Many businesses have just completed their 2017 fiscal year, making now the perfect time to reflect and evaluate how things went. Customer experience, productivity, and local connection are often at the top of the list of items small businesses look to improve. Listed below are some ideas to consider as you formulate your improvement plans:
Improve the experience your business provides when shipping items to customers. Make sure to over-communicate the status of customer orders and provide an accurate delivery date. Offer several shipping options. Faster is usually better, but some customers are willing to wait a few extra days to save money. Make sure your packaging is next level. This is an often-overlooked opportunity to impress your customers. When they open your box, they should be wowed by what they see. Work to streamline the process for picking and packing your items. The faster you can notify your customer that their item has shipped, the more satisfied your customer will be with your business.
Improve the productivity of your employees. Set short-term goals for each employee and hold them accountable for their results. Create a culture of employee engagement. The more engaged your employees are, the more productive they become. Use an electronic-based communication system to streamline communication between employees. The faster and more reliable employees interact, the faster they complete tasks. Identify and eliminate redundant tasks. For example, if your employees are needing to walk to the backroom several times a day to get packing supplies, you should look to reorganize their workstation to allow for more supply storage.
Streamline your inventory management. Fine tune your forecasting to be as accurate as possible. Make sure you avoid running out of product, but be cautious of ordering too much as this leads to unproductive inventory. Identify any low-turn stock and work to remove it from future ordering. Use cloud-based inventory management software if possible. Ensure this software is tied to your POS system and allows for stock-level alerts to be sent to you as needed. Complete physical unit counts on high-theft items regularly to ensure the accuracy of your book numbers. If your stock ledger is off, you may lose sales due to empty shelves.
Elevate your customer experience to make a difference. Start with having an adequate number of employees on your sales floor assigned to help customers. Make sure each employee is properly trained on the skills needed to service multiple clients at a time. Ensure your employees have good product knowledge and are viewed as a helpful resource. Never forget the old saying “The customer is always right.” Engage and respond to what your customers are saying by using the same channels they are using. If you ask for feedback from your customers, be prepared to do something about it. Make sure you take some time and review your business from a customer’s perspective. In this type of business, perception is reality.
Build a stronger relationship with your community. Look to participate in local community events whenever possible. Offer to host a local event and showcase your business. Local networking events are a great opportunity to get your business name known and make direct connections to influences within the community. Encourage your team to volunteer in the community and be willing to support these efforts with sponsorship or flexible work schedules. Find a nearby business that is compatible with your type of business and offer to partner up for a special event. If you source local products, be proud of that and make sure you tell everyone. Encourage your local product supplier to tell their story and incorporate it into your product display.
The customer experience, productivity, and your business’s connection to the local community are all essential to winning in 2018. Working to elevate these items is well worth your time, energy, and effort. Competition continues to grow and these factors, if done right, will help drive your business to the next level.