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You’ll Never Have Enough Staff Until you _____ Enough Stuff.

Business Friends,

I’m taking the liberty to call all of you friends as some of you have taken the liberty to give me a new name when I checked out at your store. But before I tell you about that let’s begin at the beginning of my visit and work to the end.

As I shop this spring it is obvious that one of the biggest opportunities you have is to sell more stuff to the customers in your store right now. So what’s getting in the way of that?

Just the same as in previous years, I walk through stores from front to back and then back to the front and repeat the process. I am NEVER (okay, rarely) spoken to even though there are plenty of employees that I walk by as they are busy adding more stuff apparently for someone else who arrives after I leave to buy.

Instead of selling more of what you already have to customers already in your store, everyone is focused on adding more stuff that won’t be bought by the customers who are already there.

In my estimation, the lost opportunity from this lack of proper focus is in the 15-25% range. Can you really afford to miss that much? Are you confident that enough customers will keep on coming in to make up for what you’re missing now?

When you’re really busy you can’t have enough people to help every customer. I get that. Still, there is opportunity, but you’ll have to stop making it harder for the customers already in your store to shop. As I fight to get my cart through your stores I have to think that it might be better if you saved some room for me to get through to see more of less stuff. Think about it.

When I do manage to buy something and go to the checkout I am essentially ignored there too. The most recognition I get is to have my apparently new name printed on the receipt – “Cash Customer”. Since this is my last impression of your store, it is the most recent impression. If it is underwhelming I am highly unlikely to return soon, much less to excitedly tell friends why they should come to you.

So, what are you going to do about it?


15 Responses

  1. I am wondering how do we tell if this is us. Our aisles are 5 feet wide. In surveys of customers the number one thing they say is great customer service.

  2. We are all guilty of it at times, me and my staff included, although we are ALL trained to at least say “hello: as you walk by. But the simple answer is if I take the time to walk around with you for a half an hour while you pick out $50 worth of plants, I will not be able to restock the area with the $1000 worth I could sell to 50 others willing to just pick it up on impulse. No excuses, just hard facts during the busiest 3 weeks of the year, when there simply isn’t enough time in the day. This year we have done an incredible job by hiring three people whose sole job it is to restock, and call someone for lenghty questions. It has worked amazingly well, but there is always room for improvement.

  3. You are preaching to the choir Sid. We get it. Tthe owners and employees who did this to you don’t read this kind of stuff.

  4. You should go to Home Depot. Every person in the store addressed me today and asked me if they could help or how I was and I walked most of the store and garden with my list.

  5. Sid,
    Many thanks! I can never be reminded enough! May I add that it makes no difference when you come in either…Whether it’s a packed house full of customers or if you are the lone soul in the place, I imagine your very simple needs are the same. It doesn’t take a complicated marketing scheme either I suppose. From the description of your visit the bar is set so low I’d be ahead of everyone if I just stopped to say hello. Many thanks for your reminder! It’s a serious lesson.

  6. Well Sid you are right. And we owners and managers hear the seminars, read the articles and it does not get to the seasonal help who the customers see as “us”. It is hard and even with all the great planning and hiring early, the season does not break and we do not get every one trained and on and on. It still comes back to me!!! The boss still is to blame. If you come to Sid’s Greenhouses and Garden Center, you’d could be the boss Sid, but then we still would ingnore you and treat you as ‘cash’!

  7. Customer service is THE most important thing that separates the independent Garden center from the Big Box retailer but I’m not sure that they are capitalizing on this to it’s maximum potential. I supply Big Box Garden Centers in my neck of the woods but I keep telling my independent garden center customer that they have a niche their competition will never and, as a matter of fact, CANNOT fill. If garden centers ensure to enthuse/infect their customers with THEIR passion for gardening, customers will always come back for that emotional and intellectual connection not available at the big box retailer.

  8. Thanks for commenting with your confirmation that independents will always have a place Tamara. Customer service is not enough by the definition it is given by many retailers. Going beyond simply greeting people, answering questions (even dumb ones) well, and thanking them for coming is good, but not good enough. To win the battle to get customers back we must go further, and as you say, “provide the emotional and intellectual connection not available at the big-box retailer.

  9. Phil this reminds me that often the high priority for hiring cashiers is their focus on accuracy. I don’t mean to pick on your cashiers although I also don’t want to miss the opportunity to use an unfortunate circumstance to help ensure that we can improve and help others improve. This post has certainly struck a nerve with many others.

    While accuracy is important to the job of being a cashier, there is nothing more important than making the customer feel important. Some people can actually do both at once. Digging through the haystack to find them is hard. As Jean Seawright says, “hire hard and manage easy, or hire easy and manage hard”.

  10. A customer will change their expectations a bit if the house is packed Jonn. Too often, we use the few times the house is packed to cover the many times it is not. The times I referred to in the original post were not times where there were too many customers. The problem was the focus was on the stuff, and not on the people we hope buy the stuff. The worst thing we can do is to present a marketing scheme that brings a customer in and then treat them as if they weren’t invited. To borrow a line from a movie we should remember that a smile and friendly gesture makes all the difference in the world. – “You had me at hello” With “hello” we have more opportunity. Without it we’re starting out on the wrong foot.

  11. I know what you say is true Rick and I hate that they do that. I walked through a Chicago area HD Saturday and had the same experience. Like a slap on the face, thanks for saying it.

  12. Your plan to have different people do stocking is is great Tina. One of the best practices I have ever seen is to have several employees who like to work in the dark hours of the morning come in and stock and clean for the day. Managing inventory and display so there is enough holding capacity for fast-turning stock also helps. They say at Walmart that the best form of customer service is being in-stock. This works everywhere.

  13. People expect customer service but define it differently Ed. Giving them what they expect is essential. Asking them to give you more for exceeding what they expect is a higher art. Aisles that are five feet wide are wide enough for one customer to get through. If you want more than one customer in an aisle (especially a long one) they are not wide enough and a foot of space was wasted. Sometimes more than one customer will go into an aisle but then they leave their cart in the middle of the main aisle. Or worse – they don’t have a cart and can buy only what they can carry.

  14. Sid,
    This is the first blog i can remember that I didn’t feel ewas aimed directly at me. If I’m wrong about this call me right away.
    GoodSeed Farm is still in the dark ages as far as POS and technology, but we’re focused on the customer shopping experience absolutely. I look around me at garden centers that do volume and could only dream about being in that position. Our challenge is how to afford doing what we do when volume is an impossible dream.

  15. You’re not in the bulls eye Steve, so no, this wasn’t directed at you, but you may be somewhere on the target. The customer shopping experience is a start, but the customer buying experience is where it counts. Not only have I escaped stores without being spoken to, or known as anyone other than the mysterious “Cash Customer”, but I didn’t buy as much as I would have in an effective selling environment at any of them.

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