October 2013 Archives

Scenario: Your candidate arrived for her fourth and final interview.

Having passed a lengthy assessment process with managers and executives, the candidate was confident the company would offer her the senior management position. You weren't so sure, yet.

Your are responsible for this candidate's final assessment and your company has been under pressure to fill this role - it has been open too long.

Thirty minutes into the interview, it was clear to you that the company was poised to make a costly hiring mistake. Both candidate and company had invested time in the interview process, but your additional review at this critical juncture saved time and money for all concerned.

Had this candidate been hired:

• The department would be led with 20% of the experience required for the job.

• Operating procedures would fail and progress would be reversed.

• The team would take a beating due to lack of leadership.

• The company would lose money and time, only to start the recruiting process over 3 - 6 months down the road.

• The new hire would be frustrated, disrespected by peers, and faced with a significant career mistake.

How could you avoid this costly mistake?

• Practiced Active listening.

• Gathered specific, factual examples of experience, which had been missed.

• Assessed real experience against job requirements.

• Avoided hiring a manager because of time pressures.

Let's focus on the first two, practice active listening and gathering specifics.

1. Practice Active Listening.

The right candidate means he/she meets the minimal requirements for the position and will be a "high performer", a huge success, in the role.

Your mission in an interview is to listen carefully and get factual examples that will confirm you can match the right candidate to the job requirements.

It's natural for candidates to come to an interview ready to sprinkle strategic words across the conversation in order to impress the interviewer.

Most candidates have enough experience or general knowledge about the position to make use of words and phrases that will make your eyes sparkle.

The key to success is to gather facts and examples that support the candidate's knowledge and "fit" for the job. Does the candidate have solid experience or is he/she simply throwing around key strategic words to impress you?

2. Gathering Specifics - whenever you hear something that sounds "great" you must determine if it's good or not.

Here's an example:

Candidate: I was often recognized for my abilities in product development. (Sounds great!)

Interviewer: How so?

Candidate: My colleagues knew I was the person to talk with for product development expertise.

Interviewer: How did they know?

Candidate: Well, they knew that it was my responsibility.

Interviewer: Just so I'm clear, when you say, "recognized for your abilities", did you receive an award, or a thank you letter from your Manager, or a public acknowledgement on your abilities for product development?

Candidate: Well, no. I mean, I wasn't actually 'recognized' but people knew I was responsible for the job.

Most interviewers stop at the beginning of this dialogue, making a note that the candidate was "often recognized for his accomplishments in product development."

In the example above, we ask what the candidate did instead of assuming that "recognition" was a specific accomplishment.

Here is another example:

Candidate: That year, the whole team went above and beyond the call of duty. I was proud of the team spirit and everyone's hard work. Of course, there were some challenges along the way; but we pushed through and met the deadline.

Interviewer: What kind of challenges did you meet?

Candidate: We hit a few quality issues, recognized them quickly, and took action to improve?

Interviewer: What kind of quality issues?

Candidate: Well, normally, we averaged 2% variance and at one point we hit 8%; but we got it down quickly.

Interviewer: What happened?

Candidate: Honestly, in pushing for the deadline, we lost control of quality. Unfortunately, we also lost a key client; but we learned a lot and improved for the future.

Interviewer: That's certainly a challenge. Were you able to recover the client?

Candidate: No, and it was one of our largest, a 10 million dollar account. It was not a good period for us.

Again, most interviewers would have stopped at the beginning, taking a note along the lines of, "Wow, this candidate is a team player, cares for his team, and was able to meet the company's deadlines in a challenging environment".

When "digging in" and getting more specific, candidates will almost always share details surrounding the actual situation. From there, you can determine if the experience is a good match for the position you need to fill.

Stop making up stories for your candidates! Get the facts.

By slowing down, listening carefully, and backing up examples with facts, you gain data that helps make a more informed decision.

You saved your company, your team, and the candidate from a costly and painful 'mis-hire' experience, by following the right interview steps. Congratulations!

