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Business culture Habits Hospitality Improvement Leadership quality Restaurants Setting Expectations Small Business

Can you find the quality in this kitchen? It isn’t the bacon.

Baconfest Chicago Chef Rose
Photo credit: Chicago Serious Eats

People send me bacon links and/or bacon photos on Facebook almost every day.

I’m not sure what started it. You’d think they see me around town with a fistful of bacon all the time (they don’t, I rarely have any) but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

Today, I found my own link about Baconfest Chicago and it’s all business (OK, there is a little bit of bacon too).

Check out the slideshow illustrating how Chef Rose cooks his Baconfest winning dish and look for ways he’s managing the quality of the food his kitchen produces.

Hint: One of my favorite quotes is from Chef Gordon Ramsey: “Without a leader, there are no standards. Without standards, there is no consistency.”

Where do you see Chef Rose managing quality?

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Business Resources Buy Local Competition Direct Marketing Facebook Getting new customers Internet marketing Restaurants Retail SEO Small Business SMS Social Media Web 2.0

Why the tourist drove past your business

Changes2005vs2013Photo credit: AP

You’ve probably seen this AP image contrasting the crowds at St. Peter’s in Rome over the last eight years.

The first photo was taken by Luca Bruno in 2005 during preparations for the public viewing of Pope John Paul II’s body – almost two years before the iPhone was first announced.

The second photo was taken by Michael Sohn in March 2013 as the crowd waited for the first balcony appearance of a newly-elected Pope Francis I.

No matter how you feel about mobile devices, smartphones, the mobile browsing experience, the quality of smartphone photos, the always-connected lifestyle and how these things relate to your personal life, ignoring the business impact of the widespread adoption of these devices is done at your peril.

So what?

Seems like just yesterday that I did a series of speaking gigs with groups of local business owners about social media, getting found via local web search, the growth of mobile and the impact of these things on local businesses. Fact is, it’s been closer to 18 months since that series concluded.

To their credit, some have picked up on what we talked about and are interacting with their prospects and clients via social media. At least one local business that I frequent offers occasional coupons for subscribers to their text message (SMS) based opt-in list.

While most local business sites display acceptably on today’s tablets, the story is altogether different on a phone, where a smaller number have made efforts to improve the experience of a website visitor using a phone. Let’s refresh why it’s important to deal with this.

It’s not uncommon to hear “So what?” when this topic comes up in discussion. That’s not the right question.

First impressions

Again, you must set aside your personal likes/dislikes about these devices because it isn’t about you. It’s about your customers.

If these customers are tourists whose first impression – and purchase decision – is tied to the usability of your site on their phone, it’s worth considering whether your site is helping them (and you).

You might be thinking “Well, they have smartphones, but do they use them for that?” It’s a good question. I can tell you 25% of visitors to the Columbia Falls’ Chamber website are using mobile devices – a number that grows every month. I’ve been told churches see an even larger percentage of mobile users.

So what do you do?

A mobile website checklist

Let’s talk about mobile website basics:

  • Do you have a website that is actually usable on a phone?
  • Does it clearly describe what you do, when you are open, how to get there (using Google Maps, et al) and how to contact your business?
  • Restaurants, is your menu visible on the phone or does it appear on a phone as tiny print because it’s in a PDF intended for desktop users?

To start this process, claim your business on Google Places for Business and setup a Facebook Page (not a Facebook user account) for your business. Both of these will give you a basic summary presence on mobile devices that includes hours, contact info and location.

Compare these two mobile search results:

flathead beacon mobile search result dmbdgoogle

The one on the left (without a Google Places listing) is tougher to read on a phone and requires additional screen taps to get answers to the basic questions listed above.

The one on the right (with a Google Places listing) gives you everything you need to make the next choice. One tap to call, get directions or view their site.

Which of those do you want your prospects to see?

Why’d they drive by?

When your website makes it easy for mobile phone users to learn about your business, it helps them decide what to do, where and when to go, and how well your business fits their needs/wants.

So why did the tourist drive past your business?

