Operational excellence is a retail buzzword that often gets glossed over. Retailers talk the talk, but often miss on walking the walk. Operational excellence has a singular focus: the customer. The customer is treated as a privilege, not a right, and their patronage needs to be earned daily. Every process, every step, every task that is executed in the store, has to have the customer in mind.
The art of execution is a discipline that elevates the retailer in the eyes of their customers as not a place to visit on occasion, but rather a place to seek out. This “cult-like” personae that a retailer can achieve with its patrons requires that the entire staff is in lockstep alignment to cater to the needs of the customer. This level of execution applies to all facets of the operation from service to merchandise to cleanliness to everything.
Create an “overachieving” mindset with your staff and the energy that permeates to your customers will be contagious. This attention to detail and putting the customer first, will enable the retailer to ride out even the worst economic storms. Execution is precision and an attention to detail that is second to none.
Management Sets The Tone: It all begins here. If management is engaged 100%, this mindset can permeate and cascade throughout the entire team. Operational excellence has a fighting chance and the art of execution can be flawless. A management staff that is “in it” at only 80% conveys this to the staff and and if the staff is only capturing 80% of the 80%, operational excellence quickly deteriorates. Management is the driver – success is led by example.
Pay Attention To Details: Why sweat the details? Because that is where the customer is converted from occasional patron to passionate ambassador. Know ing their name, staying in stock on merchandise, neat and kept displays, cleanliness on all levels, a smile from your staff – all executional details that create a customer for life. Customers have options – look for the proprietary details that you can communicate and execute on in order to lock in your customers.
Go To The Customer: Making the effort to overachieve in your store is one thing, taking your execution to your 3-mile radius and cultivating your customer base is quite another item all in its own. Going to your customers and making their experience with your store all that more convenient for them, will solidify their admiration for you. While you may not be set up to delivery or provide mobile services on a regular basis, going the extra mile in one-off situations may be the “event” that captivates a neighbor or town. The goal is to make the customer experience as memorable and effortless as possible.
Customize Your Suggestive Sell: Link items together for your customers that help them to “connect-the-dots” with regard to their needs, not yours. A retailer that masters the art of suggestively selling in a fashion where the customer feels empowered to say “yes”, is a winning scenario for both. I am not suggesting some rote recital of “would you like some fries with that” but rather a customized interaction with a customer that addresses their exact needs. Create this mutually beneficial relationship with your best customers and your competition will be shaking in their boots.
Appreciate Your Patrons: Lastly, the art of execution is built on one premise: the customer is a privilege, not a right. Cater to treating your customers as guests in your home and your relationships with them will run deep. If you view customers as interrupters to your daily routine – “damn, I need to take care of this customer” – and they will, in turn, treat your store like the commodity you project. The more customers that you can transform into ambassadors for your brand, will translate into ongoing success for many years to come.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.