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

If you need to brush up on your interviewing skills, contact Michelle at Management Success China, especially if you are hiring managers in China.

She can help your company avoid the cost of mistaken hires. When you need this type of advice, connect with her on LinkedIn.

I'm not just a speaker on customer service.

I've focused my entire career developing ways to help companies communicate better with their customers.

Great customer service is sought by most everyone.

Businesses go out of their way to give good customer service. Some make it; some don't.

Customers go out of their way looking for companies that give great customer service. Some find it; some don't.

We have tried so very hard to explain to both sides - the customer and the business, it's not rocket science; it's not brain surgery. It's plain old common sense.

But you and I know common sense is not out there.

Our book Customer Service Nightmares is proof that people love to vent. They love to report on how badly they've been handled.

I cannot count the number of articles out there on customer service. Some are good, some not; some have new ideas; some speak the old tried and true.

And that's where Telephone Doctor customer service training comes into play; plain old customer service.

We call it 'Back to Basics.' You can imagine I have hundreds, if not thousands of ideas, tips, skills and techniques to share.

Today we bring you 15; fifteen good customer service tips that are good old common sense thoughts.

Here we go:

  1. "Please" and "thank you" always have been, and always will be, powerful words. Seldom overused.
  2. "You're welcome" is the best replacement for "no problem."
  3. "Sorry 'bout that" is not an apology. It's a cliché. "My apologies" is much better.
  4. A frown is a smile upside down. Stand on your head if you must; but SMILE, darn it!
  5. You cannot do two things well at once. Pay attention to the call or the customer.
  6. One word answers on email or in person are considered cold and rude. Three words make a sentence.
  7. Learn what phrases frustrate your customers. They're probably the same ones that bother you.
  8. When was the last time you sent flowers to someone just because?
  9. Drop a personal handwritten note to a client and just say "thanks for being a good client."
  10. "Hey how 'ya doing?" is not a great way to start up a conversation.
  11. Out with friends or family? Put the cell phone away. Talk for 30 minutes. (If you remember how.)
  12. Email manners? The same as phone and in person.
  13. The old "don't tell 'em what you can't do; tell 'em what you can do" applies to most, if not all, customer interactions.
  14. Get excited!
  15. Oh, and smile. That needed to be said twice.

When you want a customer service training program that just works, connect with me on LinkedIn and let's talk.

# # #

Reprinted with permission of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training. Nancy Friedman is a featured speaker at franchise, association & corporate meetings. She has appeared on OPRAH, Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning & many others. For more information, call 314-291-1012 or visit www.nancyfriedman.com.

Welcome to the 21st century: Buyer Advantage, Seller's Beware!

Think about it, can you afford to invest a lot of time and sales resources only to discover later in the sales process that you've been pursuing a suspect?

Even worse, discover you're investing resources in a suspect and not in a qualified prospect since you only had so much time or bandwidth and could not discern which was which!.

I doubt it!

Let's be honest, the pressure on profits and the rising cost of a sales calls dictate otherwise. And the most important action you can take to mitigate these is to maximize your investment of sale resources.

What does a qualified prospect look like?

1st, they have genuine INTEREST!

There is a definite need/requirement/goal of becoming a business owner, can articulate why they believe a franchise model will benefit them and going independent is less desirable, and can identify or see themselves in your product or service business.

2nd, they have the MONEY!

Whether it's self funding or 3rd parties, they have both the ability and more important, the will to invest.

3rd, they will make a buying DECISION!

There is a process in place, with timelines and defined decision makers to make a Yes or No decision.

In Ultimate Selling, we add some additional questions that are very straightforward and easy to ask early in the sales process and they provide additional insight as to what they will or will not do. It sounds something like this:

What is the actual date you want your business to open?

Trust me, if they can't articulate firm dates and reasons, it's your trigger to did deeper into the sales process. Is the problem that you are...?

Not dealing with the decision makers?

Using you for competitive reasons or leverage?
Others.....

