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Are Your Employees Waving Away Customers?

As a business owner, you go above and beyond to keep customers happy. But your employees might not feel the same.
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I recently visited a local small business (a pet food store) because I wanted to get my doggie, Dwight, some kibble. It wasn't a highly trafficked joint and in a remote area, and I only wanted a small bag of food. So I got out of the car and went up to the door only to find they had just closed.

Turns out I had arrived three minutes after closing time and the person who was manning the store was still behind the register with a customer. I waved to see if he would open the place up just to get one more sale, but this employee gave me the cut-across-the-throat gesture and waved me off.

What did that tell me? That he clearly wasn't the business owner.

All of you business owners are out there clutching your proverbial pearls, right? If you were there, you would have opened the doors to get one more sale for the day. But in this case, it was an employee who wanted out after eight hours of looking at the clock and not giving a damn about poor Dwight and his lack of delicious dry food.

How do you make sure your employees aren't waving off customers and potential sales? Here are four ideas:

1. Go above and beyond.

Your employees want to feel part of a family, so make it so! Hang out with them, get to know them, do fun things like happy hours and picnics with them. Everyone wants to love where they work and who they work for, so give it to them!

2. Make them feel invested in the company.

Why not try giving them a part of your company so they feel invested? At my e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse, we give all of our employees stock options to let them know that if the company is successful, they will be, too. You might also try giving them a piece of the profits at the end of the year so they know that the more the cash registers ring, the more they'll get.

3. Be transparent.

Let them know what your growth is and what it needs to be. Even if it takes the old thermometer sketch to illustrate where you are in the month, it's worth it. I give my entire company a monthly update on where we are, where we need to be and what we need to do to get there.

4. Give them incentives.

Tracking their daily sales could get them more of a bonus at the end of the month. Ever have someone ask you at the register, "Who helped you with that?" They're tracking the effectiveness of their employees who make an impression.

Here's a story I love to share. Since VerticalResponse is an online email marketing software company, there's not really a reason for customers to physically visit us. At the very beginning of our existence, a woman came to our offices and sat on our couch for 20 minutes (we didn't have a receptionist at the time) until an employee (there were four of us total) came out into the open area on his way to the restroom and saw her. She was there to give us $20 in cash so she could send an e-mail campaign to her list.

Instead of pushing her out the door and directing her to our website, the employee took the cash, printed out an invoice for the amount she gave us, and even gave her extra e-mail credits. She took the time to come to us, so we felt we needed to return the favor.

The bottom line is that you need to have your employees be as passionate as possible about your business. Including them on various parts of your business, even the down and dirty, and incentivizing them to do what you as the business owner would do, might work wonders. Have you tried?

Last updated: May 14, 2012

JANINE POPICK

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and social media marketing tools for small businesses. The company was ranked No. 4,882 on the 2013 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick




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