One day I was catching up with two friends over coffee when the conversation turned to how bad the traffic had been recently.
One friend told us how it was killing his productivity. He's an outside rep and the traffic kept him from seeing all of the accounts he planned to see.
The other friend is also a rep, but in a different field. The traffic also kept him from seeing all of his clients, but in the end he had a terrific sales week.
He had decided that he would use the time sitting in traffic to phone accounts he doesn't normally get to call on. As a result, he picked up a couple of additional orders he wouldn't have gotten without sitting in traffic.
Two people. Same traffic. Different results.
One person had better results because he had a different perspective. Instead of seeing the traffic only as an impediment, he took advantage of the challenge.
Here are three traffic perspectives store leaders will do well to remember.
1. Maximize every customer opportunity. I once had a store outside of Chicago that had to deal with terrible traffic but still produced amazing results. Their center simply didn't attract much attention, so the store leadership and staff quickly learned that every customer mattered. You don't have to be a slow store to apply that lesson.
2. No labeling customers. One word I never allowed my staff to use was "looker." The minute we label a customer a looker, we're really saying they aren't going to buy anything. It's funny how that is proven over and over.
One manager who recently took my coaching class had her staff stop using the word. Guess what? Yep, conversion went up. Our perspective has a huge impact on our results.
3. Own it. If you’ve heard me speak you’ve heard me say that when you own something, you have the power to change it. One of my coffee friends owned the bad traffic last week. He didn't sit in his car and fume or complain. He took action.
Traffic is a real challenge for most stores. No way to sugarcoat it. At the same time we have no alternative but to own it. We have to take responsibility for driving existing clients and new customers into the store.
Make sure the entire staff is using downtime to reach out to customers. Plan small events. Set appointments for your top customers to come in and see the newest products. Refuse to let lack of traffic keep you from obtaining your goals. Own it!
Got too much traffic? First, thank your lucky stars. Then, have the staff practice working with multiple customers and group selling. Whatever your traffic... own it!
So let me ask, how is your traffic perspective?
How to use this article
Discuss your leadership group's traffic perspective with your managers. Which perspectives could benefit from a change? Identify three actions they’ll take to get an even better perspective.
I used to assume that if someone was struggling to do something, it was because they needed more training. Sometimes that was the case, but sometimes what she/he really needed was to successfully apply the skills and knowledge the person had already learned.
How do you know the difference? Here’s a simple but effective way to look at it.
1. People first need to know WHY we do, or need to know, something. If people don't know why you're asking them to do it, they rarely do it. Or at the least they're much less likely to do it especially well.
Why should I learn three things about my customer?
Why should I show an additional item without asking? I
It is also important that your team know if these actions are required or optional.
2. Next, each person needs to learn HOW and/or WHAT.
How do I engage customers in a conversation to ask questions in an authentic way?
How do I show an additional item without being perceived as pushy?
How is this product made?
What makes these products unique and different?
Never assume your staff know the HOW or WHAT. You’d be surprised how often leaders assume the staff knows this but they don’t. They know it’s supposed to be done, but nobody has worked closely with them to learn and practice the skill.
3. Now, people need to DO it. If something is an expectation of the position, people need to meet that expectation. This is where the biggest breakdown happens.
People don't do what's expected of them and the manager/owner assumes the person can't do it and needs more training.
In fact, most often the person doesn't need more training. What he/she needs is observation and coaching so they can do whatever it is they need to do, and do it well.
After that, they need to do it or be held accountable for drifting from it. That’s why accountability is such a key element to leading and coaching a team.
If your staff is struggling in a particular area, walk though these three steps.
1. Do they know WHY?
2. Do they how know HOW or WHAT?
3. Are you requiring them to DO it, and to keep doing it?
So let me ask, does your staff need more training, coaching and accountability, or a combination of them?
How to use this article
Think about two particular service/selling actions you'd like to see your staff do better. Then apply the three questions. This will help you determine if they need additional training, or you need to be working with them to do it.
I like to think that as leaders we only have one priority: Our customers, and their service and purchase experience. Everything else we do supports that priority.