Ultimate Selling INSIGHT: If they don't have firm dates, they never have to make a decision and all too often, they won't. You know, it's these sales opportunities that keep moving out in your sales forecast!

Ultimate Selling INSIGHT: It may take multiple calls to qualify and that's OK.

But don't start the formal phase with presentation/proposal, until they are qualified. Educate, build relationships, discover more about them, etc..

And save your compelling sales story until they have a formal process for making a decision.

Go here to review exactly what you should be asking in the discovery process.

For the 5 Most Fascinating Stories in Franchising, a weekly report, click here & sign up.

If you would like have more in depth knowledge about these critical sales steps, and many others, go to Ultimate Selling Solutions to purchase a hard copy book or download the book, Ultimate Selling, The Art and Science of Sales Success.

Or just connect with me on LinkedIn using my business card below.

My advice to employers is colored in part by my past experience representing employees.

When representing an employee in litigation, I always looked for evidence of the employer's sloppy management style. The more clueless the business owner, the better things tended to be for my case.

One matter from several years ago comes to mind. The firm that I was with at the time represented two women who claimed "hostile environment" sexual harassment.

According to our clients, several male colleagues - including a mid-level supervisor - repeatedly made vulgar remarks and gestures to them, requested sex, and groped them.

During the case, we learned that:

(i) one of the regional managers in charge of supervising these gents sometimes took them to strip clubs during work hours;

(ii) the company's off-site human resource department had failed to follow its own "official" procedures for handling internal complaints of harassment; and

(iii) responsibility for conducting the sham "investigation" of my clients' complaints had been delegated to the very same mid-level supervisor who had allegedly participated in the harassment.

While we genuinely empathized with our clients, we were practically ecstatic that the employer - which was headquartered in a different state and apparently took a hands-off approach to this branch - had made so many unforced errors. Those errors greatly increased our odds of litigation success and therefore helped lead to a satisfactory settlement.

If you're an employer, you must make yourself aware of anti-discrimination laws forbidding workplace harassment based on sex, race, ethnicity, or any other "protected" characteristic.

There are two types of sexual harassment: per se harassment (which is not the subject of this post), and "hostile environment" harassment.

To maintain a claim of "hostile environment" sexual harassment against her employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employee must allege that

(i) because of her sex, she encountered unwelcome workplace behavior that was "sufficiently severe or pervasive" to alter her employment conditions and create an abusive atmosphere; and

(ii) the offending behavior should be attributed to the employer (even if no one in management participated).

There is no bright line for determining what conduct is "sufficiently severe or pervasive" for "hostile environment" purposes - though it's safe to assume that the fact pattern described above more than satisfies this test.

Some federal courts have held that the employer is liable for "hostile environment" harassment if it either failed to provide a reasonable avenue for complaint or knew about the harassment and failed to address it. See, e.g., Reed v. A.W. Lawrence & Co., Inc., 95 F3d 1170, 1180 (2nd Cir. 1996), cited in Harris v. L & L Wings, Inc., 132 F.2d 978, 983 (4th Cir. 1997).

Assuming that she can prove the existence of a hostile environment and the employer's liability, the employee can obtain additional "punitive" damages if she can prove aggravating circumstances such as the employer's indifference to sexual harassment allegations and particularly egregious conduct.

Although the factual scenario from my old firm's matter was extreme - and although the business involved might be much larger than your own - there are some lessons to take from that case.

First, show your seriousness about sexual harassment before it occurs. At a minimum, provide your employees with a written policy that clearly establishes the boundaries of permissible behavior, your intent to punish violations, and a fair and practicable complaint procedure for victims. Also be sure to personally avoid any behavior or comments that could be interpreted as a lack of sensitivity. (Keep dirty jokes to yourself and don't take employees to strip clubs.) Such an approach hopefully will succeed in preventing harassment in your workplace.

If your business one day gets sued for harassment despite your best efforts, however, evidence of those efforts could only help your case. In contrast, the lack of a clear policy and the appearance of an "anything goes" attitude could only hurt - from both a liability perspective and a damages perspective.

