Spring … a blooming waste of time for most businesses
Spring is a time of renewed optimism and hope, and a time of rebirth, renewal and new growth. While you are putting away your winter clothes and cleaning out all the accumulated dust from winter, make sure to take time to do some spring cleaning around your store too. As the new season approaches, customer-facing businesses confront their annual opportunity to spring into action, debug their operations and spruce up their service levels.
But all too often the ‘spring fling’ turns out to be a blooming waste of time because the clean-out simply does not go far enough. Sadly, most businesses will take a feather duster to a few shelves, put some spring flowers on the counter and then go back to same old, same old. This means those exceptional stores and businesses that build on spring fever by launching a proper renewal strategy have an unprecedented opportunity to woo consumers and win market share.
Whether you run a sweet shop or a conglomerate, identify what bugs are lurking in the corners affecting your customers – and your business. Now is the time to do something about all of the dumb things that all businesses do that frustrate and upset customers. Look out for all the actions and processes that cause unnecessary delays, that lead to mistakes, or that confuse or hurt customers. Mo matter how well-oiled your corporate machine has been over the years, there’s always room for improved performance. It’s time to mend everything that’s broken now, and stitch up those small holes that you have neglected.
Here are four top tips to make your customers lives a little easier, and to revitalise the experiences that they have.
- First there is the physical effort. Look at how hard is it to deal with your business? Do customers need the muscles of an Olympian athlete to carry, to open, to use your products? How much effort to walk through or get there? How comfortable and safe is the environment? Is everything within easy reach? How are all five senses affected in your store? Find ways to improve your signs, clear the cluttered aisles or remove the impediments to doing business in an efficient, friendly and engaging fashion. Freshen up … a new coat of paint or a simple clean-up can work wonders. And don’t just stick to the physical environment. While you’re at it, refresh web sites, procedures, staff uniforms, the look and feel of company advertising, even the in-store music and recorded messages.
- Second is the mental or intellectual effort. Do you need a degree to understand how things work? Is it easy or difficult to fill in documents, or understand conditions of sale, or to complying with processes and procedures and rules? Today customers can easily switch to businesses that provide consistency (rather than inconsistency.) They won’t forgive you if you complicate their lives: “I don’t have time to work it out, so I’ll just go where it’s easy.”
- Third is the emotional effort. Some businesses and industries have a knack for making customers get upset. Poor manners and indifference from people who work in your business, an inability to access right people, too many policies and rules lead to much frustration. Do your customers feel embarrassed, stupid or irritated, receive no feedback, or are treated like thieves by security staff? What creates uncertainty and fear? Frustration is the emotional response to opposition, helplessness and obstructions, and often your company actually loses, not the customers. Create fun and enthusiasm for your team so that they can share this with your customers. Teach them – again – how to be courteous and friendly so that they in turn inspire customers to return again and again. Also show them how to say “thank you,” and how to say “sorry.” Customers will forgive you for occasional mistakes – but they do need to be asked. But it’s more important that they leave your business with a smile on their faces.
- Finally, the time effort. We are all “time poor” in today’s hectic world, so it’s no excuse keeping customers waiting, delaying them, and forcing them into long queues in any channel – especially the “sheep pens.” Install simplified procedures to shorten time effort for your customers, or keep them busy so that they don’t feel hassled. Don’t allow them to have to explain things again and again, or be given the run around, and shorten the distances they need to travel. Generate a sense of urgency so that everything is done with more speed and responsiveness to customer needs. What are the lead times? How quickly are customers served? How long do they have to wait for calls to be answered?
When you make the decision to spring clean your customers’ experiences, look in every nook and cranny for opportunities to perk up your company, but always look towards the ultimate goal: making your customers happier than they were when they woke up that day. Put a spring in your step … get managers, supervisors and staff to respond to customers with more joy in their hearts; not just for spring but for always.
Spring to it!