Sunday 19 November 2017

Problem solver: Stand out from the crowd by going extra mile every time

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Feargal Quinn

Q: Can you give me any tips on how I can stand out from my competitors? We all seem to be doing pretty much the same thing.

A: The real way to stand out with your customers is to ensure that you and your staff go that "extra mile" in everything you do.

Many years ago when I was running one of our weekly customer panels where I would sit with a dozen customers and have some coffee and talk about their shopping experience, one of the customers told us a story that had happened in a rival shop which had really annoyed them.

His bill came to €15.01. He had a number of notes in his wallet: €10, €5 and a €20. He initially produced the €15 but could not find the cent.

The checkout operator insisted that he pay the cent and instead he had to hand in the €20 and get €4.99 change. This was long before the rounding which now happens at checkouts. As you can imagine the customer was infuriated and vowed never to shop there again.

I had spoken to some of our managers about this customer's comments and the next week when visiting one of our shops, the manager showed me an initiative he had started at the checkouts. He had placed a small dish beside each checkout and had lots of small coins in it, with a sign that said "take a cent, leave a cent". In other words if a customer had some small left over change, they would drop it into the bowl for the next customer to use, and if a customer was short small change, they could use this to top up their bill.

You would not believe the amount of praise we got from customers. Obviously this had been a bugbear for many of them for years, and we had not spotted it.

Had it not been for this customer raising it, it would have gone unnoticed, but it did allow us go the extra mile and do something that our competitors hadn't even thought about.

Look at your own business and identify these small initiatives you could put into place which would really change the shopping experience for customers. These are the type of things that will help you to really stand out. Small and simple initiatives centred around the customer.

Q: Is it really true that the checkout operators in Superquinn had permission to give customers credit?

A: Yes, it was. I remember an occasion on visiting our Lucan store when the manager came up to me with a letter from a customer who had been completely wowed by the checkout operator's reaction when they didn't have enough money with them.

By its nature, Superquinn was an exciting place to shop. Lots of fresh food displays and lots of tempting hot goods coming from our bakery. Invariably we had situations when customers came to our checkouts and didn't have enough cash with them.

The Lucan manager explained to me that he was being called to the checkouts every five minutes to give permission for a customer to bring the money back on their next visit. He called all the checkout operators together and said to them that he was authorising them to make the decision.

The operators were careful about the wording they used "my name is Mary and this is checkout out number 8, so when you bring back the money, can you mark it for my attention as it is coming out of my till".

Customers couldn't believe it when checkout operators would approve them to bring back any money outstanding. Because of the personal nature of the statement the operator made, we never lost any money. The customer felt loyal to the checkout operator and worried that they might get them into trouble if they didn't return the money.

Empowering your staff will give you a clear advantage over your competitors and create a far more meaningful environment for your customers.

Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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