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Keynote speaker | Customer experience expert | Performance consultant

Doug Fleener, the former director of retail for Bose Corporation, is known for bringing fresh approaches and powerful actionable ideas to clients and audiences around the world.
Typical client and audience results include:
  • Substantial increase in sales and profits
  • How to niche and succeed in a commoditized marketplace
  • Deeper understanding of your ideal customers
  • A differentiated - and more effective - customer experience
  • More targeted internal and external marketing to drive incremental business
  • Improved strategic direction with a more aligned organizational focus
  • Increased customer loyalty and advocacy resulting in more profitable  customers
  • More effective OutFront managers and leaders at all levels of the organization
"Thank you for presenting to the AIMM group again! It is really hard to present to a group twice in 6 months and hit it out of the park both times, but the feedback is you did just that! The dealers shared with us that what they learned was both informative and inspiring."

Tom Triozzi - Association of Independent Merchants

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Doug Fleener's Business Magnetizer Blog

Doug Fleener's OutFront and Unstoppable Blog

By Doug Fleener 18 Feb, 2017

When most managers think they are coaching in the moment, they are really doing one of three things with an employee.

Yelling - Okay, most leaders aren't usually yellers (at least I hope not), but the leader's focus on what the employee did wrong is often interpreted as being yelled at.

Telling - Telling is much better than yelling. In this approach, the leader tells the employee why he/she is being coached. 

Teaching - Teaching is far superior to telling. When leaders teach, they take time to connect someone's behaviors and actions to customers, colleagues, and results. Teaching drives behavior changing much faster.

Here's an example

While working the floor with Courtney, you observe that she was so focused on putting out an order out she didn't notice a customer walking into the store.

Here are three ways you can address it:

Yell - "Courtney, you missed greeting that customer who came in." Remember, it is often a perceived yell whether you raise your voice or not.

Tell - "Courtney, I saw you miss greeting that customer. You’re expected to welcome every customer within five seconds."

Teach - "Courtney, I noticed you were so busy with the order that you missed welcoming the customer. It's important that we welcome within five seconds so our customers see that they are our priority. They also know we know they're here, and that we're ready to assist them."

Yes, teaching takes more time than telling and yelling. Imagine, though, what Courtney may think or say after each approach:

Yell: "Okay okay. I was just trying hard to get the order out as soon as possible like you asked."

Tell: "I know. She slipped in so quietly."

Teaching: "That makes sense. I'll try to be more aware."

It's obvious which approach is going to have the most impact.

Successful coaching recognizes what the employee is doing well so they continue to do so, and teaches what they can do to be even better. Something we emphasis and practice in my EveryDay Coaching and Leadership class.

So let me ask, are you more likely to yell, tell, or teach your staff?


How to use this article

Talk with your management team about the three different approaches, and what each person can do to increase the amount of teaching they do with the staff.

By Doug Fleener 08 Feb, 2017

If you want to make a great big leap forward in your business, you have to make a great big leap forward in what you believe you and your team can accomplish. You must believe there's more opportunity and growth out there just waiting to be tapped.

Think of it like taking a high performance car for a test drive. You're flying down the highway very, very fast. Faster than you've ever gone before. The car salesman tells you you're only going half as fast as the car can go. You push down on the accelerator, the car leaps forward, and you speed off down the highway.

What if you and your team are like that high performance car? What if you can push the accelerator down and speed towards your goals faster? I believe you can!

Here are three ways to find and make a huge leap forward in your business.

1. Constantly champion, "We can. Let's figure out how." Some of the most successful leaders I see live the saying, "Where there is a will, there is a way." The way may not be easy, and it may not always be easily defined, but the way is there as long as you own the obstacles and results.

When you believe and champion that you and your team can do just about anything you set out to do, it's amazing what can be accomplished. It requires the right attitude, drive, and focus on figuring out how. We achieve what we believe.

2. Identify and address any governor . A governor is a device used to regulate speed. They are sometimes used in high performance cars to keep the speed down. 

In most stores and service teams, a governor is someone or something that drags down the overall performance of the team. This can be someone whose attitude is negatively impacting the team, or whose performance is pulling down the group's overall results. I estimate that probably half of the leaders I talk with struggle with some sort of governor. Most of the time, they're looking for an easier fix than addressing the governor. 

3. Expect a giant leap forward from yourself. Change and growth starts with you. Identify three things you believe hold you back. Choose one of them to work on, and resolve to make a great big leap forward by March 1 at the latest. Remember, you can. Just figure out how.

Into action: Even though Leap Day only comes around once every four years, any day can be the day you lead your team in a great big leap forward. What better day than today? 

So let me ask, what is your huge performance leap forward?

By Doug Fleener 08 Feb, 2017

Not long ago I had a conversation with a manager who is struggling in his job. The company is unhappy with both his performance and his attitude.

During our discussion I could see there were three key issues creating the performance gap between where he currently was, and where the company wanted him to be.

1. Lack of clarity on HOW to close the gap. This is common; I see all too often. A manager will sit down and tell someone where he/she is falling short, and where he or she needs to be to close the gap. What's often lacking is any idea of how to get from the current place to the goal.

Most managers aren't even aware of this. They assume the employee knows how to get where he/she needs to be, or that they covered it in the meeting. You might ask why the employee doesn't tell the manager they don't know how to do what they're being asked. Well, often they too assume they know how, or they don't want to show any weakness when they're already struggling.

Here's a simple test. Your employee should be able to tell you exactly what he/she is going to start doing, or stop doing, or do differently, and it is something you should be able to see or hear them do. That last part is critical.

2. Lack of a specific plan to close the gap . It makes no difference if you're trying to help an employee grow her average sale by $4, or she is on final probation. As a leader, your role is to partner with your employee in creating a specific plan to close the gap.

