Tips and Tools for Retailers
Thoughtful retailers of every size across every category are starting to measure traffic and conversion rates in their stores to manage their businesses better by selling more and spending less. To determine if you are making all the sales you can, you must start with traffic. Knowing how many visitors come to your store is one of the most basic and important measures in retailing. You might think that because you run a smaller boutique, and you’re in your store virtually every day serving your loyal clientele, you don’t need to measure traffic. You instinctively know the traffic patterns in your store—quieter in the mornings, busier at lunch, busiest on Saturdays. So, really, what is a precise traffic count going to do for you? A lot. Above all, traffic count defines your sales opportunity. If 50 people visit your store on a given day, the best you could possibly do is 50 sales, assuming everyone who visited actually made a purchase. If you want to know what is truly possible, you need to measure your traffic because gut instincts aren’t good enough.
Almost without fail, when retailers, even small retailers, see the actual traffic volume in their stores, they are shocked by how much higher actual traffic counts are compared to what they thought their traffic was. It’s not hard to understand why. When the store gets busy, you and your staff are preoccupied serving customers and you lose sight of who is coming in the store. Electronic traffic counters capture the counts that you miss. Your store’s sales opportunity is probably bigger than you think, and counting traffic will help you quantify it. Not only is your traffic opportunity likely bigger than you think, it is constantly changing. Consider all the things that can impact store traffic: seasonality, customer demographics, the competitive landscape, your advertising and promotions, and even the weather. That’s why it is important to continuously measure traffic.
Transaction counts are not the same as traffic counts
Some retailers simply count the number of sales transactions they do in a day and call it their customer count. On the surface, this makes sense. After all, isn’t the number of paying customers the count that matters most? These counts do matter but transaction counts only represent the people who visited and made a purchase, not those who came in, looked around and left without buying. These non-buyers are an important group because they represent some of the lost sales you may have been able to capture. If you don’t track traffic in your store, you have no way of knowing these people even came in.
Another important reason to track store traffic is that you need it to calculate your store’s conversion rate. Traffic count tells us how many people came into the store and conversion rate tells us what percentage of these visitors actually made purchases. Conversion rate is a measure of how well the store is performing compared to the traffic opportunity. Conversion rate is simply calculated by dividing the number of sales transactions by traffic counts. For example, if you had 30 sales transactions and total store traffic was 100, your conversion rate would be 30 percent (30/100 = .30). You can’t know how well you performed unless you know what was possible, and conversion rate can tell you how you performed compared to your traffic opportunity.
An example to illustrate the situation
Let’s say your year-over-year sales are up 5 percent, despite the fact that average ticket values and gross margins are flat. With only past sales to compare to, this seems pretty good. But what if you knew that traffic in your store was actually up 10 percent compared to the prior year? This would mean that the sales opportunity got 10 percent bigger, but your sales grew by only 5 percent. This must mean that your conversion rate went down, meaning more people visited your store, but fewer of them made a purchase. It is good that sales are up 5 percent, but sales could have been even better. Without measuring traffic and conversion rate, you will not know what is possible or how you are actually performing.
Beyond measuring performance, conversion rate is an important metric to focus on to grow sales. Store sales are a function of the amount of traffic that comes in your door, the percentage of traffic that buys and how much each buyer spends. If you want to drive sales, you need to influence one or more of these variables. If you drive more traffic into your store, holding conversion rate and average sale constant, you will certainly increase sales. But driving traffic usually requires advertising or promotions, and these cost money. Alternatively you can have your sales staff focus on increasing your average ticket. This is a great way to increase sales and something you are likely already doing. The last way you can increase sales is by improving your conversion rate, that is, by selling to more of the people already in your store. You might think that you already do a good job of selling to everyone who comes into your store, but unless you measure it you will never know. Every retailer can do better. Focusing on conversion rate is powerful because it doesn’t cost money, like advertising does, and it gets your team focused on serving every prospect that visits your store. Even a small improvement in your conversion rate can have a huge impact on your overall sales.
Traffic and conversion are two of the most fundamental metrics in retailing and if you’ve never looked at them before, you owe it to yourself to look now. Analytics can seem too complicated and expensive for your small store, but they are not. Traffic and conversion are basic measures that every retailer needs to run his or her store better, not just big retailers or retailers in certain segments, every retailer.
