1. Make it easy
How easy is it for your customers to access your services? Is it easy for them to pay? Can I pay for my goods by cash, debit card, credit card or EFT? By e-wallet? Do I have to come in to your shop, or can I buy online, by phone, by SMS? Do you pick up or deliver from people’s homes and places of work?
It’s always sad to see the owners of businesses standing around in their stores, waiting for customers to come to them. They should consider going out into the world and taking their services to their customers. The easier it is for people to do business with you, the more likely they are to do so.
I once worked in an office where busy staff would often order lunch from the restaurant across the road that did deliveries. This ease of doing business made the order-in option more attractive than going out, getting into your car and then braving the Sandton City food court.
I also know of someone who brings in fresh farm lamb from the Eastern Cape and delivers it to your door. Ordering is as simple as sending an SMS. People use his services because it’s easy.
So try to remove any barriers of distance, time or inconvenience that stand between you and your customers. They’ll thank you for it with more orders.
2. How to lose a customer, guaranteed
Certain staff behaviour is guaranteed to put customers off your business.
Try to avoid these at all costs:
- Clock watching. Locking your store at the stroke of 5pm, or heaven forbid ten minutes early, is a big turn-off. And if someone arrives late and you can see them at your door, serve them! The traffic will still be there in 15 minutes’ time.
- Favouring the phone. Real personal interaction is the most important kind. So never interrupt a conversation to pick up the phone. It’s rude. If absolutely necessary, ask the customer if they mind if you answer this call.
- Eating, drinking or smoking. These are lunchbreak activities, to be done out of sight of your customers.
- Poor prioritising. Serving a customer comes first. So don’t insult them by laboriously wiping your counter while they stand around waiting
- Not greeting. Say hello, and look your client in the eye. A glazed, disinterested stare just makes me want to turn around and walk out.
- Pumping tunes. You might be having a fun moment, but music that’s too loud gives the impression that it’s all about your entertainment and not my service.
- There’s hardly any context where swearing is a better idea than not swearing. While you’re busy serving customers is definitely not the time for swearing.
- Staff should be trained to be knowledgeable about your products and services. If they’re not, that’s your fault.
- Power tripping. You may have authority in the store, but don’t lord it over your customers. Scolding them or abruptly ordering them around, or being condescending is inexcusable.
- Cleanliness failures. Keep your store clean, from the entrance to the displays to the floors to the toilets. In other words, everywhere.
3. Foster loyal customers
“We must come back here!” Have you ever found yourself uttering this statement as you leave a restaurant after a delicious meal and a great experience? That is a restaurant that has nailed the essence of customer service. They have built customer loyalty.
Friesland Milk Bar in the Quigney suburb of East London makes what some say is the best milkshake in South Africa. Their double-thick chocolate shake is something everyone should experience once in their life.
Whatever the owners do to make that thing, it’s quite magical. And the mystique of seeking out the quaint little shop adds to the experience. Friesland has built a community of loyal customers who now cannot visit East London without a Friesland shake.
Related: Customer Service Success Secrets
Loyal customers will tell their friends about your store, they will start looking for excuses to visit again. They will want to be the cool person who recommends a place that later becomes a community landmark. Whether through quality service or amazing products, or both, this should be your goal.
Besides wanting your customers’ business and their money, try to put yourself in their shoes. How can you make their experience in your store as good as possible? With this approach you will soon have a core of loyal customers who can’t wait to
4. People hate waiting
Ours is a time-poor society, and we are all often in a bit of a rush. So we do want our needs met as quickly and efficiently as possible. Your customers probably feel the same way.
Instead of seeing this as an extra form of stress, why not build a time challenge into the service that you offer? Put up a sign at your carwash saying: Cars washed within 30 minutes or you pay half price!
We all know the pizza deal that promises to have your large Margarita at your door within an hour, or it’s free.
This kind of a beat-the-clock promotion succeeds in three ways.
- It attracts customers. They want satisfaction and they want it now. Someone who promises quick service will pique their interest.
- It challenges staff. Your employees will need to be on their toes to meet these new deadlines. But they should be pretty sharp anyway.
- It sets you apart. Your 60-minute-challenge promotion distinguishes you from your competition. It shows your business is serious about providing a quick service.