It should not only include the "how", but also specific day/dates of when you or another resource will be assisting them. If can be something as simple as: We'll meet every Tuesday morning for four weeks to practice and roleplay.  

3. A poor attitude is usually born out of frustration. Most employees want to do a good job. They get frustrated when there is a performance gap, and as a result they get a "bad attitude."

More often than not, if you focus on the first two factors you'll almost always take care of the attitude. If not, you can address that after the person is demonstrating the required behaviors and actions.

As a leader, your role is to help every employee deliver the best performance possible. That often includes helping someone close a performance gap. 

So let me ask, who on your staff might need some help closing his/her performance gap?

How to use this article

As a group, discuss what you might do differently to do a better job of leading and coaching your staff through current or future gaps.  

By Doug Fleener 27 Jan, 2017

A good friend of mine is a super smart guy. He's a walking and talking encyclopedia, but many people never guessed he's so smart.

You see, he had this habit of saying "umm" or "uhh" when he spoke. So much so that he came across as being very insecure in his thinking. He was unaware of this habit until I pointed it out to him, and the impact it had on how people perceived him.

In addition to "umm" and "uhh" there are two other words I hear people use with customers that negatively impact sales and the customer's service experience

"Can I ...." Two seemingly innocent words, but when you start a question with "Can I" you're starting by asking permission. And chances are, whatever you're asking permission for is something you should be doing for your customer without asking.

"Can I get the door for you?"

"Can I show you something else?"

"Can I get you something to drink?"

"Can I carry that to your car?"

Let's turn those requests for permission into statements, just by replacing "Can I" with "Let me."

"Let me get the door for you."

"Let me show you...."

"Let me get you something to drink."

"Let me carry that to your car."

The customer can always decline your offer, but most of the time he/she will be delighted that you're proactively offering your help.

By the way, my friend was able to break the "umm" and "uhh" habit by asking his friends and colleagues to point out whenever he did it. The change didn't happen right away, but with the help of others he no longer does it. I'm excited, because now everyone else gets to experience the guy I know.

So let me ask, is asking “Can I” getting in the way of you delivering an even better customer experience?

How to use this article

As a group, listen to what each of you say to your customers, and point out afterwards if the person used "Can I" when "Let me" would have resulted in a better service experience.

By Doug Fleener 22 Jan, 2017

The three biggest barriers to successful coaching your employees are Me, Myself, and I. Once you get past those internal gatekeepers you become a much more effective coach, one who can help employees grow, develop, and reach new heights of performance.

Here are a three things those gatekeepers sometimes tell you, and why you should not listen to them.

1. "You hurt someone’s feelings when you tell them they're not doing a good job."

First of all, your gatekeeper has it wrong. You're not telling her what she is doing wrong, you're helping the employee do something better.

Second, you rarely hurt someone's feelings by giving feedback. We're all adults. Employees are fine hearing feedback as long as it is done respectfully in a way that they can hear.

2. "If you give him feedback he's going to get mad and that will affect the team."

Wrong, gatekeepers! Rarely does the person get mad, and if he does you talk it through with him. If he continues to act mad, then you tell him to stop it.

Here's what affects teamwork... not addressing an issue, or letting someone on the team consistently fall short of expectations. Remember this: Drama is unresolved conflict. Don't let issues fester and you won't have drama.

3. "Don't say anything now. Wait a few days and address it then."

I'm glad that gatekeeper is in management, not medicine! If you're bleeding, do you wait a few days to address the problem? Of course not. The sooner you address an issue, the sooner you are on the way to making things better.

The same is true with people. You rarely need to wait to give your staff feedback. Do you purposely wait days to praise someone? Of course not.

People want to be successful. They want to do a good job. The faster you give them feedback the faster they are on the way to doing just that.

So let me ask, are your internal gatekeepers getting in the way of you coaching your people to be even better?

How to use this article with your leadership team

Discuss as a group how internal gatekeepers can get in the way of successful coaching your employees. Have people share how these and other gatekeeper messages can impede their helping the staff be their best. Last but not least, ignore those gatekeeper messages!  

 

By Doug Fleener 10 Jan, 2017

I define the customer experience as the perceptions, emotions, actions and reactions a customer has with your people, products, and environment. Environment can be a store, office, website, etc.

Combined, these elements meet, exceed, or fall short of your customer’s expectations. That determines if, and how much, a customer makes a purchase, advocates for you and your company to others, and will continue to do business with you.

That’s why well-defined and well-executed experiences can be so magnetic. Magnetic experiences attract new customers and keep current customers coming back. Both are vital for continued success in today’s ultra-competitive and rapidly evolving market.

How do you make your customer experience more magnetic? 

The answer varies from company to company, and even location to location. What doesn’t vary is the fact that if you’re not obsessed about making your customer experience more magnetic you’re at risk of losing current customers, and are less likely to replace them.

Here are the questions that I ask when leading strategy sessions to identify opportunities to make a customer experience even more magnetic. Choose one or two, and use it/them for a brainstorming session.

Involve as many people at different levels of your company as possible. Your frontline staff brings an important perspective and voice to the conversation. 

Brainstorm as many answers as possible, and then determine their validity and potential impact on your customer experience and results. 

1) How can we make it easier for customers to do business with us?

2) How can we save our customer time?

3) How can we add value to a customer’s purchase and/or life?

4) What do we do, and/or start doing for customers that other companies can’t or won’t?

5) What is really special and unique about our company and customer experience? 

6) How do we, and/or what can we do, to make our customer feel special and appreciated?

7) Why might a customer choose to stop doing business with us?

8a) What do we want a customer to tell others about us?

8b) What different things do we do, or can we do, to make sure that happens?