The women’s shoe department at Nordstrom’s flagship store in Seattle is bustling. Shoppers are trying on everything from stilettos to rain boots — and when they’re ready to buy, they can pay up right where they are.
The sales associate simply whips out a modified iPod Touch and scans the shoe box’s bar code. The handheld device contains a credit card reader, too, so the customer can just hand over the plastic and sign with a fingertip. There’s no trek to the cash register and no line to wait in.
At department stores like Nordstrom and at other traditional retailers, mobile devices are slowly beginning to supplement, and even replace, other methods of payment. In many cases, buying something is becoming more efficient and more personal.
No More ‘Clunky’ Cash Registers
“We think the days of the big clunky cash register … anchoring down a department are really going away,” says Colin Johnson, public relations director for Nordstrom.
“We are always going to have a place for the cash and we’ll certainly take care of however the customer wants to pay,” Johnson says. “But we do see the future as essentially completely mobile.”
Mobile payments certainly make shopping easier. And while customers like it, retailers benefit, too. When shoppers pay on the spot, they don’t have time to change their mind and decide they don’t really need what they are about to buy.
In addition to boosting sales, mobile technology is often less expensive than the old-fashioned kind. And removing cash registers also frees up valuable real estate inside the store, say industry experts like Brian Brunk of Boston Retail Partners.
“There isn’t a retailer we talk to that isn’t embracing at least a blended, if not an ‘all-in,’ approach to mobile point-of-sale,” Brunk says.
But the changes taking place in retail go well beyond checking out via handheld device, he adds.
“You have to embrace the online — the digital world,” Brunk says. “It’s really now, how are you going to blend those two together? Because that’s what the customer is really expecting.”
Getting Goods To Customers Who Want Them
Take inventory, for example. It wasn’t all that long ago, says Nordstrom’s Colin Johnson, that customers found it charming when a clerk called around to different stores in search of an out-of-stock item.
But “those days are long gone,” Johnson says. “You’ve got to be rapid, you’ve got to be on the spot. You have to have that information at your fingertips.”
Or, more precisely, on an iPod — which is how shopper Amidy Doolittle purchased some glittery flats and a pair of suede shoes. “I just had [the clerk] order some shoes that weren’t available in the store,” Doolittle explains. “He looked them up on his mobile device, and I paid sitting right here in my chair.”
What’s most remarkable about Doolittle’s purchase is that the sales clerk had access to Nordstrom’s entire companywide inventory on his device.
While that might sound pretty basic to many shoppers, Kasey Lobaugh, a retail expert at Deloitte Consulting, says some retailers have struggled to integrate inventories of in-store and online products.
All too often, Lobaugh says, shoppers would be told their desired item was out of stock, when the retailer did, in fact, have the goods.
And in another plus for retailers, he says, “If you are able to fulfill the item from the place where the items are turning the slowest, you’re able to decrease the markdowns that you have to take” if you were to sell that item at its original location.
In other words, winter jackets languishing in a Florida store can be quickly shipped to a Seattle shopper — and sold at full price.
Yet another change under way relates to something you see all the time: the practice known as “showrooming.” Increasingly, customers with smartphones are checking out products and competitors’ prices online as they roam the aisles of brick-and-mortar stores.
Early on, Lobaugh says, some retailers were unhappy about the trend and weren’t keen to embrace it.
But “our data would say don’t resist it,” Lobaugh notes. “Give them the capability. Enable Wi-Fi in your store so that the consumer can access more information, because the conversion rate goes up,” he says — meaning, smartphone-toting customers who do research on the sales floor are actually much more likely to make a purchase.
And by 2016, Deloitte projects, roughly one in five consumers will be using their smartphones in precisely that way.
Ready to go mobile? MBS can help! Our suite of mobile solutions, including the latest MBS iPad POS, can free your store from traditional retail boundaries, giving you the freedom to bust lines at rush or setup checkup at any campus location with a wireless connection. For more information on our mobile offerings, talk to your MBS Representative.
As devices and network speeds improve and more brands take on a mobile-first approach, mcommerce will continue to accelerate and build momentum in 2013.
This year, companies such as JCPenney – who promised to get rid of traditional point-of-sale mechanisms and incorporate mobile checkouts in-stores – have put mobile at the core of their marketing efforts. Mobile commerce has already grown more than imagined and although there are more leaps that need to be made, there is no doubt the space will make a bigger impact next year.
