So in the last few days, Supermarket giants Asda and Sainsbury’s have announced they are in advanced talks about a merger that will create the biggest supermarket group in the UK. It’s exciting times for customers and the companies alike as we wait to see what this merger will produce. But for many retailers out there in 2018, it has been less than exciting.
Toys R Us have closed their doors after 70 years. Maplin sits in limbo desperate for a buyer. Food and drink chains have gone to the wall with debts of millions, expanding too fast and in the hope that things will get better. The high street in many towns and cities is starting to look like a ghost town. Shoppers leaving in their droves and those that are left blaming anything from Amazon to Brexit to higher wages (damn those employees!) to business rates. Whilst they genuinely have a part in why the retail industry is where it is, it’s forming a smoke screen as to what is really going on, and that my friend is very little. Because no-one seems to have the fight in them. Which seems silly really as there is still and always will be a desire for people to buy from actual people. Yes, our lives are made easier by technology, but rather than resist it, businesses should embrace it as an additional offering to the human core offering which can be, should be and has to be the main point of difference. Websites and technology can’t replicate genuine human customers service skills and human creativity.
So if you’re a retailer or a restaurant owner, here are 5 quick tips as to how to embrace the human part of the businesses you run, before it gets to an accountant ‘restructuring’ the business for you*.
1. Don’t just do health and safety training and expect the colleagues to be able to speak to people. One of the biggest things that pisses me off are businesses that see the health and safety training as more important than training their staff to do the right thing for their customers. Yes, health and safety are important, quite rightly, but unless you have colleagues that can look after your customers the right way, every time, you won’t have a business to worry about how many boxes people should be lifting at any one time. Top quality, excellent and creative customer service is a key building block in a business success. So spend as much time and as much money on customer service training with the same amount of mindfulness to the outcome for your business as you would health and safety.
2. Involve your colleagues. In one of my retail postings, I took over a store that was deep in trouble. It was in bits. Low morale, high sickness rates, crap sales and way too much stock in the warehouses and not enough on the shop floor. For the first few days, I did the basics as I was required to do, but spent time asking the colleagues what exactly was wrong. It began to do more than scratch the surface. Asking the questions around “why” really started to drive to the heart of what was wrong. Why do we do it this way? Why do you do this? Why has it always been this way? Things, people, situations and trends evolve…systems sometimes don’t. The biggest killer of ANY business is the phrase “We’ve always done it that way.” Your colleagues probably have some of the best ideas to drive sales and growth…it’s just that many don’t ask.
3. Serve a customer like it’s the first time you’ve ever served them. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just make the customer feel special. Give them a great experience. It’s what people want. Lately, Debenhams and House of Fraser have come in for fierce criticism around its customer service being ‘patchy’ around the country. So is it any wonder both are struggling to attract their ideal customers and clients? One of the best customer service examples in their niche is that of John Lewis. Always striving to be better and take point number 2 to the core of their business. Your customers are special…because they have the choice to go elsewhere…never forget!
4. Ask the customers what they actually want. Sir Terry Leahy recounts in his book the ’10 Rules of Management’ that he began Tesco’s accession by putting together listening groups asking their customers exactly what they wanted from their supermarket. He implemented a majority of things on that list and Tesco’s became the giant it is today. When was the last time you asked your custom era what you could do better or what they really want from you? if you don’t you’re leaving thousands of pounds on the table every week.
5. Remember you are a problem solver. Every business is a problem solver. From a solicitor to a supermarket. They solve customers problems. When I ask people what problems they solve, they will usually give me three on the bounce. Great! The only problem is, is that the others in your sector or niche probably say the same. So what other problems do you solve for your customers and how can you use this to help your customers, attract new ones and make money at the same time?
These are just five basic ways to start ‘upping the anti’ in the retail and restaurant game. Striving to be better from the bottom, without debt-laden risky ideas. There is a way to grow the retail sector. There is a way to save it. It’s how much you really want it…
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can talk to you about how I can help your colleagues grow your business now.
*Restructuring really means how many staff we can get rid of, strip it to the bare bones. I would suggest that the horse has already bolted by this point as accountants don't generally help with marketing, selling, customer service or any of those bits that make retail stores and restaurants actual money. Just saying x