Over the past weekend I was scouring the internet for some retailing information. I came across a number of sites with pictures of stores on Black Friday in theUSA. Black Friday is regarded as the first day of Christmas shopping and stores open much earlier than normal in anticipation of the crowds of shoppers wanting to find a bargain.
I was completely taken aback at some of the pictures! The crowds were unbelievable! It all looked like utter chaos in my view and if I lived in theUSI would avoid all the malls and stores over this weekend. I know there are real bargains to be had, but saving a few pennies would not entice me to even think of going anywhere near a shop.
So why am I writing about this today? I live inCape Town, which is a coastal city – and our stores, restaurants and shopping malls look very similar over the Christmas period. You cannot move in the stores, finding parking is a major challenge and worst of all – Customer Service goes out the window! We dine out in a restaurant and when we sit down we know the service is just going to be shocking. The staff are tired and care little about giving good service – they just want the holiday season to pass as quickly as possible. And management is only seen – when they are placating irate customers. (Which is often at this time of the year!)
And what happens to our suppliers in this period?
Many just seem to shut down and if they are open, our orders are never met in full. So we have products that we normally sell, not on our shelves, and customers get irate with us – and our staff bear the brunt of this anger.
So here are a few suggestions from me that might perhaps help us all over the Christmas season.
For those that live along the coast (oh boy I am exhausted already just thinking about it):
- Prepare your store ahead of time – make sure you have the right products ready for sale. Don’t just use last month’s orders – take some time out to properly consider your customer’s needs (remember to have jelly powder)
- Prepare your staff for the onslaught – you know the onslaught is coming and so do they. We all dread it. So think about changing the way you manage your shifts. Give more frequent breaks but of shorter duration – especially to your cashiers. Just five minutes out of the front line gives us all a bit of sanity back into what we do
- Train additional staff to assist in those peak periods – now. Think about employing temporary staff to assist in keeping the store clean, or to take stock for you. Just because you are busy is no excuse for poor hygiene or allowing controls to be relaxed
- Ensure you have your orders ready ahead of time. Increase your stock holding levels if need be – especially high volume items. Yes I know holding more stock is expensive but at this time of the year it is better to at least have them in stock all of the time, than not at all
- Prepare your suppliers now – let them get the stock to your store and not the one across the road. Work with them – you want all the stock you can get. Let the guy next door have empty spaces on his shelves
- Ensure all the hand held terminals are in good working order – and that you have enough of them. You know that in peak trading periods no matter how many terminals you have, they all work slower than normal – so make sure you have enough in good working order
- Walk through the general customer experience with your staff – from the time they enter your site and into your store. See it through your customer’s eyes – and not your own. Plan for where the bottle necks are going to happen – and prepare your staff on how to deal with them
- Work out how you are going to be able to keep the customer moving. It is one thing to have long queues, but if they are slow and not managed they can cause disaster for your business. Perhaps train your security staff to assist in getting people moving? Train them to show your customers where to find certain products in the store? If the customer keeps moving albeit slowly – it reduces the frustration for all concerned
Think about how you can still deliver quality customer service in a shopping season of madness. You know your business better than anybody else. I just urge you to consider what it is that you can do today to ensure a profitable and happy shopping experience.
Take care out there