“I predict that many retailers that started with quick and dirty transcoded sites will move to API-linked integrated solutions that leverage and extend their ecommerce operations into the mobile space,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston.
“Even today, the majority of retailers still do not have a mobile-optimized site catered to the 50-plus percent of Americans who own smartphones,” he said. “PayPal reported that mobile checkout transactions increased 96 percent year-to-year.
“Again mobile commerce will continue to accelerate and gain traction in 2013, as more consumers find better and faster experiences, when shopping on their mobile devices.”
Leaps and bounds
In 2013, social mobile efforts will be a critical way for retailers to drive in-store sales.
Mobile and social complement each other, however, next year marketers should think of more practical ways to marry the two to not only drive in-store traffic, but bolster consumer engagement as well.
“While tablet commerce is an obvious choice as the breakout star for 2013, I predict that smart retailers will start bridging the social-mobile engagement gap by linking physical stores to mobile experiences that offer the option for transactions when the intent to buy is the strongest,” Mr. Kerr said.
“Showrooming remains a big challenge and retailers should seize this bull by the horns by offering consumers experience that they control, with brand, store, or product mobile interactions serving as the trigger,” he said. “QR codes are an easy, low cost way to do this, and I predict NFC will also gain a foothold in 2013, especially if Apple finally sees the writing on the wall and gets onboard.
“Marketers should worry less about social media engagement and focus your attention on mobile commerce engagement that is integrated with your current and proven ecommerce operations and results in trackable ROI. Use physical triggerpoints such as point-of-purchase, print ads or even the products themselves to kick off this engagement.”
Many industry experts believed that this was the year of NFC. However, it was not. Furthermore, marketers believe that the technology will not be quite ready in 2013 either.
“Don’t hold your breath for ubiquitous NFC in 2013,” said Drew Sievers, CEO of mFoundry.
“There are still too many conflicting interests, a lack of acceptance and too few devices that seamlessly deliver the perfect consumer experience,” he said.
Although NFC may take a while to adopt, consumers are getting comfortable making purchases – both big and small – using their mobile device.
Additionally, mobile applications such as Google Wallet and Apple’s Passbook are putting consumers at ease.
For now, Mr. Sievers believes that mobile banking will be very impactful next year.
Financial institutions such as Chase, Bank of America and Citi are investing a lot in mobile and are seeing how essential it is for their customers.
“I know I’m biased, but mobile banking will continue its nonstop march atop of the most-used financial application list,” Mr. Sievers said.
“New features, many wallet-based, will begin to convert mobile bankers into mobile payers,” he said.
In 2013, it is important that marketers experiment early and experiment often.
“Mobile is still a relatively low-cost and low-consequence environment for marketers,” Mr. Sievers said.
“The ones that jump into the fray, testing methods and creative concepts, will be the ones that lead the pack as the mobile channel matures into a real medium,” he said.
Mobile incentives will be big in 2013.
Nowadays, consumers will not click on an ad or opt-in to an SMS database if there is not incentive attached.
Therefore, marketers must remember to offer one in their future mobile marketing plans.
“I think 2013 will be the year of mobile incentives,” said Ritesh Bhavnani, chairman/co-founder of Snipp. “Specifically I expect to see mobile couponing and mobile loyalty come to fruition. “Mobile couponing and loyalty solutions are still in their infancy, although lots of companies are approaching the space from many different directions.
“2013 will be the year that companies will finally crack the diversity of retail POS systems and fragmented approaches to provide holistic couponing and loyalty solutions that work across multiple channels and retailers,” he said.
“We’re starting to see examples of that with Apple’s Passbook and other coupon/loyalty solutions, and mobile-based receipt processing solutions like Endorse and our own mobile purchase validation solution.
“The Holy Grail still remains a set of coupons that sit in a mobile wallet and are automatically redeemed upon purchase at any retail location – and upon purchase, an automatic credit for that purchase against the appropriate loyalty programs. We’re a long way from a universal solution for that, but in 2013 we expect to see more solutions that make the entire process of couponing and loyalty more seamless for customers and a corresponding increase in consumer usage of mobile loyalty and coupon solutions.”
Mr. Bhavnani agrees that 2013 will not be the year of NFC, but rather image-based mobile technologies that enable commerce and related activities will prosper.