9) Where is the biggest gap between what we say we do, and what our customer actually experiences?

10) If our biggest competitor put a store/office right next door to us, what would we do to make sure people walks in our door?

End the brainstorming session with a list of actions (not ideas) you and your team can take immediately. One change rarely makes your custom experience more magnetic, but a series of small improvements will make a big difference in the people and the targeted experience.

So let me ask, how much more magnetic can your customer experience be?

By Doug Fleener 04 Jan, 2017

As a leader you have strengths that I'm sure serve you well. It's important to know what those strengths are, and that's why I encourage my clients to identify their five top strengths. I also believe that claiming your strengths makes it easier to claim what you need to improve.

These areas of improvement are your weaknesses, although I often call them areas of opportunity since some people struggle with the "W" word. Everyone has weaknesses of some sort, but not all of them impact your work. I can't hit a golf ball worth a darn, but that's not a skill that's usually required of a consultant/speaker.

It's vital to identify your weaknesses. Taking a hard look at where you fall short is not easy, but it allows you to increase your awareness and, if you address what you've learned, improve what needs to be improved.

It's easy to identify things you're not good at, such as visual presentation, but that's not the kind of thing that gets in a leader's way. Those are the flaws that are easily fixable by taking a class or an online program.

The weaknesses or shortcomings that I'm talking about are more personal. The more personal the weakness the more likely it is to negatively affect the staff and, potentially, results. What I'm talking about can be anything from anger management issues to avoiding conflict to talking too much to not getting things done. 

What differentiates great leaders from the rest is how they address these personal weaknesses. Since they are personal, it means you have the power to change and evolve. That's why we encourage clients to set what we call personal quality goals.

A personal quality goal is a way to take a personal weakness and turn it into a positive ACTION. The act of creating and sharing personal quality goals helps you be proactive in displaying the right behaviors and actions, instead of allowing those shortcomings to exert a negative effect on those around you.

Let me share some examples of how a particular weakness can be turned into a personal quality goal.

* A leader who struggles to take the time to recognize his/her team's performance can set a personal quality goal of recognizing two people a day.

* A leader who hates confrontation can create a personal quality goal of addressing any issue that arises on the same day, unless to do so would hurt the other person.

* A leader who procrastinates about paperwork can have a personal quality goal of completing all paperwork within 48-hours. 

* A leader who loses his/her temper can set a personal quality goal of never raising his/her voice to someone. And if it does happen, he/she has another personal quality goal of apologizing to the individual that same day.

* A leader who blames outside forces for problems can have a personal quality goal of always stating first what he/she did and did not do to achieve the goal. 

* A leader who talks too much, or dominates conversations, can set a personal quality goal of asking more questions and listening more. 

The key to successfully using personal quality goals is to share them with someone you trust, and who can help you stick to them. It can be a mentor, colleague, manager, coach, and even one of your employees. It just has to be someone who will call you out if need be, and someone you can rat yourself out to if you fall short when the other person isn't around.

So let me ask, what personal quality goal will make a big difference in your leadership and development in 2017?

By Doug Fleener 28 Dec, 2016

Here’s a fun questionnaire to use with your leadership team to identify opportunities to grow as an OutFront Leader and Coach in 2017. 

1. Do you begin your day with a positive attitude? One where you plan to succeed?

Most days - 2 points

Some days - 1 point

No and I don't care - 0 points

 

2. Do you have a written plan each month/week to make certain you achieve your goals?

Yes - 2 points

Most of the time - 1 point

No, I just hope for the best - 0 points

 

3. Do you regularly praise your staff?

I do. I really do! - 2 points

I probably think about it more than I do it. - 1 point

I have to talk to my employees? - 0 points

 

4. Do you recognize employees in front of their peers?

Yes, and they appreciate it - 2 points

Sometimes - 1 point

Everybody knows what everyone looks like so why bother - 0 points

 

5. Do you regularly thank your staff?

Always - 2 points

Most of the time - 1 point

Yes, if they bring me coffee - 0 points

 

6. Do your employees feel like you're a good coach and that you have their best interests at heart?

Yes - 2 points

Some of them do - 1 point

I have to coach them, too? - 0 points

 

7. Do you model expected behaviors as you work alongside your staff?

Almost always - 2 points

I try - 1 point

Do I look like a model? - 0 points

 

8. Do you regularly meet with your staff and discuss their development?

Every month (or so) like clockwork - 2 points

Pretty regularly - 1 point

Sure, if you count hanging out in the breakroom together - 0 points

 

9. Do you regularly meet with someone to discuss your development?

I make an effort - 2 points

It might happen from time to time - 1 point

I get plenty of feedback from my spouse - 0 points

 

10. Would you be proud to have every member of your team wait on your best customer?

Absolutely - 2 points

I hope so - 1 point

You've got to be kidding - 0 points

 

11. Do you constantly remind your employees what actions they take need to take to deliver a great experience and make a sale?

Like clockwork - 2 points

Yes, but could do more - 1 point

What actions are you talking about? - 0 points

 

12. Are you happy doing what you're doing?

Love it - 2 points

Most days - 1 point

You know where I can get a job? - 0 points

 

13. If you are out sick for the next 90 days, do you have someone who can step into your role?

Yes - 2 points

Sort of - 1 point

Get sick. Great idea! - 0 points

 

14. Do you spend as much time training and developing your staff as you do on administrative work?

I think so - 2 points

I try - 1 point

You're kidding me? - 0 points

 

15. Can you look back on 2016 and see how you personally have grown?

Absolutely - 2 points

Now that you mention it, yes. - 1 point

Sure. 20 pounds, to be exact - 0 points

 

16. Are you worried about business in 2017?

Yes, I'm worried how I'll be able to spend all the money I plan to make! - 2 points

Concerned is a better way to say it - 1 point

About that job  - 0 points

 

17. Do you have ideas on how you’ll be an even better coach and leader 2017?

Yes, I do! - 2 points

I don't know - 1 point

You have ruined my day. - 0 points

 

Add up your score and see how you've done. Are you pleased with your score? In what areas would you like to improve?