Second, remain familiar with your company's anti-harassment rules and actually apply them if and when appropriate. You should not only refuse to tolerate transgressions in your presence, but also respond to any internal allegations or suggestions of harassment by conducting - and documenting - a thorough investigation.

If your investigation reveals that harassment did in fact occur, be sure to remedy the situation in a manner consistent with your written policy (and again, be sure to document your efforts in writing). You must act to contain whatever damage has occurred.

A sexual harassment complaint can be scary for a business owner. You should do everything in your power to meet your legal obligations and protect yourself. The good news is that those goals are not mutually exclusive.

If you would like some advice or review of your HR policies, connect with me on LinkedIn and ask me for a review.

If you haven't heard the ever increasing buzz about worker misclassification yet, you will.

The issue of whether a worker should be classified as an independent contractor or an employee is a hot topic and getting hotter all the time.

The following provides key information to help you assess what you need to know and the steps you should take.

There are many parties interested in proper worker classification ranging from the IRS to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to state governments to workers themselves.

It's much cheaper for employers to use independent contractors over employees because they avoid paying the following: employer portion of payroll taxes, workers' compensation and unemployment insurance premiums, overtime payments and the expensive benefits that often go along with hiring employees.  And franchise owners are known to be attracted to cheaper employees, especially with the costs of complying with ACA.

On the flip side, there's a growing financial risk if you misclassify employees as independent contractors, especially if you do so willfully.

In addition to the possibility of owing back pay (if minimum wage requirements haven't been met) and overtime, you could also face paying: back taxes, including the employee portion; penalties and interest; fines; retroactive employee benefits; costs of staff time and effort; and possible legal fees if faced with going to court.

Additional costs, less quantifiable but important nonetheless, include negative publicity for your organization and possible employee morale issues.

Even inadvertent misclassification can be expensive but imposed fines and penalties grow increasingly severe the more willful the nature of the violation. Both state and federal governments are paying greater attention to this issue than in years past. The IRS and DOL have even teamed up with at least eleven states to share information and resources in a joint effort to uncover violations.

So there's strong incentive these days for employers to do their best to get it right.

But, the IRS makes is clear that there is no magic formula or simple test as to whether or not a worker is an independent contractor. They emphasize that each case is fact specific.

In general, however, the best place to start is to consider whether your franchise owners have the right to control, not just the outcome but also how the worker performs the work. Whether or not you actually exercise this right is irrelevant to the worker's status. There are many times, for instance with highly experienced employees, when organizations provide little guidance or oversight. The real question is whether or not you have the right to do so.

So, how does the IRS decide upon the degree of control an employer has over how the work is performed? It comes down to looking at a number of factors that comprise three main categories: Behavioral Control, Financial Control, Type of Relationship. Remember, no one factor is decisive as circumstances differ; the totality of the situation must be evaluated. IRS guidance is abundant on IRS website for the control test.

You should also take a look at the DOL's Economic Reality Test. This test relates to whether the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies. The seven factors it contains overlap those that the IRS looks at and likewise consider whether or not the worker has a bona fide business that does not provide services integral to yours. Be sure to familiarize yourself with all seven factors of this test in addition to IRS guidance.

So how do you prove that someone is indeed an independent contractor and not your employee? The best documentation shows that the person has a bona fide business quite separate from yours; that control over how the person does the work resides with the worker; that the work being contracted is not an integral part of what your business provides and the worker is free to make a profit or loss and be hired by others.

Keep a vendor file for each independent contractor just as you would for any other vendor or supplier, such as the folks who deliver your coffee supplies or service your copier machines.

Here are four important items that should be kept in that file:

A written contract--Always a good idea, the contract should outline the nature of the relationship, although saying the person is an independent contractor doesn't make it so. Indicate the project's expected results, the fee and date(s) of completion. Note that you don't control how the results are achieved; the worker uses his/her own equipment/tools; is free to hire others without your approval and that the person provides liability insurance to his/her workers, and is not eligible for benefits with your company. Note that the person has their own business and tax I.D. number. Make sure it is signed by both parties and create a new contract if the worker takes on a new project for you. Each project should have a separate contract.

