How can we be better?
Imagine you are one of your customers. And say you run a Greek restaurant in Sandton. Throughout your meal, you are probably thinking little thoughts about how your experience could be a bit better.
“I wish they had a blackboard with all today’s freshest products on it.” “I wonder why they don’t have any imported coffees?” or “They should offer some lunch specials”… All of these little musings are thoughts you don’t bother to share with management — but they are guaranteed ways to improve customer service.
So make it your mission to find out what your customers really think about your store — ask them for feedback. Try to unlock all those little ideas that occur to your customers. They are pure gold if you want to improve your customer service.
Put your ego aside. Don’t look at these kinds of suggestions as complaints or criticism. Customer feedback is really just advice that can help you run a better business.
Related: 3 Secrets To Franchising Success
Don’t underestimate a good vibe!
Some people just have an engaging personality — they’re fun. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly why, but you know it when you meet them. Some people call it the X-factor, or charisma, or enthusiasm or positivity.
Whatever you want to call it, these people just have voema! They have drive and a positive attitude that make them fun to be around. These are the kinds of people that you want in your organisation. They’ll bring an amazing vibe to your store.
And that’s also why there’s no substitute for the face-to-face interview. When you’re hiring, you can read a thousand emailed CVs, but until you meet someone in person you won’t be able to gauge their personality, and what they can bring to your business in terms of energy, fun and positivity.
When you find people like this in the hiring process, give them a chance. Skills can be taught, but personality can’t.
Outdo! Outsell! Outserve!
You are in a constant race with your competition. Perhaps you’re too much of a nice guy to admit it, but you are. Whether you’re repairing photocopiers or selling Asian food, there is another business somewhere in town doing the same thing. You need to convince customers that coming to you is better than going to your competition.
Make it an article of faith for your business to do everything better than they do. You’re going to be compared, so make sure that you’re always better by comparison.
Is their welcome at the door a bit lukewarm? Then make sure you greet customers with the most heartfelt “Hi, how’re you doing?” they’ve ever had. Do they answer the phone after four rings? You should do it in two! They don’t cater for kids? Instal a play table and some colouring books immediately!
Customers will be blown away, and they’ll see that you’re streets ahead of the competition. Pretty soon the word will be out that you guys are the best copy shop in town. And it’ll be because you’re winning at customer service!
Make positive word of mouth happen
Clearly you want your customers to spread the word about your amazing store. Positive word of mouth is an invaluable form of neighbourhood marketing that can’t be faked.
You can encourage positive word of mouth by making specific offerings or having a specific customer-service habit that is geared to being remarkable, so that customers will tell their friends about it.
What would you like people to say about your store? What is it about your retail outlet that makes it unique in your neighbourhood market?
Be sure you know what that is, and if you can’t think of anything, create an offering that is remarkable. Now try to visualise the exact word-of-mouth compliments you want your customers to share about you.
Here are some examples:
- “They always make me feel welcome. The staff are so friendly!”
- “They really go out of their way to give service!”
- “They always remember my name!”
- “If you arrive after closing time, they don’t mind opening the store again.”
‘We guarantee our food’
Consumer appliances and vehicles usually come with a guarantee. But other products and services can also be guaranteed. It gives customers confidence in your store.
My own experience of this occurred at our restaurant, when I told our staff one day that we were going to guarantee our food and our service and we were going to put it up on our in-store DVD as well on our promotional material.
Our guarantee read something like this: “We guarantee our service and food at The Brazen Head. If you are not satisfied with the food or service, we will refund the full price of your meal and we will give you a voucher for the replacement value of what you would have spent.”
Although initially the staff were petrified, wondering how many people might take advantage of this, in fact nearly all customers were quite satisfied with our service.
Over an eight-month period, we had only one person who wanted their full money back. They were given a voucher which we honoured. This type of promotion also raises the bar for your staff performance so that they must live up to that quality.
Good staff morale is vital, and a compliment to a staff member can do wonders for their energy and levels of performance. Take a couple of seconds to acknowledge them and their good performances and you’ll have a motivated team ready to represent your company.
Communication in general is vital. A short, quick chat can often get a motivational message across quicker and more effectively than a long, drawn-out meeting.
Here are a few motivational phrases you may wish to try. See what a difference it makes! Try to say these with sincerity and when they’re justified.
- “Good morning.”
- “That was great! Just the way we practised it!”
- “You certainly made Mrs Smith happy today!”
- “Can you think of a better way to do this?”
- “You’re one of the best staff members we have!”
- “You’re always on time, Joe, we really appreciate that.”
- “Come on Tom, I know you can do better than that. I have seen you do it before.”
- “If we pull together, it’ll be a breeze.”
- “If anyone can do it, I know you can do it, Sabelo.”
- “You guys really make a good team! Well done.”
- “I’m proud of you all.”
- “What do you think, Brian?”
- “I need your help.”
- “You’re right, Kuli!”
- “We’re glad you work here!”
- “Thank you!”
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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