Retailing 130: The Consistency Principle
What’s the secret ingredient to making customers happy and selling more products?
It isn’t sexy and it certainly isn’t high-tech. In fact, it’s downright basic. But “consistency” is the secret ingredient to making your customers happy, improving your close rate, and increasing your sales. By consistency, we mean in everything you do: retail store environment, store operations, service delivered by your sales associates and stringers, etc.
Retail forecasters and consultants agree that in the not so distant future, there will be two types of brick-and-mortar retailers, no matter what the size: Those that are highly automated and rely on technology to provide exceptional levels of self-service, and those that are focused on people and use technology as a tool in providing extraordinary levels of personal service.
The latter is where specialty tennis retailers will live and prosper — by making a commitment to customer service professionals who are hard-wired to provide consistently high levels of individual service — because they want to serve and want to learn how to improve their customer-service skills and the consistency of their delivery.
No matter how large or small your retail business, recruiting and hiring customer service professionals starts with a hiring-smart methodology, to ensure the ultimate in consistency.
How To Hire Smart
The first step is making the hiring process as objective as possible, which means constantly recruiting and using written job descriptions and online assessments before doing a first interview, then doing an online background check before doing a second interview conducted by at least two managers who have to agree before a job offer is made. A consistent and objective hiring-smart procedure ensures a higher percentage of good hiring decisions of customer-service naturals.
Consistent store operations means putting in writing the way you want your retail store to be operated. Even customer-service pros can stray off course or get lax if they don’t know what you — the store owner — expects of them, whether you are physically present in the store, or not. So, write down what you expect from every employee. Include how you want every shopper to be treated and the quality of the service you expect every employee to extend to every customer.
Put your expectations into a three-ring binder, call it your store operating manual, and make sure you use it as the text for staff meetings and education sessions. Make sure each employee either has his own copy or has easy access to a copy.
Believe it or not, there are small retail businesses that give bonuses or other incentives to staff without any performance goals or measurements in place; as long as the employee shows up for work, they receive their incentive. This will not achieve consistent levels of customer service, and in some cases, it can promote just the opposite.
Establishing group incentives that pay out after the store’s revenue and profit objectives have been achieved will lead to consistent operations and employee behavior and to consistently high levels of customer service and close rates. In other words, pay incentives to your staff out of the incremental increase your store makes after it has made the revenue and profit increases you budgeted for based on consistent operations — and not before!
Constantly measuring customer service satisfaction also is an effective tool for maintaining staff performance and overall store productivity. Mystery shopping can be a constructive measure of consistent customer service, as long as the results are regularly shared with staff as learning experiences and tools.
Building customer satisfaction surveys into your store’s check-out and exit procedure will provide constant feedback. Lastly, a customer satisfaction survey on your website provides 24/7 access for customers to provide feedback on how well your store and staff are doing.
Consistency in everything you and your staff does that touches your customers is truly the secret ingredient to making and keeping customers happy and driving your specialty tennis retail business.
This is part of a series of retail tips presented by the Tennis Industry Association and written by the Gluskin Townley Group gluskintownleygroup.com)