Proof of a real and separate business--Keep any letters on business stationery, business cards, brochures, or newspaper advertisements. With so much done electronically these days, print off a copy of an appropriate page of the worker's web site, online advertisement of services or copies of emails detailing services offered.

Invoices--Every payment to an independent contractor should be based on an invoice. The worker should never submit expense reports to you as that would point toward the person being an employee. The worker's mileage or purchase of equipment or supplies should be part of their own business expenses, not yours. Keep every invoice and make sure it ties in with the Form 1099 you issue to the person for that calendar year.

Form W-9--Obtain this form when hiring an independent contractor and make sure it is filled out properly. If the person does not check the box exempting him- or herself from tax withholding, you are legally obligated to withhold taxes at 28%. An independent contractor should check the box file their own self-employment taxes on their own.

Due to lots of bad practices that organizations got away with in the past, businesses may think they are classifying workers correctly when they are not. Increasing scrutiny demands that the facts of each situation be reviewed.

Here are some seven red flags to watch for:

  1. After an employee terminates, you hire the person back to do work that resembles their old job, even on a temporary, project basis;
  2. If an intern is doing actual work, not just shadowing or learning; be sure to check DOL Fact Sheet #715 for the six criteria related to interns. In order to not pay interns minimum wage and overtime, all six criteria must be met.
  3. When you provide the equipment, supplies or office space the worker uses;
  4. If the worker replaces one of your employees or supervises any of your employees;
  5. If the worker receives any benefits or perks your employees receive, gets paid on a regular basis, or submits expense reports;
  6. If the relationship is ongoing and long-term;
  7. If a supervisor hires a worker and pays the person through Accounts Payable unbeknownst to human resources or payroll.

The last item happens more often than you might think, especially in larger organizations, but all organizations are vulnerable without proper communications and procedures in place. If the person administering payroll also issues 1099s and is thus aware of all workers, misclassification can be avoided. But if your organization is too large for that, make sure there are good channels of communication among payroll, accounts payable and human resources and train managers to get approvals from human resources when engaging any worker.

A final caveat is that state laws may differ from federal laws in important ways. It's possible for a worker to be classified as an independent contractor for IRS purposes, yet, by state definition, require workers' compensation or unemployment insurance premiums paid on his or her behalf. So be sure to check your state laws as well!

If your franchise system needs help with informing its franchisees about how to comply with myriad of Federal and State employment Laws, then connect with me on LinkedIn, Dean Haller.

Franchisors need to grow!  What better way to grow than to sign multi-unit development agreements.

How do you find multi-unit operators to create growth in your franchise system? Well, you have to recruit for growth by matching talent and capital.

Some franchisors recruit established existing franchisees of their own brands who possess the operational expertise, development know-how, and who are also well-funded.

Dunkin Donuts just used this strategy in California: "Dunkin' Donuts, America's all-day, everyday stop for coffee and baked goods, and one of the fastest-growing quick service restaurant (QSR) brands based on unit growth, announced the signing of a multi-store development agreement with existing franchisees, Harry Patel and Parag Patel, to develop 18 new standalone restaurants in North Orange County and the Central Inland Empire."

Dunkin Donuts likely have a great feel for what the Patels can achieve.

But, what about recruiting multi-unit operators from other brands? 

Three Myths about Multi-Unit Operators Expansion

First, there is the standard or run-of-the-mill franchisor expansion myth:

Just go and find the multi-unit & multi-brand operators, sign them up for your concept and watch the development territories build out as new units come on-line.  

Like clockwork.

The franchisor only has to collect the upfront area development agreement fees, the unit franchisee fees, and the expected the windfall of royalties and advertising fund contributions.

Don't let the multi-unit operators fool you into believing this myth. Brand expansion doesn't happen that way.