 

I encourage you write down three actions you’ll commit to taking in early January to not only improve you, but substantially increase the likelihood of your business having a highly successful 2017!

 

Remember, choose to create your success and take the daily actions necessary to achieve your goals.

 

Happy New Year!

By Doug Fleener 22 Dec, 2016

Over the next 10 days almost all of your customers will be delightful to work with but, inevitably, you will encounter one or two stressed out, unhappy customers. Here are five steps for dealing with the (rare) unhappy customer. 

1. Let the customer vent. Experience has taught me that that once the unhappy customer starts talking, let him/her go. Like a good fire, most of the time these customers burn themselves out.

- Don't be defensive.

- Listen actively with ears and eyes.

- Don't interrupt. You'll get your chance to respond. 

If he's speaking very loudly or inappropriately, politely ask him to lower his voice. If necessary, you can ask him to follow you to another part of the store – or even out the door – to continue the conversation.

2. Establish the facts without judgment. After the customer comes up for air, you need to get beyond the emotions to the facts. Say something like, "So what you're telling me is that you're unhappy that you bought this last month and it was your understanding it would never go on sale and now it is on sale?" Compare that to "Nobody who works here is going to tell you that something would never go on sale."

3. Express both your regret that he/she is unhappy and your desire to find a resolution. "I'm sorry you're upset but let's see what we can do." Remember that saying "I'm sorry" doesn't mean you or anyone on your staff was wrong. It just means that you are expressing sympathy and regret for what happened.

4 . Ask him what he thinks would be a fair resolution. More often than not the customer's suggestion will be something you'll find more than acceptable. Most of the time, unhappy customers just want to be heard. If your customer's resolution is acceptable, take it. If not, tell him what you can do for him.

Remember, it's important to tell your customer what you can do, not what you can't. Instead of saying, "I can't give you your money back." you could say, "What I can do is give you a store credit that's good for a year."

5. Afterward, thank your customer for allowing you opportunity to resolve the issue. This one little step will amaze your customers. A statement like that, one that most companies never make, is sure to turn even the crabbiest customer into a raving advocate.

Two other thoughts:

Dealing with refunds and exchanges. Sometimes it is smart business to just give in and do whatever it takes to make the customer happy. A disruptive customer can cost you a whole lot more in sales than whatever it is they are asking for. Think about the longtime value of the customer, and don't forget the aggravation it causes you personally. That's your call, but I'm not going to argue over a few dollars.

Most of all, don't let it ruin your day. Don't take it personally. Live and let live. Don't let someone else's character flaws bring out your own. Move on and enjoy the rest of your cheerful and appreciative holiday customers.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, and Happy, Happy, Happy Day!

- Doug

By Doug Fleener 14 Dec, 2016

Here are some quick tips and reminders on engaging and selling to multiple customers. Applying one or more of them will help you deliver an even better holiday customer experience resulting in higher sales!

1. Introduce yourself immediately upon engaging a customer, and ask his/her name. This will make customers feel they're getting special attention, even if it is off and on.

2. Tell your customer you're committed to helping her purchase the perfect gifts for everyone on her list. Even if you are pulled away to help another customer, this customer still feels like you're there to help her. It also immediately establishes that you'll be helping her with her entire shopping list.

3. Always let your customer know when you have to break away to help someone else. This way, your customer doesn't think you've just abandoned her. Some associates like to ask the customer for permission. She will always say yes.

4. Give your customer an assignment. This is my favorite tip. Have your customer choose two or three products that catch her eye, and say that you'll tell her about them when you get back. You'll be amazed how many customers follow directions! (More on the assignment on this three-minute video .)

5. Go back to a previous customer when you're done with the others. As obvious as this sounds, I see some salespeople not reengage with a customer because they don't want to get tied up.    

6. Proactively ask an associate who is free to assist your customer. Introduce your customer to your colleague, then take a few seconds to brief your colleague on what's taken place to date.  

7. Sell to an audience. Invite other customers to join you when showing a product. It usually creates an even more fun and engaging experience.

Chances are you already put some, if not most, of these into practice. That also means that incorporating one or two more of them will help you be even more successful!

So let me ask, which one of these actions will help you engage and sell to more customers?

By Doug Fleener 14 Dec, 2016

The busier the store gets, the bigger the impact (both positive and negative) the leader has on his/her staff and results. That’s why I hope you’ll invest a few minutes to read these ten quick holiday leadership tips,

1. One of your most important tasks this week ­­is to create a joyful work experience for your staff. A happy, energetic, and engaged staff is most definitely a competitive advantage this week.

2. It is also essential to make your store a joyful and productive shopping experience for your customers. That's pretty much a slam-dunk if you've taken care of your staff.

3. Stress could be your biggest impediment to being a productive leader this week. Keep talking with your manager, mentor, friend, spouse, or whoever, about how you're feeling. Talking it through almost always leads to lower stress and higher focus.

4. Avoid excuses. Own what's happening in your business, good, bad, or okay. If you claim what's taking place you can also lead your team to even better results.

5. If your sales are falling short, do you know exactly where your opportunities are? You can't change or improve trends without understanding the cause. Are one or two of your product categories off? Is your average sale or transactions down?

6. Establish a daily action that focuses your team on improving the issue(s) you identified above. Too many managers/owners only talk about the desired result and not the actions needed to change the trend. The same is true for those having a strong holiday. Action is the key!