“More companies will start leveraging mobile phone cameras as an effective way of interacting with their customers and/or providing or gathering information from them,” Mr. Bhavnani said. “For example, enabling customers to submit receipts by taking a photo of the receipt as opposed to mailing it in, or taking a photo of their credit card as a means of entering their credit card information.
“Another example would be using solutions such as augmented reality within store environments to automatically display available product coupons to users as they walk through the aisles,” he said.
“Get involved with mobile incentives. Experiment with couponing by working with a retailer and enabling use of discount codes or bar codes through the POS, or post-purchase through the use of mobile rebates. Mobile rebates are an easy way to motivate purchases and are retailer agnostic, so they can be done without deep POS integration.”
What to expect
According to Chris Mason, co-founder/CEO of Branding Brand, there will be more traffic coming from mobile devices than traditional desktops and laptops.
“Tablets will be big,” Mr. Mason said. “We already hear people talking about tablet-first site replatforms, rather than mobile-first or desktop-first.
“Although this is more of a play on words than a new philosophy, it clearly points to a fundamental shift of focus,” he said. “Pretty soon, the first touchpoint customers have with your brand will be through mobile.
“Design your online and offline marketing efforts with this in mind.”
This week I attended Business Insider‘s Ignition conference where the topic was “The Future of Digital.” The topics ranged from digital content to advertising, to the rise of the mobile web and e-commerce to social media and technology start-ups.
The speaker line-up was one of the best I have ever seen including CEOs Andrew Mason (Groupon), Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn) and Jeffrey Bewkes (Time Warner), AOL Co-founder Steve Case, the Dr. Mehmet Oz, Futurists Jason Silva and Neil deGrasse Tyson and many, many more.
In this post, I will recap 16 of the best of the 137 slides presented by Business Insider CEO and Editor-in-Chief Henry Blodget on the state of the Digital landscape.
16 Slides On The Future of Digital Recap:
- While sales of PCs continue to increase, there has been unprecedented growth in the sales of smartphones and tablets in the last 2-5 years.
- Looking out to 2015, internet access from mobile devices including tablets will be a large majority of the broadband traffic. So the future is mobile.
- Many people said that people wouldn’t pay for digital content. But digital content is exploding. This is led by iTunes and Netflix but others like Zynga, Dropbox and Spotify are growing as well.
- Not everyone is celebrating. As news consumption moved online, some industries are being left behind. Print newspaper and magazine, as well as local and network TV advertising revenues are off significantly. While online and Cable TV advertising is up.
- The decline in Newspaper ad revenue has been dramatic: off 400% in just 3 years and now below the inflation-adjusted level of the 1950s.
- But after a dip in 2009, Total TV advertising revenue is up and looks healthy.
- In the coveted 18-34 demograhic, behavior is changing rapidly to time-shifted DVR, streaming video and gaming as viewership of live TV is down sharply. This forces the question of how long TV advertising will continue to increase.
- In the online advertising world, total online advertising is up and seems to be narrowing in on a 2-horse race between Google, Facebook and “other” as the main players.
- Drilling into online ad revenues, display sales are flattening and only Google appears to be gaining any traction.
- Although many predicted social advertising would finally bring down the banner, it is still a search-driven world as social networks accounts for a very small portion of referral traffic to e-commerce sites.
- Mobile is turning us into 24/7 content consumers as evidence by peak pageview traffic by hour. PC access peaks around noon, while tablet and smartphone peaks at bedtime.
- The gap between time spent and mobile ad dollars is making people bullish on mobile advertising.
- Mobile platforms is also a 2-horse race between Apple and Android.
- It’s the same story in tablets.
- But where are all the Android users. Mobile traffic to e-commerce sites is largely driven by Apple devices. It makes you wonder if Android buyers are using their device to browse or shop.
- Is the PC dead? No. Is TV dead? No. Is mobile the future? Yes. But we will continue to see the future of digital as a 4-screen world of TV, PC, tablet and phone.
Consumers are more likely to buy from you if you have a mobile app, according to a new report. Accenture Interactive surveyed 2,000 consumers (1,000 in the U.S. and 1,000 in the U.K.) age 20 to 40; 70 percent said a mobile app makes them more likely to make a purchase.
There’s an App for That
In the U.S., 65 percent said they compare prices on a smartphone or tablet while shopping in the store—partly because more than half think prices are higher in store than they are online. Even if they come to the store to inspect the product in person, 48 percent said they head home to buy the product online. Just 20 percent make the final purchase in the store.
