Whether you spend more time in or out of the retail world, it’s an imperfect environment, writes business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry, Gordon Hecht – but shoppers and employees expect leaders to execute each point of their business flawlessly, 100% of the time. It’s a lofty goal, and nearly impossible to accomplish – but here are some tips that might help …
You've probably heard of Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The follow up is O’Toole’s Law. Murphy was an optimist.
Given that stacked deck, you can still meet and exceed expectations …
Review and inspect
An ideal time to correct mistakes is before they happen. In my retail store management tenure, I made it a practice to review every written sale before it got ordered. Even if I wrote the order.
I saw orders for king mattresses with a single twin XL box spring. Or headboard/footboards with no side rails. Incorrect dates for out-of-town deliveries. Unreasonable expectations on times for special orders. It’s far easier to correct those at the time of order than the day of delivery.
Reviewing inventory is just as important. You want to make sure that you have what you think you have. Shrinkage, damage, and mislabelling occurs in top-notch organisations, and may be happening in yours too. Some businesses do a cycle or partial inventory weekly, others do a complete inventory quarterly. The inspection and fearless adjusting that ensues will prevent discovering out-of-stock merchandise on delivery day.
Truth in advertising
Legitimate retail businesses promote virtually no misleading advertising. Stores shouting out $199 hot-buy merchandise know darned well that they better be prepared to fulfil that promise. If you go to market with a gift with each purchase, make sure that gift is available and delivered.
A simple misspelling or wrong photo can spell trouble for you. Just as you review sales orders and inventory, take time to double- and triple-check your advertising messages. Make sure that the mattress pictured is the mattress on sale. And if your hot buy is priced for mattress only, make sure it’s noted as not being a set including box springs.
Have a start and end date. Note when quantities are limited, especially for inventory and floor sample clearance ads.
Failing to check spelling will make your business look foolish. Be on the safe side, and get a second and third pair of eyes to look things over.
Stand and deliver
It seems like more things go wrong on delivery day than any other time. Product damage, no-fits, not at home, wrong item, elevated customer expectations, and more.
Pre-delivery merchandise inspection is necessary. But it’s more than looking over an item for damage. Part of truck loading means verifying the right item is selected. Savvy retailers require that their delivery teams put a check mark next to every item they load in their vehicle. A delivery manager then reviews every ticket to make sure nothing was missed.
On the day before delivery, the operations team is responsible for a pre-delivery phone call or text to each customer, to remind them about the truck arriving and any needed in-home preparations (clearing a path and securing pets).
If you have customers living in older two-storey homes, you’ll want to verify if they need a split queen boxspring. Do this at the time of purchase. It easy to do – just ask them to check if their current base is one or two pieces. Adjust the order immediately.
Set your level of service with each customer. Your operations include delivery people, not moving people. Let them know if you remove the old merchandise, or if you will place it in another room, garage, or pavement. Retail delivery service doesn’t normally include moving products to a different house, even if it’s just down the street – reasonable service levels can help you avoid unreasonable in-home damage and lawsuits.
Check, double-check, inspect, and verify. You’ll never catch every imperfection! You can, however, reduce issues by half or more. Imagine seeing service issues go down instead of up! Wouldn’t that make life a little more perfekt?!
Gordon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.