Have you been called down to the sales floor only to be confronted by an angry customer over a seemingly simple problem? Sure you have! And more times than you care to remember, I'd wager. You can not be in retail without having experienced this on a frequent basis. You arrive, only to find an upset customer with an employee who sees disconnected, sometimes even disinterested in what's going on. You solve the problem, your customer leaves (hopefully to return) and your employee goes back to whatever mundane tasks he (or she) is assigned. What just happened?
Certainly you solved the issue, satisfied the customer, and now off you go back to your office. But several other things happened as well. Your relationship with that customer might be in jeopardy, your focus was disrupted from whatever you were engaged in and you reinforced a negative habit with a staff member. From now on, you'll be called to deal with whatever issue arises. Notice I said whatever issue, not manager grade, decision making, reserved only for owners decisions.
Why not empower your employees to make decisions? Here's a quick list of benefits.
• Customers will not have to repeat their concerns multiple times.
• You'll have fewer distractions in your day.
• Your employees will have more respect for the position they hold.
Let's address these potential benefits.
A customer arrives in your store with a legitimate issue. They convey their “story” to the employee and when finished told “I do not have an answer; I'll have to get the owner”.
It's at this point that they are likely to get upset. This “wait time” for the customer may even contribute to their apprehensive as to how you'll consider their concern. Once you get there, they're forced to repeat the story again (possibly with more emotion) and you'd better have a response that is acceptable. Anything less and they could be walking … for good.
Many of the lesser decisions can, and should be made by your employees. Of course they should be fully trained, knowledgeable with the company manual. But take time to have meetings with “role playing” scenarios for the type of issues that come up in your business. This can also be a fun night after hours with prizes and recognition that will bond your staff to the company and their jobs. They'll feel good about their work and it will show with everyone they deal with.
A word of caution here regarding decisions your employees make with customers.
Back them up!
If they've made a sound decision and the customer still wants to “talk to the owner”, do not cave and throw your employee under the bus just to get out of a sticky situation. It will only cause resentment and ruin employee attitude. In time your staff will be so good at problem solving you'll find yourself wondering why the office phone has stopped ringing. This is a good thing, because you're busy with your expansion plans, website development and holiday event promotions, right?