Monday, November 28, 2005

Be Seamless

Have you ever purchased a product online and tried to return the product in one of the brick and mortar stores? For many customers this can be a very frustrating thing which leads to negative feelings about the company.

The trouble with many companies is that they have not integrated their websites and stores into one system that allows seamless returns. One of the major office supply stores still uses a DOS based system for their internet/phone/special order sales which is totally incompatible with their in-store registers. So when a customer wishes to do a return, it becomes a long draw out process that not only taxes the patience of the customer but the employees as well.

An integrated system is needed that allows the employees to do a return from an internet sale as easily as they could do any other return.

Also, your website should carry more items that you do not carry in the store. An employee should be able to place an order for the customer in an easy fashion that not takes up tons of valuable time.

Here are some suggestions to improve your service:

1. Have an integrated system that makes orders easy to place in store for items that are not carried in the store.

2. Insure that the returns are seamless whether the customer purchased the items in the store, through a special order, or on the internet.

3. Insure that all employees are trained to use the all the system's functions.

4. Do not make the customers and employees feel that you are two separate companies competing against each other. Customer should feel comfortable doing business in the store or on the website including sales and returns. Policies should be in place to make it seamless for the customer. Employees should not have worry about how the products where purchased, only that they can quickly and easy take care of the customer.

In today's competitive marketplace, you have to make using your systems easy for the customers or the employees. Once the customer feels that your services are too difficult to use, they will find some else who will do things better and make things simple.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Story of Two Stores

In today's marketplace you either have to adapt or you will not survive. Here is the story of two appliance stores from Spokane, Washington and how they reacted when big box electronic stores first moved into the city in 1996-1997.

Store Number One:

Both stores are located in the northwest area of Spokane. When Future Shop (a store similar to Best Buy but with commissioned salespeople) first opened thier two stores, the owner of store 1 was quoted in the paper as saying they didn't need to do anything different, that they where a great store and would survive.
None of the big box stores located in the same area as either of these retailers where located. However this retailers store was small and dingy. It actually reminded you of a used appliance store instead of a store selling all new appliances.
But like they said in the article they did nothing to adapt to the change with the arrival of the big box stores.

Store Number Two:

Contrast store number one with store number two. Store number two is located not too far south of store number 1.
When the big box stores arrived they saw that they could no longer do business the same way they had been doing business for many years.
What this store did was look at how the big box stores did business and did everything better than the big boxes. They had better customer service, they had free delivery and set up, and they cleaned up there store to make it look better and more inviting than the big box stores.
They also saw that the big box stores did not have the higher end appliances that are actually more profitable than the lower end ones. Also they created areas where customers could try out appliances which most big box stores don't have the ability to do.

Three months after the first big boxes opened their doors, store number 1 was the first of the independent appliance stores to close. However, store number 2 continues on with business that is improving every year.

To compete in this market place you must:

1. Adapt to change.

2. Find out what your competitors do good and bad and make your store better than theirs.

3. Find out what products you can carry that your competitors do not and exploit a market.

4. Have a clean inviting store.

While doing this things do not guarantee success, doing nothing guarantees you will fail.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Be Consistent

One of the most upsetting events that customers encounter is inconsistent policies especially toward returns. If you are a chain and have multiple locations, this can be created by different managers having different policies. This can also be created in a single store if all managers and the supervisors are not on the same page.

Here are some suggestions to improve this situation:

1. If you are a chain make sure that all your stores follow the same policy. Put the policy in writing and make sure all the management follows the policy.

2. If you are a single store make sure all the people in the store that make return decisions are on the same page. Write down the policy and ensure that all employees are trained properly on the why, what where of the policies.

3. While you do want to protect yourself against fraudulent returns, make sure that your return policies are not so stringent that you are sending customers to your competitors.

4. Go to all of your competitors and find out what there return policy is. Go even further and buy products from the store and see of they follow their policies. See how they react to the returns and if they try "save the sale".

5. Make returns seamless whether the customers has purchased in your bricks and mortar store or purchased on line. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than to buy something on line and not being able to return in the local store or worse, the store telling the customer there is nothing we can do or there a separate operation.

6. Many customers think that if they go "over the heads" of regular employees management will do what they want. Once again you must have a policy in place that not only allows the customer to fell as though they are being treated right, and gives the employee the knowledge that management is behind them. Once again the best way to make this happen is have a customer friendly return policy.

Once again, one of the biggest frustrations customers have with stores is inconsistent policies. Work as a team to build workable policies that will work for the company but also work for the customer.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Welcome to Business Connect. This blog is run by the Dornoff Consulting Group. We have over 20 years experience in retail and customer service. This blog is designed to give helpful information for small businesses to run more effectively and compete against the Wal-Marts of the world. In addition we also specialize in Transit Oriented Development in helping find the right mix of businesses to locate in these developments and to help businesses and developers make their complexes a success.