Three reasons:

  • They didn’t know your business exists, or they didn’t know enough about your business
  • The info they found didn’t help them make a decision.
  • The info they found helped them make a decision to go elsewhere.

The last reason is acceptable. You shouldn’t expect everyone to be your customer, much less to stop in simply because your business is easy to learn about and find online.

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Business Ethics Business model Competition Corporate America Economic Development Entrepreneurs Montana Restaurants Retail Small Business

Butcher shops concerned about locally grown meat sales limits

Rude Cow!
Creative Commons License photo credit: foxypar4

The legislature is considering placing additional limits on the production or sale of locally grown meat, including the meat of wild animals.

Backing this legislation is the Corporate Grocers Association, which serves the interests of corporate grocery chains across America.

The proposed law also places strict annual limits on hunting and fishing since those activities impact the meat sales of CGA members. Catch and release fishing will not be affected since it does not affect meat sales.

CGA public relations officer M. A. DeUpnaam said “This legislation will protect our members and their employees from the predatory practices of micro-ranchers, predatory local hunters, people who selfishly decline to practice catch and release fishing, as well local butcher shops and meat processors who specialize in processing and selling locally raised meat products.

The action was taken at the request of a local CGA grocer after their newspaper reported that “425 whitetail deer, 64 mule deer and 58 elk” were harvested in his market area during the first three weeks of hunting season. After calculating how much that wild animal meat could cost his grocery in lost meat sales, he convinced the Association to step in.

History on CGA’s side

In prior sessions, the CGA has been successful in lobbying for protection of their members. Butcher shops and meat processors are limited to 10 retail sales hours per day and may sell no more than two pounds of meat per day to any single customer. Micro-ranches are allowed to raise no more animals than would produce 10,000 pounds of meat (for retail sale) annually.

If the 10,000 pound limit is exceeded during the calendar year, the business must shut down retail sales for the remainder of the calendar year and curtail production so that the limit isn’t exceeded the following year. Producers who exceed the 10,000 pound limit more than once will be required to cease retail sales permanently. Of course, they’re still allowed to sell their meat to wholesale buyers.

Of growing concern

CGA members are deeply concerned by the rapid growth of the microranch business, despite annual production limits placed on them. It’s not hard to see why: 100 new micro-ranches operating at maximum capacity in a single state would mean one million pounds of meat is available for purchase in that state – meat that wasn’t previously on the market. Add that to the previously ignored volume of wild animal meat produced and it’s no wonder the legislature is getting grilled by the CGA.

Microranchers and local butcher shops contend that they do not compete directly with CGA members because they produce a premium quality, high-priced product that the typical grocery shopper doesn’t buy at CGA member stores. CGA spokesperson DeUpnaam countered that assertion, saying “Every pound of meat sold by a local butcher shop, regardless of price or quality, is a pound of meat not sold by a CGA member. It’s a zero sum game and corrective action is necessary to return things to the way they were when our members established their businesses.”

Local produce and herb farms watching closely

Organic farms and local gardeners are monitoring this legislation closely, concerned that the legislature might decide to place limits on the sale of locally grown produce.

Community farmers markets are also watching and wondering about “corrective action” targeting their markets. Because they take a small cut of the sales made by a local butcher shop or gardener at their events, they too could become subject to the annual sales limits. While they have never lobbied a state legislature before, the organizers of 14 farmers markets in this area met last weekend to discuss sending a representative to the state house to monitor the situation, and if necessary, plead their case.

Fiction?

Yes, that’s a made up headline and story line – but it isn’t quite so fictional if you own a microbrewery or craft brewery business in Montana.

Update: After receiving substantial feedback from constituents, the committee in charge of fine tuning and releasing HB616 to the Montana House thought better of it and unanimously voted to table it. The committee also unanimously approved a study bill that is intended to get all parties involved in “fixing” Montana’s licensing laws in time to bring a palatable solution to the next legislature.

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attitude Business culture Buy Local Customer relationships Employees Management Point of sale Restaurants Retail service Setting Expectations Small Business

Tactical caring

I don’t talk about “b word” too often, but branding is really what a lot of our discussions are ultimately about.