It’s an interesting approach, and if you take it seriously it will help you provide the best service you possibly can. And you’ll have a happy, satisfied customer. Then, when you’ve successfully handled that person’s business, do exactly the same thing with the next customer to walk in. It’s good neighbourhood marketing.
This technique helps to ensure that you appreciate your customers and make them feel appreciated too. The ‘most important person’ approach will see your customers leaving your store saying, “Wow, finally a store that gives me the service I deserve!”
5. Under-promise and over-deliver
Managing client expectations is a key part of doing business. Although it feels good to talk a great game and impress your customers when you tell them what kind of service to expect, you may be setting them up for disappointment.
If you tell your client you’ll have his suit dry-cleaned by tomorrow, he’ll probably show up tomorrow expecting his suit. If it’s not ready by then, he’ll think you’re a pretty useless drycleaner. So if it’s going to be tight getting the suit ready by tomorrow, why not promise to have it ready in a more realistic two days’ time.
Then, do your utmost to have the suit ready by tomorrow. If you pull it off, give your customer a call and tell him: “Great news! I’ve got your suit ready for you.” He’ll be surprised and impressed.
You’ve under-promised and over-delivered. By managing your customer’s expectations you’ve made him feel like he’s getting amazing service. You also haven’t put yourself under too much pressure, while leaving the door open to still deliver early and impress your client.
6 Top Tips For Reading Management Accounts
There is a golden key that reveals the secret of whether your business will survive and thrive. It is keeping tabs on the figures that summarise the strength of your business – your monthly management accounts.
There is a golden key that reveals the secret of whether your business will survive and thrive. It is not the brilliance of your business concept. It is not your talent for talking clients to sign on the dotted line. It is keeping tabs on the figures that summarise the strength of your business – your monthly management accounts.
Many entrepreneurs are usually more interested in operations and find product development or sales much more enjoyable than catching up on accounts. I sympathise – I’m one of them! So if you feel the same way, my top tip is always to make sure that you partner with or employ someone who can oversee the finances for you.
But that does not mean you can let the figure boffins and the finances take care of themselves. To function properly in your business, you need to know the outcome of your sales and development strategies – and the story of that is told in your management accounts.
If you never look at your management accounts, it is like blinding yourself in one eye. It means you risk being literally blindsided by a big surprise, whether it is heading for a significant loss or being confronted by an unexpected provisional tax payment.
Here is how Engela van Loggerenberg, our Group Financial Manager, puts management accounts in perspective for our new franchisees. She urges them to focus on six key areas:
- Priorities: Management accounts can help you pinpoint areas that you need to prioritise, whether to capitalise on growth or because they are not performing as well as you hoped.
- Strength: All businesses aim to grow their assets over time and the balance sheet in your management accounts will reflect whether and how you are achieving that.
- Control: A strong balance sheet is one that shows you have your business liabilities well controlled. The key marker here is your current liquidity ratio, which results from dividing your current assets by your current liabilities. To keep your business healthy, always aim to keep this ratio at least 2:1.
- Revenue: Ideally, you want to see your revenue grow month by month. Check your income statement both for the trend in actual revenue and also for actual against budgeted revenue to check how well your strategies are delivering results.
- Profitability: Of course, revenue is not the same as profitability. You need to know your gross profit – the basic figure of your sales less the cost of those goods – and net profit, which also deducts a range of other expenses including taxes. Track the percentage of these two profit figures as well as the actual cash amount they represent to keep a check on whether your costs are creeping up too high.
- Finance: Most businesses at some point want to finance their growth by borrowing from a bank. A set of well-regulated management accounts is a prerequisite to obtaining finance.
Your management accounts do not have to be particularly complicated to give you these vital pointers – and if you are figure-shy, the more straightforward the better.
The important thing, though, is that you do not allow yourself to be too scared to ask if there is something which is not clear to you. That is the way to keep control of this key to your business fortunes and to keep building your business from strength to strength.
A Three-Pronged Approach To Franchise Success
Danie Nel, head of business development for Cash Crusaders franchising, says the brand’s success over the past 22 years is attributed to the sentiment that “a profitable franchisee is a happy franchisee.”
What is your current footprint?
220 Stores. We’re looking to increase that number by another 20 stores for the 2018 financial year, which will then bring us to a total of 240 stores. Depending on the economy, we’re looking to grow our footprint even more to around 300 to 350 stores nationwide in the near future.
