Posts Tagged 'retail employees'

Time to Lift the Spirits of Your Store Staff

This time of year is many different things to many different people. Your ability to understand what this time of year means to your people in the field, and your ability to tune in and give them what they need, is critical to the success of your operation during this holiday season.

Retail people know that this season is huge for them. There is a better than average chance of them meeting and/or exceeding their sales budgets. To many, that means a better than average chance of earning commissions or bonuses. They know that they will see increased customer traffic. They probably have lots of inventory – great new novelty items in addition to increased quantities of other merchandise. They understand that this is an immense opportunity to contribute to the annual sales results for their store and their company. And they are looking forward to all of this.

Here are some of the things that they are not looking forward to:

  • Staff shortages due to insufficient hiring and illness, real or fabricated
  • Stock rooms bulging at the seams; aisles that cannot be used
  • Employee lunchrooms, and possibly even washrooms, taken over by excess inventory, bags and other supplies
  • Cranky shoppers
  • Extended hours of operation
  • Missing their family functions because they have to work
  • Emergency markdowns on top of emergency markdowns
  • Excessive Head Office requirements for reporting and visual presentation changes
  • Short breaks and long line-ups at the food court
  • Aching bones and muscles…particularly in their feet
  • Overwhelming fatigue day after day
  • The Boxing Day (Week) set-up that has to be finished on Christmas Eve
  • The H.O. visits that always finish with what has to be done/changed/improved instead of a pat on the back and a show of appreciation
  • Constant schedule changes because someone at H.O. (most probably someone who has not worked in that store) decided that they are under scheduled here and over scheduled there
  • Parking so far away from the mall entrance that they wish there was a bus available because their feet are sore

The list could go on and on, but you get the picture. If you have ever worked in a store during this time of year you may have some understanding of what the field staff are going through. If you haven’’t, …maybe it’s time you did just to gain the very valuable experience.


The Policy Manual

If you must have a policy manual, don’t let employees hide behind it!

It should go without saying that retail management and associates should never quote company policies and procedures to customers. However, as evidenced everyday in retail stores and call centres everywhere, it does need saying…and repeating… over and over….as my little story illustrates.

Just recently, in a mild dispute over some additional charges being levied on one of my mobile phone accounts, I was told in no uncertain terms that “It’s our company policy and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it.”  When I politely asked to speak with someone higher up in the organization I was told, again “It’s just our policy and, no matter who you talk to, you’re not going to get what you want.”

So, then, Company policy trumps everything? No matter who I talk to? Hmmm.

Although I highly doubt that the Customer Service Specialist (The title is quite funny, isn’t it?) was correct, I didn’t want to spend my time and energy debating the point…so I just cancelled the service and they will no longer have to concern themselves with this pesky customer! And they will no longer enjoy the revenue associated with my account.

Anyway, your company may have established policies and procedures to assist in the organized operation of the business; to help employees understand the way the organization operates; to help people do their jobs and to protect the company’s assets, reputation, etc.

They do not, and should not, exist to use as ammunition against customers.

If a customer specifically asks about the company policy on a particular topic, there’s no harm in answering provided it is something for public consumption and not a strictly internal or confidential matter.

But, when a customer challenges the way you do something, or the way you don’t do something, there’s no reason to hide behind a book. In fact, quoting company policy is just plain cowardly. It means you don’t have the training, depth of understanding or intelligence to deal with the issue…or the customer.

Anyway, just don’t do it. And don’t allow it to be done by anyone in your organization.

For those charged with producing the policy and procedure manual, it can be tricky. If you are too specific, you run the risk of slowing down the operation with bureaucratic nonsense and red tape. Not good. But if you are not specific enough, employees will come up with any number of different interpretations causing a distinct lack of consistency within the organization. Also, not good.

Here is what we suggest. Don’t bother with a manual or have a one-pager!

Ok, ok,  we understand that you probably will want to create something to be used as a guideline so, be specific as far as instructions go (meaning how to do something) but not so specific that you end up with hundreds of pages of boring reading…or you state things that border on ridiculous.

The truth is, to be really specific, you will be writing a never-ending book because you simply cannot cover off each and every possible scenario at store level.  Highly focused, customer service oriented organizations have it figured out.

If you absolutely must have a book…the key is to write it in such a way that it ensures the reader will understand the one common thread running throughout those parts which affect customers and that is….reasonableness. Make sure that there is no situation which would call for an unfriendly approach or negative result for the customer.
Now, you may say that what is reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to another. And that is true, of course.

But if your hiring and training practices are excellent AND your organizational culture includes a healthy respect for the customer, this should not be an issue. Like I mentioned above, highly focused, customer service oriented organizations have figured it out…and you can too.

All the Success!


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