Retailing is a challenging business, and sometimes you may wish for less demanding customers, more motivated employees, and more cash in the bank. Granting these wishes means work, and as a small business owner you need to be a natural optimist in the world of big box retail, but also a realist. If you don’t take the necessary steps in creating business procedures, training staff and meeting customer needs, all the things you want to go right will go wrong. It is crucial to have a plan of action to solve the common business problems you are likely to face on a daily basis. While you may not be able to prevent all mistakes and misunderstandings, it is your job as the store owner to try and prevent any mishaps directly under your control. For instance, when customers call and your hold line says, “Your call is very important to us,” is that the real message your customers are receiving? Or, if a customer enters your store and sees the slogan, “The customer is always right,” they may wonder if they really are right, and if a store owner will be willing to steer them in the right direction if they aren’t. However, does avoiding customer calls or directing customers to online resources, rather than providing one on one communication, really help your bottom line?
Following are a few crucial elements to keep in mind, when confronted with a difficult or problematic situation in your place of business:
1) Clearly Define a Resolution Process. Customers feel much better about the issue-resolution process when they have a sense of what to expect from start to end, including a clear sense of how to provide feedback.
2) Personalize Service. During any part of the purchasing process, customers like to feel as though the store owner and staff understands them and their problem. When employees demonstrate empathy and concern for the matter at hand and are courteous and knowledgeable, it improves the customer’s perception of the process.
3) Scrutinize Complaints. Pinpoint who is complaining, such as new accounts or long time customers, and what their concerns are. Look for patterns of customer frustration, and look harder for common threads, if the issues seem dispersed. Deal with sources of the complaints, which may mean correcting the behavior of an offending employee, reorganizing a dysfunctional department, or educating your entire team on the right way to promote a new line to existing customers.
4) Perceive Shortcomings. Think about manipulation in the past, times that defensiveness overruled reason, and other troubling moments, as these interactions represent the core of an employee’s personality, not the rough edges. Let employees know that you realize that mistakes will happen, but cover-ups and denials are unacceptable.
These steps are a sampling of what it takes to resolve everyday business predicaments. Together, they are overwhelming. Individually, they can be tackled. Clarity in what your responsibilities are as a store owner, and the procedures to handle unavoidable mishaps, will allow you to manage your business for the results you want: happy and loyal customers, well-trained employees and MORE cash.