7. Be sure your team continues to focus on Who and not What. (Or as you learned in this video , Whonotwhat.) One retailer increased their store’s average sale by 25% last weekend by making that shift. 25%!

8. Back-ups at the register are more likely to happen during the weekday when there is less staff. Don't let the last steps of the customer experience be any less stellar than everything that came before.

9. Share the working with multiple customers handout with your staff before this weekend. You can download it here, or read about it below.

10. Last but not least, step up and be the floor leader your customers and staff need. A manager once told me that during busy times he saw himself as just another team member. I wanted to fire him on the spot.

You can't be just another salesperson or cashier. It doesn't mean you can't sell or ring every now and then, but you need to be leading and controlling what's happening in the store. Your team needs you to lead and coach them to success!

So let me ask, are you and your management team ready to lead the team to finish strong?


By Doug Fleener 06 Dec, 2016
By Doug Fleener 16 Nov, 2016

The next six weeks are "the most wonderful time of the year." Well, at least until you find yourself about ready to snap over the person who just stole your parking spot!

The holidays can be wonderful, and from time to time a bit trying. Just remember that your own attitude, behaviors, and actions ultimately determine how your holiday goes.

Here’s a list of tips and actions anyone working retail can use for a reasonably stress-free, enjoyable, and productive holiday. (Most work for non-retail teams as well.)

1. Have fun! It's pretty hard to be stressed when you're bent on having fun. Challenge a colleague to a sales contest, or who can have the most add-ons in the next hour. Have fun with customers - and their children. Time goes faster when you're having fun.

2. Try to improve your performance from the day before. Aim for a higher ADS or UPT. Shoot for 110% of goal. It's amazing how the little things don't bother you as much when you're striving to be better.

3. Keep conversations with your co-workers positive and upbeat. Don't participate in gossip and negativity. You don't want to land on the naughty list.

4. Try to do something nice for someone else every day . Maybe leave a little gift for a co-worker. Don't tell anyone.

5. Keep smiling. The best part about giving smiles is that you get them in return, or at least people think you're a little crazy which may true on some days. That can be fun too.

6. Ask to take five minutes off the floor when you get that crazy and overwhelmed feeling. Even better, suggest a five minute breather to a co-worker who clearly needs it.

7. If business is slow, ask a colleague to watch you and give you feedback about what you can do even better . A little tip or two can make a huge difference in your day 

8. Make an effort to leave work at work . I knew a manager who always clapped her hands when she walked out the door at the end of a shift. It was her way of physically moving from work mode to personal life mode.

9. Make an effort to leave any personal issues at home, or at least leave them in the car. Think of the lease line at your store as an attitude line. When you cross it, you need to make sure you have the best possible attitude.

10. Never be so busy that you don't take a moment to know your customer a bit better or do something a little extra special for him/her.   It will increase your average sale, and that will improve your attitude.

11. Give your customer choices.  It's great service and great for business. Studies show that customers are more likely to make a purchase if they are asked to choose between different products. Customers also find it is easier to make a purchase decision when choosing between specific products, not a general "to buy or not to buy."

12. Leave home early to give yourself plenty of time to get to work. Those extra minutes can ensure a stress-free start to your workday. Being late is also not a good thing when your colleagues are depending on you.

13. Don't stop the sale. It's bad for business and unfair to your customer. Never say, "Will there be anything else?" Wait until your customer says he/she is done. Until then, keep working your customer's list and helping them find gifts for themselves, too.

14. Don't skip the things that keep you centered. Whether it's church, the gym, Starbucks, or sappy holiday movies, don't be too tired to do what you like to do. Personally, I find my annual viewing of Elf important to my holiday performance.

15. Don't skip your breaks. They're extremely important to being productive and having a good attitude. Use your phone during your breaks to take a breather from the hustle and bustle. Listen to some music. Text a friend or loved one. Decompress. And when you're not on break, avoid disturbing those who are.

16. Use good manners. Say "Please" at every opportunity. "Please" is a word that every person appreciates. There's big difference between "Sign here" and "Please sign here." You really cannot overuse the word "please." Never miss a chance to look your customer in the eye and say "Thank you." Avoid answering or otherwise talking on the phone when ringing up a sale.

17. Skip the food court and bring something special for lunch or dinner unless, that is, you love lines. Plan your meals for the entire week and give yourself one less thing to think about before work. Organize a staff potluck on the weekends.

18. Help your customers buy themselves a gift, too. It really is the best gift, since the recipient gets what he/she wants, and it certainly helps your sales results.

19. Treat yourself to something special. You may not be able to buy yourself something every day, but it doesn't have to be a treat that costs money. Call a friend you haven't spoken to recently. Take five extra minutes of quiet time in the morning or evening. Sometimes you need to reward yourself for a good day or even a bad one.

20. Help a colleague with her/his sale. You can get the product, be a silent assistant by bringing your colleague additional products, or jump in and add your expertise if appropriate.

21. Watch for customers who are overwhelmed. To you it might just look busy, but to a customer who needs something in particular and doesn't know where to find it, your busy store can look like pure chaos.

22. Get your own holiday shopping done early, unless you love that last-minute rush . Go shopping because you want to, not because you have to.

23. Don't take things personally, especially when dealing with an unhappy customer. Don't let other people's character defects bring out your own. Fix the problem and move on. Odds are good the next customer is a happy one.

24. Invest in some new shoes if your current pair is worn or not comfortable. Seriously. Happy feet make for a happy you. That's one of the best tips I got when I started retail, many holidays ago.

25. Focus on the spirit of the holiday. Throw a little money in the red bucket on the way to work. Walk down and watch the kids get ready to visit Santa. Don't watch the ones in line who are still an hour away from Santa. That's never pretty, but it can be fun to watch if you're not one of the parents. If you're downtown, step outside and watch the shoppers.

