Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Using Social Media to Listen to Customers

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

iconsFor a small business or retail store, “listening to customers” happens everyday. But as explored in the post “2 Reasons Why Store Managers Don’t Hear Their Customers” it may not be accurate. Truth is, there is real value in giving your customers multiple channels to engage in a dialog with you. With the advent of social media and the instant feedback loop of facebook, twitter, yelp and others it is possible to become aware of an issue and address it quickly in a way that can earn your store or business more respect than ever.

Some basic rules for engaging with a customer who provides feedback online are:

  • Always respond quickly. Negative and positive feedback should get the same urgent response. When a customer shares something positive, make sure to add a fun and humble response.
  • Thank customers for taking the time to make you aware of something. They didn’t have to and it means they still care if they are willing to try to engage with your brand online.
  • Don’t auto-respond: be brief, honest and respectful. Above all, be professional. Your responses will be online for months if not years into the future. Make sure you can turn off your emotions before responding.
  • Take disputes offline. If your customer is TRULY wrong, contact them privately to work out a compromise.

In the course of your business day, you may believe you are close enough to your customer to accurately anticipate what they want and need. A business person who believes that they completely understand their customer should ask themselves: if I don’t completely understand my spouse (or child, partner, parent, co-worker), how on earth could I believe that I completely understand all of my customers? Makes you think, right?

How Small Businesses Can Listen to Customers

Monday, May 18th, 2015

listeningThere is a wonderful quote that “the plural of anecdote is not data.” Too often retailer and other small business owners get snared into believing that a story or two that rises from the hundreds of customer encounters every day is a full and accurate reflection of customer feedback about their stores or business.

Net Promoter Scores (see our earlier post: Net Promoter – the Most Common Retail Listening Tool) prevent that but they are just the beginning to really understand the Voice of the Customer. To objectively understand how you are perceived in the marketplace, find out:

  • What do your best customers love about you?
  • What most frustrates your unsatisfied (past) customers?
  • How do your customers think about you differently than your competition?

For most managers, the only way to uncover these emotionally charged questions is to hire an objective third party to uncover the answers. Focus groups and intercept surveys are the most robust methods – but also expensive. At Delaney Consulting, we administer online surveys and other methods for uncovering honest customer feedback. Because it is human nature to overreact to negatives and under-react to positives, an outside firm like ours can help a management staff accurately gauge the appropriate responses that are required to elicit the kind of customer support everyone wants. Use caution when relying on internal communication to accurately judge customer feedback. Rarely is accurate data unearthed solely through employee feedback of “what customers are saying.”

Next Post: Using Social Media to Listen to Customers

Net Promoter – the Most Common Small Business Feedback Tool

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

CHCKLSTOne of the most common retail tools for collecting customer feedback is a “net promoter score.” The concept of net promoter is simple. Customers are asked whether they would recommend the store (or service) to friends and family on a scale of 0-10 . A score of 9-10 is a promoter. A score of 7-8 is neutral. A 6 score or below is a detractor. Subtract the detractor percentage from the promoter percentage and you have a “net” number: the Net Promoter Score.

Promoters are customers who are enthusiastic about your store or brand and will keep buying from you. These are loyal customers who drive growth over time through their positive “word of mouth” marketing to their network. Neutral customers are currently satisfied but constantly at risk to switch stores or brands. Detractors are unhappy customers who can damage sales and give your store or brand a bad reputation throughout their network.

A net promoter score is useful for doing more than capturing your customer’s feedback at one point in time. It is especially useful when comparing scores over time or across locations. Savvy retailers look at their net promoter scores during peak hours and non-peak hours to understand the possible degradation in customer service during busy hours. They compare net promoter scores by floor manager to understand which ones direct and lead staff in providing excellent customer service and which do not. Most large retailers, restaurant chains and service providers use net promoter scores.

Customers are incented to provide a net promoter score by either going to a website or a toll-free phone number for a “less than one minute” survey. In return for participating in the scoring, customers can usually win a gift card or a discount on a future purchase. Customers are typically notified of the survey through register receipt messaging or from store associates directly. There are dozens of Net Promoter providers that can be found online – many integrate seamlessly with the most popular POS platforms.

2 Reasons Why Store Managers Don’t Hear Their Customers

Monday, May 11th, 2015

listeningFor the store associate or manager who interacts with customers all day long, the idea of having to listen to their customers seems redundant. After all, listening to customers is what they do for their entire shift. But actively engaging with customers and distilling all of the voices into major themes is difficult. Honestly, most store associates “cannot see the forest for the trees” when it comes to listening to customers.

There are two reasons that store employees are too biased to be good listeners to their customers:

Recency: As humans, we are programmed to remember only the most recent things while the past becomes hazy. It is called the recency effect and it means that people tend to recall the most recent information about something above all else. When asked what customers think, we are most likely to only remember the customers of the past week and not remember past interactions well.