Second, when you talk to those multi-unit operators you'll be told straight away they won't need all the hand holding, training, and guidance that those attention stealing needy newbie first-timer franchisees demand. Those experienced operators will manage themselves! You will likely be told that you could learn a thing or two from these highly experienced operators.

Again, the reality is different.

The reality is that many development agreements are not strictly complied with, according to the terms the agreement.

Searching the SEC corporate filings from publicly traded franchise companies you can find that many area development agreements are in default, technical default, terminated, or re-negotiated.  

You may need to review the historical Franchise Disclosure Documents, FDDs, which may be harder to access.

The third myth is that experienced multi-unit operators are easier to manage.  There are four reasons why this may not be true, either.

1. Multi-unit operators are further away from the day-to-day operations. They may require or even demand more training and support from the franchisor.

2. Multi-unit operators may challenge your training, support delivery systems, or standards.

3. They may have different ideas on site selection criteria and who has final say on site approval -despite what the agreement states.

4.  A seasoned multi-unit operator may change your concept, menu, build-out, equipment package and they may not ask your permission.  Again, despite what the agreement states.

So,  recruiting mult-unit operators from other brands does require a bit more due diligence.  Here are four tips to get you on your way.

1. Access to Capital: Do they have access to capital to build out the development schedule for your new concept?

Many multi-unit operators look more profitable than they are.  Their development schedule may have been drafted in a moment of enthusiasm.  Their capital maybe entirely locked-up in their current brands.  

Don't automatically assume that a 40 unit operator has sufficient capital or access to capital to commit to your project.  

Don't fall into the trap of getting excited about signing up a large multi-unit operator for your brand, unless they show you the money.

2. Other Development Obligations: What are their development obligations, including remodel commitments, to their other concepts?

Just knowing that they have the money isn't enough.  You need to know about their development obligations to their current brands.   You have to pay to attention to their remodel commitments.  Much of their capital may already be spoken for.

Can they build the stores and remodel the units that they are already committed to without exhausting their capital?  Is the multi-unit operator meeting its current lender obligations and staying within their loan covenants?

3. Compliance with Schedule: Are they in compliance with the schedule in their current development agreement(s)?

The mulit-unit operator may have sufficient capital to expand your franchise system.  But, are they dragging their feet in their current development agreement?  

Development schedules can be slowed if operating revenue has been reduced.  Beware of the multi-unit operator who uses a slow development tactic to extract territorial concessions from you mid-deal.

4. Compliance with Operations: Are they in operational compliance under their current franchise agreements?

Not all multi-unit operators are actually great operators - despite what they would claim!  Don't be fooled by a multi-unit operator who is merely tolerated in the system because they own great locations or control the underlying real estate.  

Check to make sure that they are exceeding the franchisor's standards.

Conclusion

Franchisors need to grow. And you should recruit from established existing franchisees of other brands. But they need to possess the operational expertise, development know-how and be well-funded.

Some franchisors will blame their customer service problems on their part-time help. They're saying that the part-timers are just that. "Part Timers." They don't want to take responsibility. They don't want to take ownership. They just want to take the money and run. They can't wait to get off work. Not, true.
 
In reality, what I've found are few franchisors have some sort of new employee orientation or training on customer service or telephone skills.

Sure, there's product training. ('Ya gotta know where everything is, don't ya.? ) But when it comes to the customer service Training, most simply tell the new employees to "smile and be nice."

If you're operating a franchise; ask yourself what type of customer relations training you have in your store. And if there's not one - Think again

The good news is, if you'll read on, we're going to give you a training program. Right here, on paper. All you'll need to do is gather the folks you've hired together - and explain you're doing a customer service training program.

"Gee, Nancy, I'm so busy doing other things. There's just no time for that type of training. . "That's not my job," I hear a lot of times from managers and owners. "We're just too busy to stop and train." Too busy to be nice? Too busy to teach your employees? Think again.

It's up to each and every owner or manager to provide some sort of customer service training.

Just putting them on the floor or at a counter and telling them to, "be nice" or "tell everyone to have a good day," is not customer service training.