One of the more incisive definitions of branding that I’ve seen is “What people think when your business name is mentioned”. If that doesn’t cut right to the bone, I’m not sure what does.

A recent branding discussion between Justin Kownacki, TD Hurst and myself eventually settled into talking about businesses using “looking like we care” as a tactic as opposed to actually showing that they care. So here we are.

Take a moment

Consider the places you do business with. What’s the first thought you have when you think of them? One of the things that comes to mind for me is “Do they care about my business?”

In other words, is my business important to them? No, my business probably doesn’t keep the local watering hole or pizza joint open all by itself, but do the folks who run and work in those places (and others) give me the impression that they know I could have gone somewhere else?

Not far from my parents’ old place in Plano Texas, there’s a pizza place owned by a Greek family. My parents would almost always take us there when we went to Big D to visit. No matter how busy that place was, the owner always made a point of taking a moment to come out from behind the counter to greet us at our table, welcome us to his place and “visit”, as my grandmother called it.

While this wasn’t necessary, it was a painless, cost-free way to recognize a regular customer by simply being friendly without being mechanical. It only took a moment, but it meant a lot. How do you know? I haven’t visited Dallas in almost ten years. My parents moved.

Yet almost 10 years later, I still remember the impression left by a balding Greek patriarch who was proud of his place and happy we chose to have dinner with him.

If you’re the recipient of this kind of attention, you’re aware of the night and day difference between that and the “tactical caring” you’re used to receiving.

Which kind of care does your business serve up?

Do they or don’t they?

About those places you considered earlier…Do they care? Or do they do things to look like they care?

What’s the difference?

  • Looking like you care: Including a photo of a USB cable on the instructions included in my new printer’s box so you can save the 48 cents per sale that the cable and its packaging cost.
  • Showing that you care: Including a USB cable and charging a dollar more for the printer to save your client a 20 minute trip to the store.
  • Looking like you care: Saying a mechanical “Thanks for coming” as I leave. “Mechanical” because I hear you say the same words to everyone, right after the bell above the door frame jingles.
  • Showing that you care: Thanking me before the bell jingles, and doing so by using my name or some other personalized message that doesn’t get repeated to the next 41 people who leave after I do. Also…thanking me later, via email, a postcard, text message or by somehow rewarding my visit – even with something that costs you nothing. Remembering that I’ve been there before and making note of it, even if you don’t remember my name.
  • Looking like you care: Smiling at my four year old granddaughter when we enter your store, even though you sell nothing she’s interested in.
  • Showing that you care: Smiling at my four year old granddaughter, kneeling down to her level and saying “Hello, young lady”, even though you sell nothing she’s interested in.

It’s OK

Training your staff to look up from the cash register and grunt when a customer enters is transparent, repetitive motion, tactical caring. Stop it. If people needed random grunts to make their lives more fulfilling, they’d install iGrunt on their phone.

Training your staff to take a brief moment to greet someone personally is scary. Do it anyway. Yes, it’s common sense. So why aren’t your people doing it?

The election cycle is behind us. It’s OK to care again. Just don’t grunt.

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Community Customer relationships Employees Leadership Politics Restaurants Small Business Social Media

The Price of A Hug

Recently, a small business owner hugged the President.

He wasn’t tackled by the Secret Service, or cuffed and taken to jail.

Instead, his business’ Yelp page was inundated with fake reviews from political loyalists from sides of the aisle.

Yelp is a social media business rating/review websites. The timely, personal reviews on this site, like those at UrbanSpoon and TripAdvisor, are highly influential because they come from real customers who post reviews during or immediately after visiting a business.

The mass of reviews weren’t just from those against the hug. Supporters reacted too. Likewise, those reacting to the prior two groups. And those urged on by pot stirrers on both sides.

Thousands of people descended on the review page for this man’s family business, and as is played out every day on newspaper comment sites and blogs all over the world – a “flame war” erupted. The reviews weren’t about the service or the pizza and they weren’t from people who had actually visited the restaurant.

