed words of encouragement. I would heap praise on them whenever I could. I knew a kind, affirming word here and there would rock their world, and they would, in turn, rock the customers’ worlds.
A couple of my staff members needed a little “token” of appreciation. I’d pass along a freebie or two their way, knowing that it was as equally powerful as the hug was to my hugger in terms of making them feel appreciated.
One person in particular just needed my time. This person needed me to just listen, just be there. My ear was her way of feeling appreciated.
Those of you who are familiar with Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages probably have already recognized what I’m talking about. In this book Chapman claims that there are five different ways we show and receive love:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
He calls them our Love Languages. Each of us has a primary language we receive love and a primary language we show love (sometimes the same language, but not always). Knowing the language of my staff made it easier for me to show them Appreciation (love) in a way they would best receive it.
The purpose of the book is to help couples understand how to show love to each other. If you show love in a different language than your partner, if you don’t learn to speak his or her language, he or she might never feel the love you actually have.
As a boss, however, it also helps you learn how to show Appreciation.
According to Daniel H. Pink in his book Drive, what motivates your staff is Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. But what creates loyalty and happiness and job satisfaction is Appreciation. We all have a basic need to feel loved and appreciated.
If you manage people and haven’t read those two books, I know what Santa needs to get you for Christmas.
PS Yes, some of my staff received Appreciation through Acts of Service. Fortunately for me, that was how I best showed love, so it was easy to appreciate those members of the team. Knowing that, you now know why I write this blog and give away so much on the Free Resources page. It is my way of showing love.
PPS No, I wouldn’t use The 5 Love Languages for hiring purposes. While it would seem that having a team that all spoke Acts of Service would be a good thing, remember that your customers speak all five of the languages. It is good to have a team fluent in several languages.
While I know I should probably avoid the drive-thru restaurants, I don’t. I go even though I don’t particularly like the drive-thrus. It isn’t the food. It is the experience, or more accurately the final moments of the experience.
Two things happen far too often at the end of a drive-thru experience that shouldn’t. One is partially my fault. One is simple training that would make the experience far more pleasurable.
Don’t you just hate when they give you your change?
They always stack the bills on your hand first and then drop a wad of coins on top of those bills. My only hope is that when the coins start sliding off (as they always do), they will slide into my vehicle and not on the ground.
The second problem is making sure I got the right stuff. I don’t want to hold up the line so I rarely ever check the bag. Sometimes they are polite enough to tell me what they are handing me. Sometimes they aren’t.
Yesterday, however, I found a third reason to be annoyed.
This picture is the dollar bill I got in change for my meal yesterday. I actually flattened it out some for the picture. It was pretty crumpled. I was afraid to put it into my wallet.
All I could think about as I drove away was why wasn’t this drive-thru cashier instructed to put the nasty, slimy, crumpled, torn, barely readable dollar bills at the bottom of the stack and only give out the good ones as change?
You do that, don’t you?
If there was anything I was OCD about at Toy House, it was clean dollar bills in the drawer. Every morning when I counted out the drawers I held back the nasty ones for the deposit and put the clean ones in the drawers. I used to beg the teller at the bank to give me the clean bills whenever I bought bundles of ones. (She used to hold the better bundles aside just for me—that’s customer service!)
It seems like a silly, minor thing, but it is those little details that set you apart from your competition.
Your customers won’t notice you did it, but sometimes the best customer service is doing something nice they don’t notice rather than having them flame you on Yelp for something not so nice they did notice.
Teach your staff to give back the right kind of change the right way. It quietly makes a difference.
PS Oh, I would love to go into a fast food joint and whip them into shape. After giving back change, the other thing I would teach them to do is to put the lettuce in the sandwich, not in the outer folds of the wrapper. I would have taken that picture of me becoming a salad yesterday if I wasn’t driving.
PPS I was in a Chick-fil-A restaurant once where the cashier handed me back change the right way. It was so refreshing that I had to thank her. She said it was the way she was taught. See? It can be taught. While that isn’t the only reason why an average Chick-fil-A restaurant does over three times in sales of the average KFC, staff training is definitely a major contributing factor.