Your employees are a tremendous source of information and insight. They can share how to deliver a better customer experience, or how to sell more. They might be able to tell you about products you don't carry but that your customers might be interested in. They may well know how to attract more customers. All you have to do is ask.
You can ask your staff individually, or you can ask as part of a group brainstorming session. Whichever way you choose, the key is to frame your questions as forward-looking statements so the staff doesn't worry about you being defensive if you don't like what you hear.
Don't ask, "What can we do to improve our customer experience?" since that can easily be interpreted as you saying that the store isn't delivering a good experience. Instead, ask "What can we do to deliver an even better customer experience in the future?"
I like to zero in on a specific area. When you ask a broad question like "What can we do better?" most people will struggle. But if you ask, "How can we increase our blue widget sales by 10% in September?" most employees can come up with some ideas.
It also helps to encourage your staff to take into consideration what it takes to implement the ideas. A store could increase blue widget sales by 10% by putting up twenty billboards around town, but that wouldn't be very cost effective.
Here's a tool I use for plotting ideas when brainstorming with a group. Take a flipchart and write your question across the top. For this example I'll say, "What actions can we take to make our customer experience even more enjoyable and special?"
Next, create a four square grid with two axis like this.
The horizontal axis along the bottom is impact on the customer/sales/etc., with low to high going from left to right. An idea on the far right would be a huge WOW, an idea in the middle would be something different, and on the left it would be a nice touch.
The vertical axis on the left is ease of implementation, from hard at the bottom to easy at the top. This includes both monetary cost and time and effort to implement. Something in the bottom would be very difficult and expensive to implement, and something in the top would be both low cost and simple to do.
As you brainstorm, plot the ideas on the flipchart based on the idea's impact on the customer and ease of implementation.
A major renovation might be a big WOW for the customer, but it's very costly and hard to do. It would be plotted in the bottom-right quadrant.
Sending thank you cards will have some impact on the customer, and implementation would not be difficult. That idea would be plotted on the right side of the upper-left quadrant.
The best ideas are the ones in the upper-right quadrant. They have a big impact on the customer's experience and they're easy to implement. The least effective ideas are in the lower-left quadrant as they have a low impact on the customer and are difficult to implement.
The upper-left quadrant ideas are sometimes nice, low-hanging fruit. The idea will have a small impact, and it's fairly easy to knock out. The high-impact ideas in the lower-right quadrant usually need study and planning, since they're harder and/or more costly to implement.
Finally, as a group you can decide which ideas the team will run with right away, which ones might happen down the road, and which will be tabled for the time being.
The same approach works on staffing, improving marketing, and planning how you can maximize your opportunity to have an extraordinary fall and holiday
So let me ask, are you getting enough ideas from your team? Even more important, are you taking the action to make those ideas a reality?
Doug Fleener, a proven retail and customer experience expert and consultant, helps companies dramatically improve their customer experience and their results. Visit the Dynamic Experiences Group website, or call Doug at 866-535-6331 to discuss how he can help you create an extraordinary experience and results.