CONNECTING THE . . . ON Marketing Operations, and Human Resources
By- Donna Wetterstrand
|Customer service procedures come from operational planning
which, in turn, is driven byyour company’s marketing and business
plan. When there is no plan or organizational
buy-in of that plan, customer service will be inconsistent and revenue will be flat.
For example, the most spectacularly successful marketing may not be able to overcome critical customer service issues. You want to be able to deliver the goods! When your external marketing strategy starts to increase your sales opportunities your operations systems should already be up and running.
The goal is always the same: to convert new customers into repeat customers, and develop all sales into referral sources. You want to be able to over-deliver on the promise that your external marketing has made to your customer. When both sides of the marketing strategy are working, your business will thrive.
This was made crystal clear to me recently with two different business clients who hired me to help them kick-start flat sales. Let’s have a brief look at these examples.
The first business was relatively new; after experiencing an initial growth curve, it had reached a plateau in sales. My client had purchased a national hair salon franchise, and was experiencing frustration with the franchisors. The rules and regulations that my client had contractually agreed to included quite rigid restrictions on what kind of product the salon could carry and what kind of marketing it could do. As a result, my client felt very limited in her options to increase sales.
My first step is always to assess the strengths of the business as it exists, so we can maximize the operational resources within the business. Though the salon was staffed by a young and energetic team, I observed that the customer service was hit-and-miss. There were no consistent systems for customer service delivery. Product was not being suggested or sold consistently, and the staff certainly wasn’t over-delivering in terms of the customer experience. This was a relatively easy fix.
We began to hold weekly staff meetings that focused on product sales and creating a dynamite customer experience. We encouraged brainstorming sessions and participation, and regularly implemented strategies that were designed by the staff themselves. We always included lots of fun and laughter, which boosted the effectiveness of the meetings and encouraged positive team dynamics.
Five months later, product sales were up 245% (wow) and overall sales were up 41% (another wow). At this point, should the franchisors provide meaningful marketing, my client’s salon business is ready to maximize the customer experience and associated revenue of each new customer.
|Brainstorming with employees is one of the best way to generate new ideas for your business. It also has a positive spin-off of increasing employee morale.|
The second business I consulted was a well-established retail/wholesale coffee roasting business. After years of growth, this business was experiencing a “stall” in sales.
The business had literally outgrown the operational systems that had sustained it for so long. The clear strengths of the business rested on the very high standards of product quality and customer service that had existed for years.
However, my assessment revealed that the quality of customer service was slowly eroding as employees and management struggled to work within systems that were no longer efficient.
Everyone, including the management, was busy putting out fires; lines of communication were breaking down and no one had the time or energy to imagine, design or implement anything new. My first goal was to buy management the time and space to address the issues. Lines of communication were re-established just from the act of including me in the daily operations.
I focused first on the retail portion of the business and began by re-defining employee positions, systemizing duties, and re-training employees to maximize their performance. Other operational systems are still in development, but from the previously mentioned improvements alone, retail sales increased by 18.6%.
The retail side of the business was easily able to handle the increase without creating further stress or problems. As the operational systems we develop become more robust, this business will be ready for new marketing strategies.
Alberta Marketing Strategy: How did you come to know which solutions needed to be implemented in these cases? DW: Having 25 years of business experience as an owner in three successful businesses across three industries helps to solve both complex and simple management challenges.