11 Habits for Running a More Successful Business in 2019

By Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender

10 seconds is all the time it takes for a customer to make a value judgment about your business; it takes just 5 seconds to make that same judgment about your people. In those seconds customers are unconsciously determining whether or not they like what they see. It’s not fair but we all do it.

As consumer anthropologists, our job is to study consumers in their natural habitat: stores, restaurants, and other public places where people tend to gather. We watch what they do, how they interact with product and people, what they pick up and put down, what they like, and what drives them crazy. We’ve had many retail adventures throughout the years and in that time, we’ve noticed that the most successful business owners do 11 key things regularly.

Take a look at those action steps and see if you can apply them to your operations.

1. Walk your entire space each day before you open the doors for business.

Carry a pen, paper, and your cellphone, noting which displays are working and which ones are not. Look for product that needs restocking, areas that need tweaking, signs that have seen better days – anything that needs attention ASAP.

Your cellphone will come in handy to take photos – this is important because the camera will see things the human eye misses. A display might look fine to you, but a photo will point out holes in your merchandising that you can easily fix before you open for the day.

2. Do the tasks you normally assign to associates.

Wait on tables. Work the service counter or cash wrap. Stock the product everyone complains about when it’s assigned to them. Clean the bathrooms. Once a month is okay, but once a week is better.

This different perspective will help you see where policies and procedures need to be changed, updated, eliminated or streamlined. It helps promote teamwork, too.

3. Dress appropriately.

Every person employed by your company — from the CEO to the person who drives the delivery truck, — needs to look professional. We’ve seen employees in all sorts of businesses wearing things they shouldn’t.

Your dress code must be in writing; be very specific about what is and isn’t appropriate for your business. Review your dress code with everyone in a meeting, and be prepared to reinforce it when necessary.

Remember that your team is a walking, talking, living, breathing example of your brand. Make sure they are sending customers the right message.

4. Improve your telephone etiquette.

People hate phone systems that require them to “Press 1 for _______; press 2 for ________” and they hate voicemail, too. And many businesses these days can’t be bothered to offer good service via the telephone, let alone answer it.

Instead, answer each call within three rings, and with a smile in your voice. Trust us, when you’re not happy, people can hear it over the phone.

5. Listen to your customers.

Spend one day each month conducting exit interviews. Ask customers, “What ONE thing could we do to __________________?” Try, “What one thing could we do to make your visit more enjoyable?” or “What one thing could we do to make it more convenient to shop here?” Fill in the blank with whatever is important for you to know to improve your business.

Dig deeper by devoting 20 minutes each week to personally responding to customers who offer suggestions or complain about something they didn’t like. You’ll build positive word of mouth, the number one thing that brings new customers to your business.

6. Start a conversation.

The goal of a greeting is to welcome customers and make them feel at home. Open with, “May I help you?” and you are almost guaranteed to hear an automatic “No thanks, I’m just looking.” response from the customer.

Instead, opt for open-ended questions designed to get the customer talking. “What brings you in to see us today?” is a good one that works in all sorts of situations.

7. Acknowledge every customer, every time.

Greeting every customer should be a non-negotiable policy, and it’s easy to do when you adopt our 7-Tile Rule. Here, every customer is acknowledged by every associate each time they come within seven floor tiles of a customer – that’s 7’.

A simple smile or nod is often enough but with proper training, your associates will know when more conversation is needed.

8. Daily JOG meetings.  

Gather your team each morning for a short “Jog Your Memory” meeting before you open for business. For 10 minutes talk about product, customer requests, policies, industry news, and upcoming events – whatever makes sense that particular morning. Clear and consistent communication keeps everyone in the loop and on their toes.

9. Make product knowledge a focus

Encourage associates to spend time reading product labels, especially on products they have not used or are familiar with. Manufacturers put all kinds of important information on their labels because they know in some places the product will have to sell itself.

Make product knowledge a focus at meetings as well. Choose one particular product category per meeting, and discuss what’s important about the product. Add in hands-on training when applicable. It’s easier to sell something once you’ve tried it.

10. Adding-on to the sale is good service.

Customers won’t buy additional items if you don’t ask. Adding-on isn’t pushy; it’s good service that actually helps when it’s done ethically. The cashier who suggested you might need batteries for that electronic gift you are buying just saved you another trip to the store.

Think of add-on selling as a positive because it not only increases your average sale, it strengthens customer relationships, and saves them time and frustration.

11. Keep in touch.

Send an email blast to customers every 10-15 days. Email marketing companies make it so easy to create, send, and track your email blasts so there’s no excuse not to do them. Reading your stat reports is also critically important. If you never look at your stats you won’t know what works and what doesn’t.

Think big pictures, less copy, short videos, and clickable links that take the customer back to your website for more. If you send out information on specific products make sure they are in stock and that every associate knows about what’s advertised in this week’s email blast. Customers hate when the connection between online and in-store isn’t what was promised.

We like to say that retailing is an election that’s held every day, and guests vote with their dollars. Those 24-hour restaurants with the “We never close” signs are no longer alone. Today, every business runs 24/7 online and on social medias. Customer care has ever been so important; make sure that yours stands out!

About the Authors

KIZER & BENDER are contributors to MSNBC’s Your Business. They made Meetings & Conventions Magazine’s list of Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote Speakers and have been named two of Retailing’s Most Influential People. As global retail thought leaders, KIZER & BENDER are listed among the Top 40 Omnichannel Retail Influencers, Top 50 Retail Influencers, and the Top Retail Industry Experts to Follow on Social Media. Their award-winning Retail Adventures Blog is consistently listed among important retail and small business blogs. KIZER & BENDER serve as BrainTrust panelists for RetailWire and are partners and emcees for the popular Independent Retailer Conference.

Get in touch at: 630.513.8020 | info@kizerandbender.com | www.kizerandbender.com