Some of what we do to support that priority is more important than other parts of our job. First, being an OutFront frontline leader. Making sure the customer priority stays the priority.
Second, coaching and developing the staff to deliver the best possible service and sales experience. The more we help our employees be even better, the better the customer’s experience. Perfect since that’s our priority!
Here are three leadership tips/reminders to help you accomplish this goal.
1. See YOUR day as a series of choices. As a young manager I often felt like my day ran me, as though I had no control over what was going on. At the end of the day I was exhausted and had accomplished hardly anything I planned to do.
Nothing changed until I realized that I always had a choice about what I did. I could delegate. I could put something off. I could knock something off my list quickly. Most important, I learned to challenge myself by asking, "Is this the best use of my time at this moment?"
When a leader has a choice, they’re able to keep the customer and his/her experience as the priority.
2. See your actions as words. It was Gandhi who said that action expresses priorities. Your staff won't always follow what you say, but they'll do what you do. Your actions tell your staff what is most important each and every day.
It's not the memo. It's not the training video. It's what you, as a leader, do day in and day out that communicates what's important. Many leaders do not communicate a customer priority in what they’re doing.
Of course you have many other things to get done in addition to working with customers. Leadership is choosing the right time to do them. Frequently reminding your staff to interrupt you when they get busy.
Making sure your staff knows that customers come before any other tasks and activities you've asked them to do.
3. Make time every day to coach and lead on the floor. Again, when we develop our people, we improve the experience. Following through on our priority.
Most people work from a to-do list. I believe leaders should start that list by blocking out the time they're going to be coaching and leading their team. Everything else works around that. This isn't when you're "working the floor" or “hanging out in a cube” but when you're coaching and leading. There's a big difference.
So let me ask, how well are you leading a customer priority?
How to use this article
Discuss with your leadership team how well they communicate and act a customer priority, and in which of these areas they can improve. Take a moment also to brainstorm two or three more things they might do to improve their prioritization.
Staff enthusiasm is a key element of a great customer experience. Enthusiasm creates a more energetic, engaging location, and thus more interest and excitement for the customer. That leads to higher sales, and customer loyalty and pro-active advocacy.
A colleague of mine once said that enthusiasm can make a bologna sandwich seem like filet mignon. That may be a bit of a stretch, but enthusiasm will definitely make one store's bologna sandwich more appealing than another's.
Enthusiasm doesn't just happen. It is the result of leadership. Charles Schwab, the well-known businessman, once said that his ability to arouse enthusiasm was his greatest asset.
Here are three ways to create an even more enthusiastic staff and customer experience:
1. Demonstrate your appreciation. People are more enthusiastic about their work and their customers when they feel appreciated by their employer. As a leader, you need to make sure you're truly demonstrating your appreciation, not just thinking it.
Challenge yourself to do one or more things each day to demonstrate your appreciation. Consider writing them down at the end of day for an entire month. You might be pleasantly surprised how much you do, or you might learn you’re thinking it more than showing it.
2. Purposeful cheering. Encouraging your team is important to developing enthusiasm. Focusing your encouragement makes sure your team is enthusiastic about what matters to customers, and helps create the desired results. You can never go wrong when you cheer an employee's actions as they relate to the customer's experience.
3. Keep the employee experience fresh. Imagine if every time a customer came into the store nothing had changed from the previous visit. Same products. Same offers. Same everything. It wouldn't be long before that customer got bored and started doing business elsewhere.
The same thing can happen to your staff. Sure, products and offers change, but what is new and different for the people? Do you create new and exciting ways to grow and develop? Do you change up your Take Fives (staff huddles) and meetings to make them fun and different? (Or worse, have you drifted away from doing them?)
Norman Vincent Peale said, "There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment." Ultimately, a staff's enthusiasm level and accomplishments are a measurement of the leadership team's effectiveness.
So let me ask, how would you score yours?
How to use this article
Discuss with your management how the enthusiasm level is in your company/location. What do you see and hear associates do that demonstrates their enthusiasm? Where do you see opportunities for them to be even more enthusiastic?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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?