U.S. consumers overwhelmingly are concerned about privacy—82 percent worried about websites tracking their online behavior. But they’re also aware that the tracking is required for them to receive personalized special offers—something 61 percent want.
Sixty-four percent said they were open to receiving text messages while visiting a store to let them know about offers related to previous items they’ve bought. More than half (60 percent) said they “strongly agree” with receiving advertisements on their phone if they’ve opted into them. (Read more on how coupons motivate online shoppers to buy.)
A Digital Personal Shopping Experience
“Consumer marketing needs to address the current disconnect between offline and online shopping and enhance the physical store front with tailored digital experiences,” says Baiju Shah, Accenture’s managing director of strategy and innovation.
He adds: “Consumers don’t want to shop online exclusively and our work with retailers shows that physical stores don’t have to compete on price alone but rather focus on the whole experience. Retailers need to create a seamless, multi-channel experience that blends the digital and physical, and delivers convenience, price and relevance.
Other findings: Nearly all consumers (92 percent) say they are more likely to buy from a company that uses social media. Their preferred social media channel? 67 percent say Facebook.
The Future of College Stores is Digital
College stores need to consider mobile and digital strategies in order to succeed in the evolving industry. Not sure where to start? We have solutions that can help. Our customizable mobile app, On The Go, offers you a way to connect with students outside the store, as well as to offer them price comparison from the palm of their hands. Talk with your MBS Representative to learn more about how you can make your store mobile.
The Female Offender: Girls, Women, and Crimeis an unusual library request for Mandy Watts, a third-year physical therapy doctoral student at Marymount University. She has limited interest in either criminology or women’s studies, but that’s what brought her to the library’s help desk on November 9.
After a pleasant conversation with the librarian and some confusion about the book title and whether it was in the library’s collection, the librarian located Watts’s book in the database and directed Watts downstairs into the stacks with a call number in hand.
Watts noted that, in an ideal world, the librarian would come down into the stacks and help her find the book. But she said that’s probably not what an average student would expect. Had the directions proven confusing or the book not been where the librarian said, then she might have returned to the desk.
But, after only a minute or two of searching, she found the book right where the librarian said it would be. After glancing at the book, she put it back on the shelf, and walked out. “That went pretty much exactly like it was supposed to,” Watts said, exiting the building. “There won’t be much to report about that.”
Watts, who usually spends her days on the university’s campus in Ballston, is here on the Marymount’s main campus on a mission that showed up in her e-mail inbox a few days earlier. Watts is part of a group of students who, at the behest of Marymount’s president, Matthew D. Shank, surreptitiously tested various campus offices to evaluate service quality.
“Mystery shopping,” while common in retail, hospitality and entertainment fields, is not a tool regularly employed by higher education administrators. Shank hopes to change that.
“Inside the classroom, students are students, but outside it they’re customers,” Shank said, explaining the motivation behind the mystery shopper program. “Marymount is engaged in a broader initiative to improve service quality on campus, not only for students, but for all internal customers. We’re asking everyone, unit to unit, as employees, ‘How do we improve services to have a better impact on students?’ ”
Shank and Marymount’s efforts highlight an often-overlooked aspect of university administration that can have a profound effect on the student experience – the myriad interactions students have with university officials outside the classroom. Shank said such interactions, while not the focus of a student’s time at the university, can shade his or her view of the experience, thereby making him or her less likely to recommend the institution to others or preventing him or her from engaging with a particular campus office. In the case of something like the library or career service, it could have a significant effect on that student’s educational or professional outcome.
The Actual Experience
The mystery shopper idea is the brainchild of Shank, whose own background was in marketing before he entered academe and university administration. “We’re so familiar with the idea of mystery shoppers in retail settings,” Shank said. “Why not bring it in to the university environment? It could help you get a sense of what the culture of the university really is.”
Shank said he pushed the idea when he worked at other colleges, but none adopted the idea. He joked that now that he’s in charge, he can finally follow through on it.
In all seriousness, Shank said, Marymount is engaged in a broader initiative focused on service quality, and he viewed it as a perfect opportunity to try out the program. He let this reporter observe some of the secret shopping in action, on the condition that this article not appear until the university completed the initiative.
Last year the institution surveyed students about their experiences with the various service offices. The response was generally positive, but administrations said there was something lacking about the feedback. “We were able to get a lot of data back, but it lacked qualitative things,” said Michael Schuchert, executive director of institutional effectiveness, who is overseeing the mystery shopping initiative. “It really didn’t capture what the actual experience was.”