Whether your customers call you or come into the store, or call you... following these Telephone Doctor ground rules can help make your store the one the customer wants to come back to.

It will give you the competitive edge.
 

Ground Rule # 1 - GREET CUSTOMERS FIRST

Make it a game. If a customer says "hello" first, you lose. It's amazing how often you can go into a store - any store - walk around - touch things - look at prices - and walk out. All without anyone saying anything to you. The minute a customer walks into the store - the sales staff needs to be the one to say hello first. It's their job to say hello first. It's not the customer's job to do it. That first friendly hello sets the stage - sets the tone to make sure the customer is in the right place.

Ground Rule #1 - A. DON"T JUST ASK "CAN I HELP YOU?"

And if your staff is simply saying, "Can I help you with anything?" As they say in the Sopranos'... fagetaboutit.

"Can I help you with anything?" is weak and ineffective.

Better to use, "so glad you're here - what in particular are you looking for that I can help you with." That will go much further than, "can I help you?" 
 
Ground Rule # 2 - SMILE

Right. It's that simple. Make smiling on the job a condition of employment...and grounds for termination. Tell your staff that item in the interview process. "We smile here." It's a simple statement - and a powerful sales tool. Don't relent on this one - ever! I recently heard about a young man, about 17, who quit his job 2 weeks after he started. When his folks asked, "Why?"... his answer was: "They drove me crazy...they wanted me to smile all the time."
 

Ground Rule # 3 - ENTHUSIASM COUNTS

Dale Carnegie said it first. And my father said it second. He used to tell me, "enthusiasm is a disease - let's start an epidemic." And how true that is. When a customer brings something to the counter for you to ring up... Or even tells you what they want on the phone: get excited. Let them know you care. When the customer sees, feels and hears your enthusiasm you'll ring up a lot more sales. And your enthusiasm is a great setup for up selling or cross selling.
 

Ground Rule # 4 - DON'T POINT - GO SHOW

How many times have you walked into a store, asked for something - and the sales person either just nods you to the item or only points to the direction without saying anything. When and if possible - walk with the customer to the area they need. If that becomes impossible...cheerfully direct the person to what they need...and give clear, easy, and most important - friendly directions. "Aisle 3, on your right" is clear and easy...but not very friendly.

This is friendly:

"The New widgets? Sure, we have them. They're great. You'll find them right past the flower section...in aisle 3 - it'll be on your right hand side. Right next to the Elephant Display. (Using landmarks helps.) Let me know if you're not able to locate them and I'll get someone to help you.'

Clear, easy and friendly directions. Pointing is plain rude. (Ask any waiter to direct you to the restroom and 100% of the time they point. It's possible to give clear directions to that area, too.)
 

Ground Rule # 5 - PLEASE, THANK YOU AND YOU'RE WELCOME

Yes...still the most favorite words to all customers. I used to be embarrassed in my training programs to remind the attendees to use those words. But every time I'm out shopping, I'm reminded that it needs to be taught. It still surprises me. Because those are the very first words a parent teaches a child.

There's not a 3 year old that hasn't been told - "Tell the lady thank you, Bobbie - go on - Bobbie, you can say it. Tell her thank you." Many parents won't let the other person go until the child has said "thank you."

We spend hours teaching our kids those words...and then at age 16 - what happens?
 

Ground Rule # 6 - PRETEND IT'S YOU

Ask your staff to make believe it's them walking into the store trying to purchase something. How would they like to be treated? Tell them every customer will go away thinking one of two ways. Either, "Hey those guys were great".... or "Hey, I'm never gonna go back there again." And if they think that's not their problem, tell them to think again. Because if the customers don't come back...you close up...and they're out of a job. Then it is their problem. Simple.
 

Ground Rule # 7 - GO BACK THROUGH GROUND RULE 1 - 6

You cannot go over these items too many times. If you - as a business owner/ manager do not currently have some sort of customer service training program for your staff in place as you read this, tear this article out - gather your staff together, and go over these items with them, before the store opens.

