Your front line sales staff! Even in this environment of social media, online reviews, and pleas to "like us on Facebook", it's the front line staff who are listening to – and actually hearing! – the customers.
Day in and day out. In every retail operation, they are the first ones to know of problems, and, even better, to recognize opportunities.
Now, think for a moment about any large retailer.
- How many layers of management do you suppose are between their front line sales staff, and senior management at headquarters?
- Contrast that with your own operation. How few layers are there between your front line sales people, and you as the owner or manager?
For example: The sales staff at one specialty boutique recognized that customers ask for products by color, not by brand. So, after much discussion among themselves, they went against the prevailing policy, and reorganized the displays by color.
They then anxiously followed the daily sales to see whether it really was a good idea.
That's the test: did it increase sales?
In that case, the front line staff took the lead, albeit with some trepidation.
But, the owner wisely recognized the value of encouraging their involvement – after all, they were looking for ways to increase sales – and moved to formalize the approach in all of his stores. Everybody wins - especially the customers!
- Ask your front line staff for their input. Create an environment that routinely encourages them to pay attention, and welcomes their feedback.
- Give your front line staff the authority to use their insights, and test changes and improvements.
- Demonstrate a willingness to experiment, as long as there is accountability!
- Agree from the start, "How will we know whether it is working?"
And yes, keep monitoring the comments on social media. You might see a nice uptick there as well.