Since the survey tended to return responses that were either very positive or very negative, Schuchert and Shank saw the mystery shopping initiative as a way to capture the experience for the average user.
Actually organizing the initiative took several months. Once they realized they wanted to launch the mystery shopper initiative, Schuchert asked Chris Macomber, an undergraduate involved in student government, to recruit a diverse group of students to serve as mystery shoppers, help develop the case scenarios and manage the initiative.
The university decided to use real students rather than trained mystery shoppers because many offices require student identification numbers before they can provide any service. The students were trained in how to go about the mystery shopping and what to look for in the process.
Shank said there is robust literature on service quality. He said there are broad objectives that have been refined through research and that some specialized types of service, such as libraries, have their own expectations.
Administrators selected six offices to test based on the results of the survey: the registrar, student accounts, financial aid, the IT help desk, library circulation and career services. The heads of all the departments were brought in to consult on what types of student requests they see most regularly.
Andy Brantley, president of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, cautioned against evaluating the performance of an institution based on the opinions of a handful of students. “One student’s definition of outstanding customer service might be different than another’s,” he said. He said any approach should be rooted in research, and that evaluators should be trained in what to look for to ensure that the evaluations are not arbitrary.
David Wilmes, executive director of Marymount’s career services, was one of the administrators eager to be a part of the program. He said he was interested in finding ways to improve his program to ensure that students find value in working with his office. “I think there’s a certain resistance to thinking of students as customers, but for many services offices, they are customers,” he said. “If we don’t serve them well, they have the option of not using us.”
While campus administrators are aware that the mystery shopper program is going on, Schuchert said, most of the staff members of those offices were unaware. The idea behind the program was not to be punitive for employees who might not be serving students well, but to identify areas where there might be problems and find ways to improve service across the board.
The Average Experience
If capturing the average student experience is what the program was after, that’s just what they’re getting. “Average” is the general experience that Watts and other mystery shoppers said they had during the course of the initiative. Most of their interactions with service offices were relatively routine. They would inquire about a bill, or an internship, or financial aid, and the staff would more than likely have the answer.
Watts’s other task for the day she visited the library was to inquire at the student accounts office about a fee on her bill for health insurance – whether the item listed on the bill covered the semester or the year.
Aside from a hiccup when she first asked to see her bill – the records office employee said paper copies of the bills had been sent out just yesterday – Watts simply asked about the fee and got a response. The entire interaction lasted about a minute. She said that was standard.
The mystery shoppers had 18 total interactions each over the course of the nine-week initiative. Some were in person, like Watts’s two assignments that week. Other times the students inquired by e-mail or phone about a specific issue.
After each assignment the students fill out a questionnaire about their experience, noting things like whether or not the office was able to answer their question, whether the employee was friendly and professionally dressed and whether the employees focused on the student making the request or had divided attention.
Watts said that, in general, her experiences have gone smoothly. She did have one gripe about the university’s services, noting that the library at the Ballston campus was frequently closed when the signs said it should be open, stifling her efforts to print assignments before class.
“Programs like this are the only way we are going to be able to fix things like this,” Watts said.
What Will Come
The initiative wrapped up last week, so administrators have not yet tabulated comprehensive results. But the shoppers and administrators noted that a few trends have already emerged.
Macomber noted one difficulty relating to student services that he’s observed over the course of the initiative – the individual nature of student problems. Unlike offices such as the library where students’ inquiries tend fall along similar lines and can thus be triaged, students come into offices such as financial aid and the registrar’s office with unique sets of problems. Macomber said it’s hard to make recommendations about how to adjust services in those departments.
Others point out that some offices, such as student judicial services, are often faced with the challenge of giving students bad news rather than providing help, which could result in a negative perception no matter how good the service. “Something we’re really trying to wrestle with is when a good service sometimes has to deliver bad news,” Schuchert said.
Shank and others also wants to use the results to celebrate and learn from those offices where the experience was above average, something Brantley applauded.
Shank said that if this first test of the mystery shopper program works well and provides valuable feedback, he would like to expand and refine it and expand it in future years, incorporating other services and re-evaluating some services tested this time to measure improvement.
