Glasses on the bar!

It amazes me how many businesses seem to go out of their way to lose business and customers. And I fell prey to this just last weekend.

Now, okay, the pub I was in had been busy. But no business can afford to throw away business – ever. Well, not if they want to be Super Successful. Or, maybe, even just stay in business.

This is what happened. Things were becoming calmer after a hectic lunchtime and two of the bar staff started to clear the tables of empty glasses; something that really should have happened as part of the service. Soon the bar top was covered in an assortment of dirty glasses. Now to my mind it would have been better for one member of staff to collect the glasses and the other to take them off to the kitchen. As the whole bar looked a right mess.

But, things were far worse than that. No one was served for over five minutes! And there was a fair number of us; in fact the bar staff had to work their way through us to get to the bar. This was when three locals had decided they had had enough. There was another pub up the road. A couple that had only just arrived followed them out of the door. And I was only getting some extra drinks or I would have left as well.

The thing that got me was that these two members of staff could see us all waiting but didn’t think to stop doing a job that could wait and instead do a job that would make them a profit. Now I certainly won’t be going to that pub again; maybe I never would have done as we were only passing by. But the three local people certainly gave the impression that they wouldn’t be back as it seemed this was pretty much normal service.

Business is tough at anytime, and is certainly hard at the moment, so you just can’t afford to throw away business that is already in your hands. Now I’m sure that you are thinking that you would never stack a bar high with dirty glasses when you had customers waiting, but are you absolutely sure that you aren’t doing anything similar in your own business? Might just be worth a look and you never know you just might see an increase in your profits if you were to find something.

Thank You ……….

Most well-mannered people say Thank You.

However, I have to admit that I, almost, dislike intensely people who don’t say ‘Thank You’. I don’t know if they are half-asleep or just plain rude.
I’ve held a door open for someone and they just walk through as if it’s their right, without even a flick of the eyes in acknowledgement. Many a time I’ve given them a sarcastic ‘Thank You’ in passing but most often it doesn’t even register.

Then of course there are car drivers. You’ve pulled in to let them pass, or stopped to allow them into a stream of traffic, and you get nothing in return.

Surely it’s a common courtesy, just well-mannered, to say thank you?

But enough of my ranting, because I’m actually writing about those people who do say ‘Thank You’ – which in my experience is the majority of people.

‘Thank You’, ‘Thanks’, ‘Cheers’ are all nice to hear but often are ‘lost’ because it’s a semi-automatic response from a naturally polite person and you are expecting it.

Here’s a simple example – you give someone a tube of Smarties and they say thank you. Nothing wrong with that, it’s polite. The moment passes without much further thought.

But how much better would it be if instead the person said, ‘Thank you, I love Smarties’? How much better would you feel? You had got them a gift they really liked.

Think back over the last few times that someone has thanked you for something. I bet you remember, and feel better about, the times that you received more than a plain thank you.

In business, and your personal life, you will see a big improvement in your relationships if you thank people with more than just a bare ‘Thank You’.

And it’s so easy to do.

When a delivery is made, rather than saying ‘Thank you’, say ‘Thank you for delivery so quickly’ or ‘Thank you for stacking the boxes for me.’

If someone gives you a referral, try saying, ‘Thank you, that’s just the sort of work I love.’

As often as possible add something to your thank you. Imagine how you would feel if someone took the time to thank you specially. Well that’s exactly how they will feel.

It’s only a small thing but I promise it will make a massive difference to your relationships.

And thank you for taking the time to read this blog.

Who will get to the phone first?!

Communication today is easier than it’s ever been and yet it is still the biggest area where all too many businesses fail; big time. And it is costing those businesses a great deal of future business and, more importantly, profit!

If you are dealing with a customer and they are waiting on something, and it doesn’t matter what that something is, you must contact them before they contact you. If your customer makes contact first you risk damaging your relationship with them and the amount of future business you get from them and the people they know. And don’t think that providing a great service or product makes up for bad communication because it doesn’t. Great service or product is a given.

This week I’ve come across two examples of bad communication from businesses that will affect their future business.

First is a case of a business returning to put right a small problem with some work they had done. Nothing major at all; maybe thirty minutes work and no real cost. But despite promising to return do the work it took a great deal of chasing by phone and email to actually get the company to turn up. The customer was just left not knowing if the work would be done or not and started to look elsewhere to get it done.

The second case was just a matter of being kept up-to-date with a situation. Again nothing major in itself, but the customer was asking for updates and not getting any. A simple “there’s no new information at the moment” would have been so much better than having a customer think that they had been forgotten.

As I say, both of these cases will cost the businesses concerned future business. In one case all possible future work, as the job had a problem and it took a great deal of effort to get it put right. The person concerned not only won’t be using them again, but, worse still, they won’t refer them to anybody else.

In the other example the person concerned now has a doubt in their mind. They will use the business again but they will be more cautious next time and, until they are completely happy again with the service, they won’t refer them.

Both these businesses have lost potential business through poor communication. And, in today’s world of phone, text and email that is just crazy!

So, who should you have got in touch with? Make that call before whoever it is can call you. Do you have a procedure in place for customer communication? What are your rules for ‘Follow Up’?

Better communication will improve your sales in the long term; all you need to do is make that call!

Smile please!

I’ve recently started to mentor a business owner who needs more sales, not just to make a profit, but just to stand a chance of staying in business. Now there are a number of things that we need to work on urgently, and one of the most important is the marketing of the business.