Reinforcement: Another human trait is to remember facts well that reinforce our own beliefs and discount facts that contradict our beliefs. Called the confirmation bias, it causes us to listen and recall information that supports our pre-existing attitudes and beliefs while selectively forgetting the uncomfortable information that challenges us. For example, if a store associate believes that the reason sales are down is because the prices in the store are too high, they are likely to retain all of the comments from customers complaining about the prices and not recall comments about trouble finding parking.

For those reasons, store managers need to put tools into place that can actively inquire about customer experiences and objectively report the findings.

Next Post: Net Promoter – the Most Common Retail Listening Tool

No Cost/Low Cost Rewards for Employees

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

giftcardAs a leader, you are expected to look for ways to keep people moving in a positive direction.  Great managers build morale, motivation and energy even as the team ratchets up their performance under stress.  We like to say “catch people at their best.”  Each day make an effort to find someone doing something right and make sure they know it.  As you give rewards, make sure the team connects that receiving in the reward recognizes that what they do matters.

Here are ideas for supporting people with no or little cost:

  • Talk is not only cheap – it is free.  But the right words can mean a lot. So simply telling people that you believe in them, that you support them and that you appreciate them can go a long way.  At the same time, let people know you have high expectations and keep them striving for improvement everyday.  Remember names and greet people by name when you see them.
  • Share your time.  Ask someone to lunch or coffee to listen to their ideas about how their job could be better or what they think the company needs to do next.  Really listen.  (Put down the iPhone.)
  • Have fun.  For teams that need to produce, blowing off some steam is a good way to crank up the adrenalin.  Before heading off to the sales or production floor, create a quick “Minute to Win It” challenge: Two people compete to see how many tissues they can pull out of a box, stack apples or bounce pencils on their eraser end into a cup in a minute.  With the right team dynamics, these events can breathe some fun into a stressed time.
  • If you have an onsite cafeteria, buy cards worth one free drink or a snack and hand them out to employees who are caught doing their job well.
  • Spray paint an old trophy (or make one that humorously represents your company) and make it a travelling trophy that gets passed on from winner to winner for representing great company spirit.  Ideas include pens epoxied into a pen cup and painted silver, an old telephone handset, a toy pipe wrench, a golden coffee mug or a spatula.
  • Remember families.  Buy inexpensive books at the dollar store and wrap them for employee’s children.  That can mean more than a gift for the employees themselves.  Consider writing a quick note inside the cover that says, “Your Dad (Mom) is great!  Thanks for sharing him with us.”
  • Give perks as rewards.  Let an employee start 15 minutes later than normal or give first choice in scheduling next year’s vacation.  Let the winner park in the president’s prime parking spot for a week.
  • Give movie tickets and an afternoon off to see the movie.
  • Give away car washes.
  • Give lotto tickets.
  • Say “thank you” – look them in the eye and mean it.
  • Create a contest where you do something unusual.  When the team reaches the sales goal; you will shave your head, shave your moustache, wear red fingernail polish, clean the company kitchen, unload the delivery truck, work the lunch rush, wear a sandwich board or any other unusual chore.

At the end of the day, it isn’t so much about how you celebrate success as much as genuinely appreciating the people in your workplace.  Any silly idea can become a tradition if there is sincerity behind the message and a sense of humor – even about yourself.

How to Delegate

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 6.00.40 PMLet employees know the outcome you expect and why it is important.  There is nothing more demoralizing than being given a task with no sense for why it matters.  Many managers spoon-feed projects instead of giving employees the perspective of the work they are doing.  For example: “We are going to repaint the interior columns to match the new corporate sign package and we need to clear off all the old signs and tape residue so they are prepped for the painters tonight.” sounds a great deal more reasonable than “Clear off those columns and scrape all the tape residue off them.”  Give employees context and a sense for why their tasks (however small) are important.  Without a frame of reference, delegated tasks can seem pointless.

Take time to inspect what you expect.  Delegating is not abdicating.  Your role is to hold people accountable for outcomes and then providing helpful feedback on how to deliver the outcomes more quickly, more consistently or more accurately.  Acknowledge good efforts and give people some level of safety to know they are able to improve through practice.  Conversely, be pointed and direct if work is not up to standards and repeat the training triangle with consequences, if necessary.

For managers who need to expand how much they can accomplish, the only reliable strategy is to delegate.  While delegating can feel like a loss of control, it is actually a better work balance that allows you to focus on what is critical and allows other capable people to contribute their talents more fully.

To leave behind a legacy of leadership – and not be a mere manager – delegating is essential.  With practice, you will become more comfortable delegating and your staff will recognize that you share responsibility and rewards.  It can become a way to boost productivity while keeping yourself sane.

When to Delegate

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 5.42.00 PMDelegating begins for an employee the first day on the job. Show them how to clock in, check the opening checklist for tasks to complete, demonstrate how to complete the tasks and then explain that you expect them to complete the same steps the next day.  Review their work the next day.  Then move to the next routine activity: accepting inventory deliveries, counting backroom stock, stocking shelves, assisting with phone orders.  Whatever the activity, teach and then stand back and let your “student” learn. (The training triangle.)