He said one area that won’t be mystery shopped would be the classroom. “We know that student satisfaction in the classroom can lead to greater outcomes in student learning, and that bad service and bad interaction can influence learning in negative way,” he said. But he noted that the relationship inside the classroom has a different set of expectations from what is evaluated through the mystery shopper experience.
And unlike the services that were mystery shopped this fall, the college already has numerous procedures in place to evaluate quality in the classroom.
Adology recently posted a blog entry entitled Marketers Promote Customer Service as a Competitive Edge. In it, an Empathica study suggested companies should begin promoting exceptional customer service as a way to separate themselves from their competition in the marketplace.
Indeed, customer service is an important component of the entire brand experience. But should we be promoting this as a core offering?
A self-proclamation of “great customer service” falls on deaf ears. Unless you happen to be the CMO for a huge multi-national company and winner of multiple J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Awards, all a potential customer has to say is “prove it.” The only way to “prove it” is to do it day after day after day.
Your patrons expect good service. It’s a necessity of running a viable business in America.
Make improving customer service an internal program. Train employees how to handle these precious customer relationships. Make sure staff understands the power of word-of-mouth, and the positive and negative returns that flow from it. Identify and verbalize the value of your customers, and what it costs you to gain trust and profits from those customers. Millions of dollars are spent on award-winning advertising campaigns, only to be wasted when a prospect phones a call-center employee who’s having a bad day.
Concentrate on marketing what makes your company unique. If “awesome service” is the only thing that makes your company great, what happens when the competition begins providing the same level of service? They’ll be claiming “me too” and you’ll be stuck looking for something else to separate you from the pack.
If the food at the restaurant stinks, it doesn’t matter how great the waiter is.
Promote your brand’s differentiation. If customers have a great experience, they’ll tell their friends.
Where employees are concerned, great leaders don’t take. Great leaders give–especially these seven things:
They give a glimpse of vulnerability.
To employees, you’re often not a person. You’re a boss. (Kind of like when you were in school and you saw a teacher at the grocery store; it was jarring and uncomfortable because teachers weren’t people. They were teachers.)
That’s why showing vulnerability is a humanizing way to break down the artificial barrier that typically separates bosses from employees. One easy way to break down that barrier is to ask for help.
But don’t ask the wrong way. Don’t puff out your chest, assume the power-position, and in your deepest voice intone, “Listen, John, I need your help.” John knows you don’t really need his help. You want him to do something.
Instead ask the right way. Imagine you’ve traveled to an unfamiliar place, you only know a few words of the language, and you’re both lost and a little scared.
How would you ask for help? You would be humble. You would be real. You’d cringe a little and dip your head slightly and say, “Can you help me?” Asked that way, John would know you truly needed help. You’ve lowered your guard. You’re vulnerable. And you’re not afraid to show it.
By showing vulnerability, you lift the other person. You implicitly recognize her skills while extending trust.
And you set a great example: Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness.
It’s a sign of strength.
They give a nudge.
From the employee’s point of view the best ideas are never your ideas. The best ideas are their ideas, and rightly so. So don’t spell out what you want done. Leave room for initiative. Leave room for ownership.
When you describe what you want to be done, paint with a broad brush. Give employees room to take your ideas and make them their own.
They’ll do more than you imagined possible–and they’ll feel a sense of satisfaction and gratification that simply following instructions can never provide.
They give unexpected attention.
Everyone loves attention. Unfortunately you don’t have unlimited time to devote to each employee.
So make the most of the time you do have. Don’t just comment on the big stuff, the stuff you’re supposed to focus on.
Notice a small detail. Praise a particular phrase she used to smooth the transition from customer conflict to problem resolution. Praise how he swung by another employee’s desk to grab paperwork he could deliver on his way to another office. Pick something small, something positive, something helpful–something unexpected–to show you really pay attention.
Pick out details and employees know you’re watching–in a good way–and not only will they work harder, more importantly they will feel better about themselves.
They give employees a break.
He messed up. Badly. Not only are you a little pissed, this is a teachable moment. You feel compelled to talk about it, possibly at length.
Don’t. For a good employee, the lesson is already learned. Catch his eye, nod, let it go, and help him fix the problem.
Once in a while employees can all use a break. When they get one they never forget it. And they try really hard to show they deserved that break–and to make sure they never need another one.
They give a peek inside.
My boss was nearly yelling at a supplier who hadn’t met a key timeline. It wasn’t ugly but it was close. In the middle of their “discussion,” when the supplier glanced away, he turned and winked at me.
