Thursday, 22 September 2011

6 steps to Employee Engagement

II was fortunate enough to attend the WiRN (Women in Retailing Network) breakfast lecture yesterday morning with speaker Gemma Giovanazzo.  The topic was the customer experience and how do we inspire our staff to deliver the best in customer service every time?

Gemma is the customer experience manager for Ford of Canada and spoke with lots of experience on how big business develops and ensures the customer experience.

After the lecture was over, I and the two lovely women at my table discussed how employee engagement can translate to small business.  In my experience as a store manager, here is what I can share on employee engagement.
  1. Treat your employees as equals.  Ask their opinions, get their feedback, and take what they have to say seriously.
  2. Praise for good work.  Lots of employers offer incentives or prizes which is great when you can do it, but what many employees really want is just a simple “great job” or “thanks for your hard work today.”  Try it; it feels great!
  3. Take an interest.  Try to remember fun personal details about your employees.  When I was a store manager for a big box retailer, I made a point of remembering everyone’s favourite colour, kids names, and any other personal details that I could.  We also had crayons and stickers as well as little treats stashed in my office for when they brought their kids or grandchildren by.  It was so much fun!
  4. Communication.  Gemma said it right; it’s so important!  Keep your employees informed of what’s going on with your store.  Tell them what you’ve purchased, what’s coming in, new sales techniques, what’s happening in the store and in the neighbourhood, etc.  Structured meetings aren’t always necessary, but try to make sure everyone gets necessary messages.  Even consider a communication book in a place where everyone can find it!
  5. Feedback.  Whether it’s simply telling them what they’re doing well or asking for improvement in certain areas, feedback is so necessary for an employee to feel engaged in their job.  Set regular intervals for feedback and make sure that if someone’s performance needs improvement in any area, you’re dealing with it right away.  Nobody likes to be doing something wrong and not be told about it for days, weeks, or months.  A simple, gentle conversation is all that’s necessary.  Tell them what they’re doing well and then what you would like them to improve and why.  Finish the conversation by reinforcing that they’re good at their job, but you would just like them to improve in this one area.
  6. Education.  Get them out of the store and get them educated.  If you can, send them out to information sessions on customer service, sales, merchandising or anything specific to the products you carry.  Make it an event for them!  Ensure you’re also providing as much product knowledge as possible and passing on and sharing your passion for the product you sell.

There are lots of big expensive steps to employee engagement and lots of large companies invest millions of dollars into ensuring it happens.  That’s not always necessary.  As a store owner and manager, follow these six steps and the result will likely be happy employees who treat the customers as beautifully as you treat them.  

Big thanks for Kendall and Kristi for their great company and conversation yesterday!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Seasonal Merchandise

This week’s Flourish Tip was all about looking to large chain retailers to find out when to display seasonal merchandise.

Think of every holiday or end of season as a big expiry date looming over the merchandise.  After that date passes, the merchandise is no longer profitable to you.  You either need to sell it at a large discount or pay someone to pack it up and then have it take up storage space which you are also paying for!  Not to mention, it eats up inventory dollars for that holiday or season during the next go-around!

With that being said, earlier is often better when it comes to seasonal merchandise and your profits.  Obviously, this is within reason, as you don’t want to have Christmas merchandise in your store in July or Valentines merchandise hanging around in December, but you want to make sure that you’re giving your merchandise ample opportunity to sell before it’s “expiry date”.  

This is where large chains come in handy!  They have the research and experience behind them and it’s worth checking them out for a cue as to when to put out yours!  Visit a nearby mall for stores with similar offerings to your store and make notes about when merchandise is going out!

Here are some guidelines that will help you in the next few months.  If you have fall merchandise, it should be out for customers to view starting in August.  Even when the weather appears nice, people are thinking ahead to upcoming seasons and many want the newest and latest buys!  Christmas related merchandise should go out by November 1st.  If you are a retailer that doesn’t sell much Halloween related product, then once Canadian Thanksgiving is over, it’s your time to get Christmas in place!  Yes, many customers will comment that it’s early, remind them that it’s only a couple of months away!  And many will balance those customers out and start purchasing gotta-have-it items right away.

If you’re still not sure when to get things out, hire an expert!  And remember; adjust your ordering according to when merchandise needs to be in-store after your reconnaissance mission to the mall.  You’ll be happy you did!

Happy Selling! Need help creating amazing seasonal displays? Call or email us today!