What are some of your brand’s biggest achievements that other franchises can learn from?
Our ability to read the retail market and innovate to stay ahead of times. We have recently launched an online platform where customers can sell their goods or borrow money — all online. This was a first for online retailing. One other achievement that I would wish to highlight is the launch of our mobile phone range, Doogee, exclusive to Cash Crusaders. Personally, having the honour of opening our 200th store was a tremendous achievement.
Franchisor involvement has also played a big role in the success of the organisation. Our CEO Sean Stegmann and other senior managers are as much involved in the business as any other operations manager or operator.
There is simply no ‘ivory tower’ management in our business and it makes a huge difference.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered and how have you overcome these?
Some of our daily challenges include securing a premises at a favourable rental and securing a franchisee with sufficient unencumbered capital, who is credit- worthy. Once the store is open, cash flow management and stock procurement is key.
In addition to this, it’s a challenge to achieve profitability immediately and to meet franchisee expectations. It’s also vital to ensure superb customer service and to retain those customers in the current retail and economic climate. I would say that our single biggest challenge is to retain and to build our customer base.
What attracts franchisees to Cash Crusaders?
Our unique retail model that allows for multiple streams of income through one business. These three profit centres include: New goods (variety of imported quality goods), second-hand goods (which we buy directly from the public, either through customers coming directly to our stores, or via our house-buy system offered by some of our stores) and secured lending (a financial service where customers can borrow money against valuables, determined at store level, and the loan is repaid within 30 days — or the contract is renewed for another 30 days with interest and service fees charged).
Why is it important for successful franchises such as yours to have a strong banking partner and how does it benefit both the franchisor and the franchisee?
Gone are the days where you just got a deposit book or cheque book and a little business loan from your bank. Banking has become more sophisticated and the technology that the bank offers is as important as its service, making life for both the franchisee and the franchisor easier on a day-to-day basis.
5 S-Words Make Your Store Site Pay For Itself
Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters recently addressed delegates at the FASA (Franchise Association of SA) conference on the topic of choosing the best location for their business. He spoke about the 5-S technique to assist business owners with deciding which premises is best suited for their business.
The combination of continuing trading uncertainty in South Africa and the new financial year for many businesses can add up to carefully reviewing costs – including leases on premises. Choosing a site to set up or relocate your business can be just as stressful as deciding where to buy a house – and just as fundamental to its health, finances and sustainability, says Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters.
This is not the time to snap up the property with the cheapest rental as that might turn out to be something you regret in the long run. Nor is it the time to be dazzled by the swankiest premises you can find. The potential for bragging rights could turn out to be poor value for money.
“This is a time for your head to rule your heart regardless of the industry you trade in.” he says.
The real-estate mantra of “location, location, location” works just as effectively in commercial as it does in private property but you will often be looking for rather different factors. Mukheibir shares his 5-S technique to help you begin narrowing down the areas where you will consider locating your business – first at the macro level, focus in further to the meso level, then look more closely at the micro level before you start weighing up specific sites.
Remind yourself of the medium and long-term strategies you have developed for your business. Keep your understanding of your business’s customers, purpose and growth prospects top of mind when you are selecting the areas where you will start looking for sites.
Within those areas, redline any sections where you feel the competition from other businesses will detract from your potential to grow your market. Greenline areas where there are good synergies between the people who live or work there and the demographic that you have identified as your target market.
Make sure there is clearly a good pool of potential customers for you – size definitely matters when it comes to ensuring that there are plenty of customers available to you. Look specifically for facilities that cater for the kind of customers you want to attract. Sports stores benefit from being close to schools and tertiary colleges, for example.
Although many businesses now have an online element, most still benefit from attracting customers to walk through the door. For your premises to be a good fit for your business, you should be located in plain sight and ensure that your ability to market yourself locally through signage and lamp-post posters is not restricted by local bylaws.
You will attract and retain good customers and staff if they feel they’re secure in the area. This perception includes factors such as easy, safe parking and a welcoming environment.
“Making a success of your business is not just about the product or your branding,” says Mukheibir. “It can be as fundamental as finding a site that ends up paying for itself. To do this, it must offer you a well-calculated gap in the market where the strong demand for the product or service that your business offers ensures sales and profit. If you have considered all these steps carefully, you will never worry about making rent and wages payment again.”
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