26. Go above and beyond for every customer. (Get it? #26!) Karma is a wonderful thing, and holiday Karma is the best.

So let me ask, which of these tips can you apply to create a more stress-free, enjoyable, and productive holiday?

By Doug Fleener 16 Nov, 2016

OutFront Leaders champion these three mindsets during the holidays.

1. Champion WE. OutFront leaders position and reinforce how essential the team is to the success of the business. Henry Ford said, ""If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." I believe that how well a retail staff works together to engage and sell customers can have a positive - or negative - impact of 10% or more. 

Specialty stores want to champion team selling, silent assists, colleague coaching, multi-customer engagement, and all other teamwork that results in higher sales and the best possible customer service experience.

2. Champion maximizing every customer opportunity.  Recently, while shopping in a department store I overheard two salespeople complaining about how slow business was. They were doing this, of course, instead of engaging me.

Holiday success isn't dependent on any one promotion or event, but it will be determined by the experience and level of sales focus on every customer that walks into the store. Miss maximizing even one customer opportunity, and it might be the one that makes the day.

3. Champion your customer's experience. What sets your store apart from all the rest are the products you sell, AND the experience a customer has when shopping with you. While some customers might be looking for deals, that isn’t the only reason they come into your store.

Customers shop your store because of how it makes them feel. The better they feel, the more they purchase. How we do that might change during the holidays, but the importance of doing it never does.

Take these three actions this week and throughout the holidays your store staff is sure to be Champions! (Cue up the Queen music!) 

So let me ask, what are you and your leaders championing for this holiday?

How to use this article.

Discuss with your leadership team how each of them sets the tone, and how championing key messages makes a positive impact on holiday results. Talk about these three key points to champion, and any others you and they feel might be vital to your store’s success.

 

By Doug Fleener 27 Oct, 2016

While observing a salesperson show her customer a watch, I started thinking about what the employee might have done differently if the customer had announced when she walked into the store, "I'm here to purchase a watch."
 
The associate probably would have put the watch on her customer's wrist much sooner.
 
She also would have also found out what the customer liked or didn't like about the watch, so she could show her something else.
 
And knowing that salesperson, I think she would have shown additional products to complement the watch.
 
Don't get me wrong; the employee did a nice job showing the watch. I'm just saying that she would have approached it much differently if the customer had announced her purchase intent.
 
Our stores are a better experience when people are engaged with the products . Trying things out. Trying things on. Learning about products. Playing with the products, etc.
 
We owe it to our customers to engage them as if they announced, "I'm here to make a purchase."
 
But wait? Isn't that being a pushy salesperson?
 
(Yes, I often have conversations with myself!)
 
I don't believe that engaging a customer as if he/she stated, "I am here to make a purchase" is pushy at all!
 
What's pushy is continuing to engage a customer if she communicates that she'd rather experience the store without our help.
 
This will result in not only a much better service experience for your customers, but it will absolutely increase your sales.

So let me ask, do you engage your customers as if they have come in to make a purchase?

 

Into Action

Try it out. Engage every customer today as if he/she told you as he/she walked in the door, "I'm here to make a purchase."

Have a colleague observe you with the customer, and then share some feedback on what you did well and could do better to help that customer make her purchase.

 

By Doug Fleener 19 Oct, 2016

1. Reach even higher. I like to think that managers maintain what is, but OutFront leaders and coaches create what can be.

2. Focus on HOW more than what.  Managers will tell employees what their goals are, or how they’re falling short. OutFront leaders and coaches will focus their conversations on what people can DO to achieve their goals.

3. Give self-confidence. Jack Welch once said that giving his staff self-confidence is one of the most important things he does as a leader. Self-confidence, he says, leads to people taking action. We give self-confidence by telling people WHY they can do or achieve what is being asked of them.

4. Show the way. When you invest the time to work directly with your staff, they will grow considerably faster than doing so on her/his own. That’s a huge ROI on your time. An ROI that shows up in your staff’s development and business results.

Here’s an example of how an OutFront leader in one of my coaching programs put these four into action: I’ll let Brittany tell you the rest.

"Yesterday I worked with <name removed>, and I took the advice you gave mel. After every transaction we discussed what we did with the customer. At the end of her shift her ADS was $79, which is a 16.5% increase from her current $66. I also saw her confidence increase as she said to me, 'this is so much easier than I thought it would be, you were right!'"

So let me ask, what will you do to maximize this week's leadership opportunity?

By Doug Fleener 19 Oct, 2016

Doesn't it bug you when people push their own values on you? After all, just because something is important to them doesn't mean it's important to me. I don't think they should tell me what I should value and I shouldn't tell them, either.

That's certainly happening in political conversations right now, but no political talk. I'm referring to retail salespeople.

That's right, too many retail salespeople are pushing their own personal values on customers, assuming they know what their customers are thinking, and it's costing retailers both customers and sales.

I once asked a salesperson, "So these shirts are $80?" She immediately said, "Oh don't worry, we have cheaper shirts. Let me show you these over here that are on sale." Fine, but I hadn't said I wanted to look at less expensive shirts. I wanted to confirm the price of the shirts I was looking at right then.

It is important that sales associates understand what the customer's values are and don't let their own get in the way. Not everyone wants the cheapest price. Most people want a fair price, which isn't necessarily the same thing as the lowest price.

Customers are looking for quality, selection, convenience and service in addition to price. Every customer values these elements differently and we should never assume we know in what order our customer prioritizes them.

Do yourself and your customer a favor and don't assume you know what it is important to him/her. All you have to have to do is ask them.

So let me ask, are you assuming what your customer values?