For more seasonal items, take the time to document your steps.  Create a checklist and use it to train staff as well as to guide the seasonal work.  Allow yourself time to answer questions and to provide helpful feedback.

And remember, once delegated, do not take the task back.  If it is not being completed to your standards, re-communicate your expectations. Then help your staff understand the standards, where they are falling short, how it is inspected or measured and give a closed-end time frame to meet standard and the consequences of not meeting the standards.  Take emotion out of delegating the task and measuring its completion. Reward great work.

What to Delegate

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 5.49.26 PMGreat managers know how to focus on what is important.  They stay focused, not just busy.  I like to advise mangers struggling with delegation to use this simple 2X2 grid to map out their TO-DO list.  Items that are in the upper right quadrant should get a manager’s attention.  Easy items to delegate are in the upper left quadrant.  Even items in the lower right quadrant can be delegated, especially if there are several steps involved such as researching alternatives or testing several variations.  Frankly, items in the lower left quadrant should be dropped.  If they are not important for a customer or a regulation, there is no reason to do them.  Those are the “busy” items that prevent people from focusing on the most impactful activities.

Simple? Yes.  Powerful? Absolutely.

How to Move Marketing Messages In Store

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

DCF 1.0It is difficult ensuring that marketing communication is shared with everyone so that they know what messages are happening outside the store and  how they are supposed to support those messages within their role. The wrong time for store associates to find out about online coupons or special pricing is once a customer brings it to their attention. A coordinated communication plan is as important to delivering an excellent experience to your customers as any other operational plan. If your store associates know the steps to opening, closing, and stocking the store, they also need to have an operational system to support them learning about the active marketing campaigns in the market.

Begin with a marketing board in the backroom that is updated with all advertising in the marketplace.  Include online offers and customer loyalty campaigns as well.  Clearly highlight the start and end dates for each offer.  Keep the board up to date.

Then, make sure marketing offers, prices and brand issues are included in every staff meeting.  Talk about WHY it is important – not just what to do.  Take your staff through the customer sequence in this article by first asking them if there is a brand of something that they buy automatically (cigarettes, shampoo and coffee are good places to start.)  Or ask them to recommend a place for lunch and WHY.  Explain that the evangelist customer becomes an advocate of the brand when they have gone through the journey and tie how their job supports that journey.  And talk about being the brand and living your brand promise at every staff meeting.  Every. Single. One.

Select a store associate who is in need of new challenges and delegate marketing communication to that person.  Ask them to do half of the staff meeting updates. (Do not have them do it all – or it will quickly seem like it is not important to you.)  Make them the first stop for staff questions about marketing.

Finally, to be clear about the importance of the brand experience in store, put measurements in place.  Your staff will begin to adjust and understand when you consistently share measurements that show the results of their efforts.  Begin with basics.  If you are concerned about sharing actual numbers, you can share percent change versus year ago numbers to begin.  Track the percent of transactions that included promotional items.  Measure a rolling twelve-month customer count or transaction count.  If you have the ability to segregate promotions, you can even show them the impact of specific promotions such as percent of transactions with a coupon or a loyalty program.  There is an old adage in management that what gets measured, gets done.  Show your team that the outcomes are being measured.

It is your role to coordinate the customer experience so your business can succeed.  Because the brand promise really happens “on the front line” – in every interaction between your personnel and your customers.  A brilliant advertising campaign or a highly successful online presence can be sunk if the brand promise is not evident in each store encounter.  Whether or not you choose to use this model and advice in running your business, the truth is that your customers are always on a journey. It is up to you to make sure the journey arrives at your store.

Why Checklists Create Great Stores

Friday, March 29th, 2013

CHCKLSTThe advantage to creating opening, closing, weekly and monthly checklists is that you can use them as tools for helping you manage your staff well.  They become the basis of training.  You can “certify” employees on each step on the checklist as they move from part-time employees to full-time managers.  The steps in the checklist graduate in responsibility and become the basis to rationalize a variety of pay levels as employees gain mastery of each checklist component.

Similarly, checklists provide documentation for accountability.  It is easier to have performance discussions with employees when you can review accurate and timely checklist tasks completed.  Or, in the case of poor performance, when you can review missing checklist items.  As with all management tools, the key is to consistency and uniformly applying it with all employees.  Managers who use checklists in this manner will find it easier to communicate priorities and provide baselines for improvement.

Checklists can also help in creating store staff meetings.  You can choose to concentrate on key items or rotate through the items as you ensure that everyone is aware of management priorities and expectations.  Include sales goals and you quickly have your agenda for a staff meeting completed.

Every well-run store uses checklists to ensure consistency and smooth operations.  A store with a routine of checklists will have happier employees who understand what is expected of them and are well prepared for the day’s operations.  Poorly-run stores fatigue employees with constant fire drills that could have been prevented with proper preparation. Adhering to checklists keeps operational fire drills to a minimum.  Using a check list every day and every week keeps maintenance costs down, improves customer service levels and makes for a more enjoyable working and shopping environment. Just don’t forget the last step: SMILE.