The simple truth is that the business is a good one; it just needs more sales. The trouble is, however good a business you may have, without sales it’s dead. So, the marketing of any business is the key to its success.

The market, message and media are critical. You need to know your exact market, craft a message to that market, and know which media to use to access that market. But that’s all for another day.

What I want to talk about here is one of the major problems that this business has. It only has one route to market and that route isn’t working. A significant problem!

The first thing we did was to consider every route to market that we could think of; in just a few minutes we had upwards of forty. Why not stop here for a moment and write down how many you can think of in a minute? We then worked through our list and picked twelve that would work the best. Having twelve or more routes to market is a good guide. Not the most obvious, cheapest or easiest, but the ones that would work the best and that could be achieved. No good a small company thinking of advertising on prime-time television, for example.

On the list was networking. Why? Because it could be started the next day, can work well and is low in cost. However, after a few weeks, it became apparent that networking really wasn’t working and I suggested that at the next networking event I go along with him. I would watch and listen and see if I could spot anything that he could do differently. Well, it wasn’t long before I came up with one major problem. He looked miserable! He was my client and even I wouldn’t want to go over and say “Hello”.

Think about it, unless you are a life coach, when was the last time that you were out networking and you went and looked for the most depressed person in the room? I can only imagine never!

So, if you find that networking is a pretty lonely place, that nobody wants to talk to you, just ask yourself: What do I look like? And then smile. It makes such a difference.

You could even try an experiment. Smile at the next person you meet and see what happens. Bet you they smile back!

Pretty Woman

One of my favourite films is the 1990s film Pretty Woman starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. I like the film for all sorts of reasons, but it was something that happened to me this week, and a similar event that happened to Vivian (Julia Roberts) in the film, which got me thinking: namely, the short-sightedness of some businesses.

In the film Vivian has been given some money to buy a dress, but because of the way she looks she can’t get served and so can’t spend her money; needless to say, another shop gets the cash.

Well, what happened to me was nothing like that, but it was the same short-sighted view on business.

I was co-directing a stage show a while ago, HMS Pinafore. We had given the show a modern twist and the ladies’ chorus first appear on stage having returned from a shopping spree (see the connection?!). One of my jobs was to source props, so I went in to my local town (Kingston) to see if I could get a few. We needed around twenty bags – classy paper carriers from the top shops there. All the shops were really helpful and interested in what we were doing: Crabtree & Evelyn, T.M. Lewin, Tommy Hilfiger, Fat Face, L.K. Bennett.

All bar one that is: French Connection. “We don’t give carriers away”, I was told in a snooty tone.

Why do I think this is short-sighted? Well for three reasons at least. 1) All the other bags will be shown to an audience every show (free advertising), 2) I’m unlikely ever to shop at French Connection again, whereas the others I will, 3) some of you reading this will have negative thoughts about French Connection.

So, my point is this, are you doing anything in your business that might be hurting it without meaning to? Is your local PR as good as it should be? Little things can mean so much and often a business can’t tell when things started to go wrong for them.

You might be wondering which shop was the nicest to me. Just in case you are it was T.M. Lewin. I was asked if I wanted men’s or ladies bags by a member of staff, but before I could answer another member of staff said to give me some of each. What a difference in attitude!

The wheels come off!

A good friend of mine wanted a new head torch for her cycle helmet and so popped along to the local branch of Moore’s Cycles; she had shopped there before.

Unfortunately, they were just closing but the person on the door was really helpful, gave her a couple of ideas, and suggested that she call in the morning just to confirm that they had them in stock, so she didn’t waste her time coming to the store only to find they were out of stock.

The next day she called and asked the person who answered what head torches they had in the shop. It wasn’t the same person who had been so helpful the evening before – and what a difference.

This person had no interest in advising on head torches, let alone checking which ones they might have in stock. Instead they suggested checking on their website and then calling them back to see if they held the one she wanted.

Being somewhat taken aback she hung up and went online. It didn’t take long on the Moore’s website to pick the one that best suited her. But then the obvious thing happened. She checked the price from other suppliers. And guess what?! She could buy exactly the same head torch somewhere else but for 25% less. Moore’s Cycles had lost a sale and, more importantly, possibly a long-term customer.

This was all because of two very different members of staff and I wonder just how much other business this unhelpful member of staff is costing Moore’s.

If you have staff, any staff, that have customer contact, do you know how they portray, not only your company, but also themselves? If not, you could have staff, just like Moore’s, that are costing you a great deal of money.

A new Park Run top

Recently a friend wanted to buy a new running top; she had a particular style and colour in mind. In the first shop she tried, when asked if they had anything in stock to match, the sales assistant showed her everything but what was asked for. It came across as if it was her fault that she didn’t fit the styles that they had. Needless to say, she left empty handed.

The next shop she tried asked if she was looking for anything in particular, and when told, they showed her two things that matched exactly. The assistant then suggested another item that my friend might be interested in. Again it looked great.

In the end my friend spent over £200.00 on three, not one, pieces of running kit. Why? Because the assistant was interested in her, listened, and only offered items that would interest her. He wasn’t going to try and sell her just what he had in the shop.

What can we learn from this story? Well, the first shop didn’t make a sale, but, more importantly, has lost a customer for life. Whereas the second shop made a sale of over £200.00, and has gained a customer that will be going back.

So, in your business, is your service losing you both sales and long term business, or making extra sales and fans that will return again, and again, and recommend you to their friends?

If it’s the latter I’m sure your business will go from strength to strength, but if the former I would be rather worried.