By Doug Fleener 12 Oct, 2016
It’s vital that your staff make sure that a customer’s purchase and experience is right. It doesn’t matter how good a barista is if she makes the wrong drink.

That’s why retail associates must take responsibility for what a customer is buying, whether or not they helped the person select the product. It only takes a few seconds to discover why the customer is buying a particular item.

If they’re the buying the right item, great! If there is something else the customer should consider, it’s great service to suggest he/she looks at it. If he’s buying the wrong item, the associate just saved the customer time and frustration, and the store from getting a return.

So let me ask, does your staff take responsibility for everything a customer buys?
By Doug Fleener 12 Oct, 2016
Time is a leader’s most valuable resource, one that must be invested wisely. For most leaders, their best time investment is working with and coaching their staff on delivering an even better service and sales experience.

Unfortunately, operational activities take up a great deal of a frontline manager’s time. That’s why it is important to reduce the time spent on these activities whenever possible.

You can do that by giving yourself shorter, specific, time frames to complete operational tasks. Instead of just “working” on your paperwork or saying you’ll get it done “sometime today,” tell yourself you have “45 minutes to get it done.” Why? Because you’ll use however much time you give yourself.

Think about it. How long did it take to write a paper the teacher assigned four weeks out? That’s right. Four weeks. If the teacher had said one week, that’s how long it would take. It’s actually called Parkinson’s Law. Look it up.

Give yourself less time on operational activities, and you’ll be able to get OutFront to lead and coach your team to higher results.

Try it out today. You’ll see and be able to invest the time you save.
By Doug Fleener 06 Oct, 2016

Most specialty retailers whose staff is sales-focused emphasize add-ons. When done well, this approach can slightly increase a store's average sale, but I believe it also reduces how well a staff can maximize sales opportunities.

In some stores, an add-on is an inexpensive item suggested to the customer at checkout. In other stores, it's a suggested item that complements a product a customer is buying.

Both approaches are better than just ringing up the sale without any suggestions for an additional purchase, but the best salespeople go far beyond adding-on.

They SELL-ON!

Selling on is the act of continuing to show and recommend products and services the customer may want to purchase. This may sound like semantics, but it's a completely different mindset and approach.

The most successful retail salespeople never stop the sale.

They continue to sell on until the customer says he/she is done. They know it is poor service to assume the customer is done shopping until the customer says it.

Of course the first recommendation will be for a product that naturally complements the item the customer is buying. They'll show a wallet with a handbag, or treat with a bag of dog food. (Or whatever it is in your store.)

Top salespeople don't stop there.  They sell-on.

If the customer says "no" to the complementary product, they transition to additional products. If you focus on add-ons the customer's "no" means that the sale is over and it's time to check-out. When you focus on selling-on, "no" just means "no" to that product.

Do yourself a favor and reread that last paragraph. I'll wait. 

Ready?  

The salesperson that sells-on then moves to the next product and keeps showing and suggesting products until the customer says he/she is done.  

The customer might say no two or three times, but there's also a good chance there will be another one or perhaps two "yes" responses.

Compare that to the add-on approach of one "no" and you're done.

So let me ask, why limit your sales and not give your customers the opportunity to own even more of your wonderful products? The secret is to quit adding-on and begin selling on. Seriously try it for 30-days. You'll see the difference. You'll bank the difference.

Have a great week, and SELL-ON!

By Doug Fleener 28 Sep, 2016

The other day I was in a client's store when an older gentleman, helped by a younger woman, walked in. The associate went over to greet them, and then asked if she could help them.

He responded, "Just looking." Then he burst out laughing, because he was blind. The young woman, who was his aide, told me later that he loved to do that. There's not much I haven't seen in retail, but that was a new one. It was awesome. 

It got me thinking. If even a blind person will say he's just looking, people clearly don't always mean what they say. "Just looking" can actually mean many things.

"I have an interest in your store, but first I need some space to check it out."

"I may or may not be looking for something, but I haven't gotten comfortable enough to discuss it."

"I'd like to shop alone right now."

"Oh, no. It's a pesky salesperson! Please go away."

Here's the key.

Most of the time "just looking" means absolutely nothing. Zilch!

It's a natural response to an associate asking the customer if they need help. It is said without thought.

I've walked into a store wanting help and said it. It's just what you say when someone asks, "How may I help you?"

In the above example, I know that associate knows better than to ask how she can help a potential customer. I think the man being blind threw her off.

If she had said, "Welcome to XYZ. Is this your first time in the store, or have you been her before?" the customer wouldn't have responded with "just looking." Then again, he would have not gotten such a good laugh from all of us.

Here's my challenge for you.

How many customers in a row can you engage without them saying, "Just looking?" I guarantee that the higher the number, the better each customer's experience will be, and the more you will sell.

By the way, if they still say, "Just looking" all you need to do is give them a few minutes, and then reengage them.

So let me ask, how many customers can you engaging without them saying, “Just looking.”

Into action

Have a challenge today among your colleagues on who can have the longest streak of customers not say, "Just looking."

 

By Doug Fleener 26 Sep, 2016
If a customer has a less than stellar experience this week, what could have happened and what could we have done to avoid it?

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By Doug Fleener 23 Sep, 2016
It's Monday morning, and we look back and see that we had an incredibly successful weekend. We acknowledge that the extra effort the team put in made the difference. What are some of the things we might have had the team do?  

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By Doug Fleener 22 Sep, 2016

Last year I set out with a goal to eat better, get more exercise, and lose weight. I was really happy with how much I lost in the first four weeks, but then the dreaded plateau set in. As frustrating as it is, I learned that plateaus and dips are a natural part of losing weight.

Plateaus and dips are also a natural part of business and individual performance. Your team is working hard to improve their results. You’re making great progress, and then BAM. It stops. The dreaded plateau. Sometimes it’s not even a plateau, but your sales even dip.

