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Is Your Secret Sales Force At Work?

As spring is upon us, I spent some time last weekend trying to line up a load of topsoil to be delivered for our flowerbeds. Although we live in a small community, there are three nurseries within a short drive that offer topsoil delivery. Although it’s a bit early in the season and the ground is still wet, I presumed that getting a load delivered would be quite simple… Boy was I wrong.

After calling each of the nurseries, I had less than stellar results. One nursery was closed on Saturday, so didn’t answer; one nursery didn’t have topsoil yet; and the third wasn’t ready to deliver as their soil was still too wet.

Despite what you might be thinking, I wasn’t bothered by any of this. After all, nurseries can’t predict the weather, and want to deliver high quality product to their customers. What I did find interesting was that the two nurseries I was able to reach made no offer to contact me once they were ready to deliver soil.

In fact I was so surprised that the first nursery I reached didn’t offer to contact me when they were ready (they suggested I call back sometime in the next two weeks), that on the second call I was at a loss for words when the employee suggested they weren’t ready to deliver yet. As we sat in silence for several minutes you might guess that the employee on the other would have suggested a solution…

He didn’t.

This situation reinforced something I’ve discussed before. Employees make all the difference when it comes to creating and sustaining a positive impression on your customers. In essence, your employees are your secret sales force.

Although you might not be running a small business like these nursery owners, the impact is the same. Employees need a “customer first” mentality, and must understand how their actions or inactions influence your customers’ behavior.

Want to test this theory with your staff? Try secretly shopping your business.

First, call into your customer service department and ask a question that is out of the ordinary. Throw them a curve ball to see their reaction.

Second, when you receive a response (regardless of it’s relevance), stay silent and don’t say a word. Wait to see what kind of response you get.

Lastly, when on the call, don’t accept anything but exactly what you’re asking for (as long as it’s within reason based on the products or services your business offers). Just continue asking the question in different ways. For example, considering my nursery example above I might ask, “But you do sell topsoil don’t you?” or, “I don’t quite understand, do you no longer offer topsoil for sale?”

The responses you receive, good or bad, will provide some insight into how well prepared and willing your employees are to satisfy your customers needs. More importantly responses will provide ideas on where you should invest time in further developing scripts and scenarios to ensure every customer leaves feeling that your business has their best interests in mind.

If you’re concerned that this may seem like an awkward or inappropriate way to “check in” on your employees, think about the potential cost of lost or dissatisfied customers that you may be experiencing on account of a lack of knowledge or experience on the part of your front line employees.  The only way to understand where your employees may require more knowledge or training is to first determine their current capabilities.

Looking for some more ideas on how you might ask when secretly shopping your business? Send me an email describing your business, and I will provide you with some specific ideas on how you can gain the most value possible from this exercise.

© Shawn Casemore 2017. All rights reserved.

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