Consider posting this article in an area employees check. How about a bulletin board? Put this article in their paycheck. Have them read this aloud. They need to know you are serious about Customer Service. It's not just a passing fancy.

Franchising is challenging in the best of times. And in these demanding times, even more so. Be extra good to your customers.

Have a training program for your staff.

You're welcome.  But if you need more information about how to keep an effective customer training program going, drop me a line on LinkedIn using the business card below.  We have the right programs for you.

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Reprinted with permission of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training. Nancy Friedman is a featured speaker at franchise, association & corporate meetings. She has appeared on OPRAH, Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning & many others. For more information, call 314-291-1012 or visit www.nancyfriedman.com.

There are many, many ways to sabotage your business. And, chances are, your staff is doing some of these now, without your even knowing it - on the phone and in person. And worse yet, you've probably even heard some of this yourself (ouch!). That's the bad news. 

The good news is we're able to bring to you the top five sabotage practices and then show you how to neutralize the effects.

So get ready. You and your staff are about to be in a much better position to handle the Five Ways to Sabotage Your Business today:  

       1. I Have No Idea 

This is normally used as an excuse more than anything else. It's a sure sign that the employee has not been shown how to explain something to the customer. This phrase is used as something to say when the employee doesn't know what to say.  

When the customer hears "I have no idea" they immediately respond (usually silently) with, "you gotta be kidding me?" Interestingly enough, there normally is a certain blank stare accompanying this statement. Sad.  

      2.   It's Not My Department  

Well, then whose is it? Let's remember one of our Telephone Doctor mottos: Tell the customer what you do, not what you DON'T do. If you get a call and someone asks for something that you don't handle, it's far more effective to say, "I work in the paint department. Let me get you to someone in the area you need." 

This is far more effective than telling someone it's not your department. And please don't say, "YOU have the wrong department." Take full responsibility with the "I" statement.  

      3.   I Wasn't Here That Day (or I was on vacation when that happened)  

This one really makes me laugh. Does that excuse the company? I don't remember asking them if they were there that day. Do you really think the customer cares if you weren't there when their problem happened? Honestly, they don't, so that's not even an issue to discuss. Just tackle the problem head on. Apologize without telling them where you were...or weren't. Remember, you ARE the company whether you were at work or on vacation when the issue occurred. 

    4.   I'm New

SO? Okay, you're new. Now what? Does being 'new' allow you to be anything but super to the customer? When the customer hears this sabotaging statement, do you really think they say, "Oh, so you're new? So that's why I'm getting bad service? Well, then that's okay...you're new. Now I understand."  

Yes, even if you are new, the customer honestly believes you should know everything about your job.  

Here's the Telephone Doctor answer on this one. Tell the customer, "Please bear with me, I've only been here a few weeks." That will buy you time. And a bit of sympathy. For whatever reason, hearing the short length of time you are with the company means more to the customer than, "I'm new." Again, I'm new is more of an "excuse." Remember to state the length of time. It's a creditability enhancement. "I'm new" is a creditability buster. 

      5.   Silence on the Phone or a Blank Stare in Person  

I called the doctor's office the other day and asked to change my appointment. It went down like this: 

"Hi, this is Nancy Friedman. I have a 9 a.m. appointment with Dr. Ring and I need to move it to later in the day." 

Then NOTHING for about 10 - 15 seconds. Zip/nada/zilch.  

So I said, "Hello? Are you there?" 

A very irritated voice came back with, "I'm checking." Wouldn't it have been nice for her to tell me that? Ah, if the doctors only knew. 

What's Next?  Why Not book Nancy as Keynote Speaker to Help You with Your Customer Service. Click here to BOOK HER TODAY! You'll be glad you did!

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Reprinted with permission of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training. Nancy Friedman is a featured speaker at franchise, association & corporate meetings. She has appeared on OPRAH, Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning & many others. For more information, call 314-291-1012 or visit www.nancyfriedman.com.

 

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