Just Bring Me More!
I have a friend who runs a small retail business that is not doing
as well as it could. He often blames the mall in which the business
is located for not advertising enough, the overall condition of
his marketplace, or his customers for not wanting to spend any money.
However, having been a friend and customer of his for many years,
I can see that these conditions are not the primary reasons for
his limited success; the solutions are much more involved than simply
bringing more customers to the counter.
When you ask the question, "What area of my business would
I most like to
improve?" the typical answer is, "Just bring me more customers!"
You don't find yourself thinking, "I would like to improve
my ability to properly train my employees, so they can better serve
our customers," or, "I would like to improve the look
and effectiveness of
my facility from a merchandising standpoint." And you typically
do not look at improving customer service and communications. It
is always just more customers.
In the consulting side of our business, this is the improvement
operators most often request during an initial consultation: Just
bring me more customers. While this would certainly improve that
month's cash flow, the issue really should be looked at with the
question: How are existing customers being handled? Bringing more
customers to a business that doesn't properly handle and develop
the customers it currently has only serves to process customers
through a business transaction. The simple fact that a transaction
occurs does not assure the customer will ever return for future
products or services. So is "bring more customers" really
the answer? Let's look at some other issues that need to be addressed,
before we bring more customers to the business.
Looking at how customers are being handled and developed when they
come to a business involves three primary elements: the employees
they are served by, the facility they come to, and the service they
FIRST: THE EMPLOYEES
Who are they? Are they the best you could find? Are they clean
cut and do they appear to be motivated to help the customer? Are
they friendly and engaging with the customer? Are they well-trained
and do they have a thorough understanding of their job and how to
best accomplish the objectives for each and every customer?
SECOND: THE FACILITY
Is the facility clean and well-merchandised? Does the appearance
and cleanliness of the facility speak of quality and organization?
Is the customer restroom spotless? Is the facility comfortable for
the customer and are the proper amenities available? What printed
messages are the customers exposed to, and do those messages support
informing and educating the customers? When it comes to the service
side, are the correct levels of inventory available so the service
can be properly and completely done and so that a
customer wishing to make a purchase can do so?
THIRD: THE SERVICE
The components related to service are certainly the most important
and the most challenging. This includes not just the types of services
you have available and how well you provide the physical service,
but also how customers feel while they are receiving the service.
Here are some specific questions to ponder: How are the customers
greeted? What is the presentation of your business and the primary
service you offer? Again, does "friendly and engaging"
describe how your customer is approached? Once the customer's car
is in service, what
happens to make the customer feel welcomed in the business? What
opportunities are presented to customers allowing them to purchase
additional products and services they may need? Are additional products
and services viewed by you and your employees as an opportunity
to "sell" something, or are they viewed as an opportunity
to help customers properly care for their car? Are these add-ons
My friend, and often our clients, tells me about how much his customers
complain and how you can never please customers. For those of you
who know my feeling on the subject of customer complaints, I need
not say anything more than, "complaints are gifts." Statistics
indicate that 80 percent of customers will not complain openly.
Instead, they will just take their business elsewhere and never
tell you why. This is a very scary thought to any retailer. The
vast majority of customers who do complain do so because they would
like to see you improve upon the thing they are complaining about
so they can continue to be a customer. They believe that you care
and want to see results in return. Complaints should be viewed as
an opportunity to improve an aspect of the business. Having a customer
complaint is much more productive than the customer just not ever
coming back, wouldn't you agree? If customers are complaining, don't
take it as a personal attack; think of it as someone taking his
or her time to provide you with valuable feedback you can use to
make your business better.
While bringing more customers to your business may be the ultimate
goal of a marketing initiative, it may not be the place to start
when you are trying to improve your overall business performance.
Look at all the components of your business and make sure that the
customers who are already coming to your business are receiving
the proper level of care. In doing so you will assure that you retain
a high level of loyal customers. You will also find that new customers
who are added to your customer base will come back for more - and
will tell their friends.
Joseph Rosales is the founder and president of Performance Resources
Inc., a full-service consulting and training company specializing
in the care car industry. To contact Joseph, or to learn more about
the services that PRI offers, call (800) 268-9899, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org,
or visit the company's web site at www.performancepros.com.