My boss was signaling that his emotional display was partly for effect, that he had a plan in mind and that I was in on things. I was an insider. We were partners.
We were in it together.
It’s easy, as an employee, not to feel like you and your boss are in it together. Make sure your employees do. Give them occasional peeks inside.
They give an undeserved compliment.
Compliments don’t always have to be earned. Sometimes a compliment can be like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When you see something in employees that they don’t see–at least not yet–they often try hard to fulfill the belief you have in them.
That happened to me. I went out for wrestling in ninth grade and was nervous, scared, intimidated–pick any fearful adjective. It fit. A week or so into practices I heard the coach talking to one of the seniors. “That kid there,” he said, referring to me, “will be a state champion by the time he’s a senior.”
He was wrong. It turned out I wasn’t. But I immediately felt more confident, more self-assured, and incredibly motivated. Those feelings lasted for a long time.
He believed in me.
And I started to believe in myself.
They give a hat rack.
Employees who need something–whether it’s a day off, a favor, a break, a chance–often come to you with hat in hand.
They’re vulnerable because they need.
Take their hat and hang it up for them. You may not be able to provide what they want, but you can work through their issue with compassion and generosity and grace.
Never let an employee stand with hat in hand. It’s one of the worst feelings possible–and one you can make instantly disappear.
Would you add anything to this list? Share your opinion in the comments section.
As Dale Carnegie’s sixth principle teaches us, the sound of a person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound to that person. It is an immutable truth, because our name is not just a few letters on paper — it’s a part of who we are. If you look at your social security number (also something that identifies you), you probably don’t feel any emotion. But your name? That’s you.
For the past few months, I’ve made a conscious effort to address people by their names, specifically people who you normally would not. The person who makes your sandwich at the deli. The young girl who rings up your groceries. The teller at the bank. These are people who have always worn name tags as a matter of course, but those name tags seldom serve any purpose — we normally just mumble a “thanks” and then move on.
It has been astonishing to me to notice how it impacts people like this, to hear their name spoken right after that “thanks.” Eye contact where there wasn’t any before. A smile. A mood that has visibly been lifted. This is no longer just the guy who makes my sandwich or the girl who sells me groceries. This is Peter, and that is Susan. It is validating to them as human beings.
Now, this is me as a shopper, addressing the service employee. Why isn’t this happening the other way around?
Because the fact is, unless you’re dealing with a cash transaction, your retail associates have the name of the customer embossed on the little rectangular piece of plastic that is handed to them at the moment of sale. How many of them think to take a half-second to look down at that name, then thank the customer by that name?
Again, for cash transactions this is a moot point. But I would submit that for all credit and debit transactions, there is no excuse for your associates to not thank their customers by name. It’s simple, it costs nothing, and it can be transformative for your relationship with your customers.
Has your store tried this strategy? If so, do you agree with the author’s point? Tell us your opinion in the comments section.
The following article, written by Peter Van Allen, reporter for the Philadelphia Business Journal, offers insight on a potential area for growth in college stores: a convenience section. Take a look at the facts then tell us: does your store have a convenience section? If so, share your experience in the comments section below!
Convenience stores are seeing more business from college students, according to a retail report released Tuesday.
Students 18- to 24-years-old spent $5.2 billion and made 351 million visits to convenience stores in the year ended June 30, NPD Group said.
Student spending at c-stores grew by 15 percent last year — and students were far more likely to buy on impulse than other shoppers, the report said. Some 32 percent of purchases were based on decisions made on the spot, versus 23 percent for other convenience-store shoppers.
It’s good business for convenience stores — and a demographic that has more discretionary cash than ever.
There are 19 million students and their discretionary spending reached $76 billion last year, up $2 billion from the previous year.
“Students with money to spend represent a growing population — and a significant opportunity — worth convenience store marketers’ attention,” said David Portalatin, NPD’s director of industry analysis. “Opportunities exist for c-store retailers to tap into student impulse purchasing through strategic product placement, bundling, loyalty programs, and dealing to increase student purchasing.”
Philadelphia-based Aramark, which handles campus dining for 1.7 million students nationwide, had already taken note of the trend. In 2009, it introduced Provisions on Demand (POD) stores on college campuses to sell breakfast sandwiches, burritos, wraps, sushi, salads and baked goods. It now has 300 of the campus stores.