Here are three things you can do when you, your business, and/or staff hit a performance plateau.

1. Change your routine. One reason you hit a weight loss plateau is because the body adapts to new eating and exercise routines. The changes you've made don't have as much impact as they did when you began.

The same is true with a staff. What once was new and different is now routine. Combat routine by switching things up. Change how you do Take Five (shift huddles) meetings. Focus on a different metric this week. Have a new game or competition. Do something to make this week different from last week.

2. Shift your focus to something new that will improve performance. A trainer will help you work through a plateau by making changes to your exercise program. He or she will probably target a different part of your body to focus on.

That same approach will work for you. If you've been focused on showing your customer additional items, shift the focus to reengaging customers. If you’ve been focusing on sharing more about the product, try improving getting customers in the dress room. (Or whatever is appropriate for your business.) 

It doesn't mean you stop what's been helping your staff perform at a higher level. What you’re doing is adding new areas of focus to keep improving and growing your sales. You can always circle back around to whatever you were focused on.

3. Improve your accountability. Many weight loss plateaus aren't plateaus at all. They're really the result of people slowly slipping back into old eating habits. That's why I used an app to track everything I eat. Total accountability!

Your plateau could also be a sign of people slipping back into old habits. I don't know of an app for that, but I do know that having people track and/or report back on how they perform key expectations has a direct impact on results.

So let me ask, are you or your staff in a performance plateau? If so, consider applying these three tips to overcome it, or even if you simply want to jumpstart your sales and service results.

By the way, I hit the best plateau of all….my weight goal. I’m maintaining it by continuing to do these three things. They work if you do them.

------------

Doug Fleener, the former director of retail for Bose Corporation, is a frontline leadership expert known for bring fresh approaches and powerful actionable ideas to clients and audiences around the world.

For over twenty-years Fleener has helped executives, owners, multi-unit managers, and frontline managers accelerate the impact they have on employees, the customer service experience, and results. Learn more at DougFleener.com

By Doug Fleener 15 Sep, 2016

Thank you cards are still one of the most effective, and most affordable, marketing tools you have. They stand out even more with so most marketing materials going digital.

Think about it. How many emails did you get in the last two weeks? Okay, and how many handwritten thank you cards did you get? Point made!

The fact is nothing does a bette job of creating a future visit than demonstrating your appreciation for your customer’s last visit.

Unfortunately, thank you cards are also one of those activities that seem to fall off the radar when things get busy or the staff gets distracted.

Which is too bad, because every thank you card is an investment in creating a future sale. I know one retailer who believes each thank you card will create $120 in future sales. That's worth writing for!

Here are some tips for creating productive thank you cards that make a positive impact.

1. Give yourself a daily target of thank you cards to do. If you wrote just two a day and worked four days a week, you would send out 368 thank you cards over the course of a year. (I'm not including the holiday season in this count.)

If you use the thank you card value of $120, that could create $44,160 in additional annual sales. Of course, your number could be higher or lower, but any way you look at it, more thank you cards results in more sales.

2. Write legibly. The card doesn't have any value if the customer can't read your handwriting. Those with less than stellar handwriting will want to write more slowly and focus on making the card readable.

3. Put the date in the upper right hand corner. This demonstrates that you are sending the card in response to a recent purchase or visit.

4. Use the proper salutation. Keep them formal ( Dear Mrs. Johnson ) unless you have known the customer for a long time, and are already on first name basis with him/her.

5. Start with your appreciation. The first words of the first sentence should convey the message of the note. Thank you for... or I appreciate ...

6. Personalize each note. Don't generically thank the customer for his/her purchase or visit. Be specific about what he/she purchased, or the exact dates of when they visited.

7. Set up the next visit. Tell your customer you look forward to serving her again on her next visit. You might even reference showing her something that will go with the item she purchased. Make this brief so you don't overshadow the core message of thank you.

8. End with a second thank you. This way the start and the finish express your thanks. Thank you again....

So let me ask, how well is your store effectively using thank you cards? What will you do to increase and/or improve your customer thank you cards? Remember, each one is an investment in keeping your customers and creating future sales.

By Doug Fleener 07 Sep, 2016

I once worked for a manager who gave a lot of feedback. I appreciated that since most of my managers up to then hadn't given much at all. What I didn't appreciate was that he only focused what didn't happen or what went wrong.

I have no idea why he couldn't accentuate the positive. If you made a big sale he would point out that the paperwork wasn't done correctly.

If you scored a 98 on a mystery shop he would want to review the one item the employee missed. If you hit 104% of sales he would want to talk about what kept you from achieving 105%. You get the picture. His perspective was out of balance.

It isn't much different from the manager or owner who only focuses on the positive. 

One manager who reported to me was the King of Pollyanna-land. If his store burned down he would have found a way to position it as a good thing. Needless to say, this guy didn't have much credibility with his team. His praise went in one ear and out the other.

OutFront frontline leaders keep and share a balanced perspective.

They recognize and celebrate success, and they identify and share improvement opportunities.

They know not to undermine praise with poorly timed feedback, and to not weaken critical improvement feedback with false praise.

They avoid being critical, and focus on what they want employee to do better or different. (That’s exactly what I teach in my EveryDay Coaching program.)

Keeping and sharing a balanced perspective is a key to helping employees develop and your store to succeed.

So let me ask, do you keep a balanced perspective? How balanced is it? More important, how balanced does your team think your perspective is? What should you do this week to have a more balanced and productive perspective?

By Doug Fleener 31 Aug, 2016

"When people are highly motivated, it's easy to accomplish the impossible. And when they're not, it's impossible to accomplish the easy." - Bob Collings