They were about red and blue. Good and evil, evil and good.

The irony of it all: when the business owner was asked about his business, his politics and his impression of the President’s small business policies, he said “My business is stronger than it was four years ago, and that’s because I take accountability for my business,” he said. “I personally run and operate my business, and I don’t depend on the government to help me.

Somehow I suspect neither group of fake reviewers would have expected that.

This is our best?

I struggle with the possible damage inflicted on this business, despite my repeated assertion to business owners that “Anything you do is everything you do.” Usually, that’s about service, marketing and product quality. Today, it includes politics.

Business owners have to be careful about their “public facing persona” because everything they do is on the public’s radar. Whatever you do and say, not only in your business but in public actions and comments, will be evaluated. If you rub the wrong group the wrong way, that group will be quick to dogpile your business. Their efforts could go beyond actions taken from the safety and anonymity of a keyboard.

In the “good old days”, political reactions included lynchings, burning churches and shooting people at medical facilities. Today, reactions could include a “church” members picketing Veterans’ funerals or drive-by shootings. Is the next step is torching pizza joints?

It should make you think before you act/speak.

A choice

What should business owners do about publicly stating political opinions? It’s bigger than a national corporation being boycotted until their issue is pushed off the public’s radar by the latest reality star’s escapades. “Will they burn my building?” or “Will they come after me, my family or my employees?” is a real possibility – as is no reaction at all.

Do you choose to alienate half of your customers by saying something, or say/do nothing publicly in an attempt to avoid angering a cause’s most volatile followers? Does it matter?

For me, these conversations usually have little substance and rarely change minds. In some cases, they serve only to isolate, anger and create divides among people who had no idea they needed to argue about something. My political opinions are no one else’s business until I decide to share them. So far, I see no benefit to the listener for me to share them.

But not everyone agrees with that. Some feel they deserve to know your stance – and that’s their choice, not yours.

Silence has its risks

Silence is often interpreted as tacit approval of a situation or cause. If I don’t publicly react against something, it implies to some that I’m for it.

Make sure everyone understands that the off-hours behavior of management, owners and staff can impact your business. While you can’t regulate their political activity outside of work, it still reflects upon your business and could create conflict at the office – something you have to manage.

Whatever you do, be sure of yourself, your opinions and your actions, and be willing to accept the public’s response, because the one thing you can’t control is the public’s reaction to a hug.

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Automation Business culture Competition Corporate America Employees Improvement Leadership Management Restaurants Retail service Small Business

Is there something more important that they could be doing?

Most of us who use computers in our work do so because they relieve us of tedious work or eliminate slow, inefficient, error-prone techniques for producing our work, even if we do have fuss with drivers and hardware failures once in a while.

In the newspaper business, I doubt anyone wants to return to the days of working with sheet film, X-Acto knives and the Gutenberg press.

While it would be fun to create something once in a while using the movable type of almost 600 years ago, do we really want to word wrap by hand, day in and day out?

The computers we sometimes love to hate help us keep track of financials and inventory, they help us communicate with customers, vendors and prospects and so on, but they could do so much more.

Look around the office. Is there someone doing a job on a computer that could be performed by someone with little or no training? Is their work repetitive? Do they have to have distinctive knowledge about your business, your market or your customers to do this work?

There might be something out there (free or otherwise) that could either replace that work or make it far more productive, freeing that person up to do more important value-creating work for your business.

It’s common sense, but we get so busy doing the everyday that we frequently miss the opportunity to ask ourselves how some of those processes could be improved – and it isn’t just about computers.

Your micro economy

The same is true of most repetitive work that doesn’t require knowledge of the market – and the work isn’t limited to “mindless” repetitive things. Some of these jobs simply must exist, but a fair number of them could be done by a system, machine, software or similar – and done at a lower cost with more consistency. Consistency and cost aren’t the only factor. When you have people doing these jobs, those jobs are at risk because they *can* be replaced by a system, machine or software at your competitor – who will then put pressure on you via improved speed, consistency and perhaps better pricing.

It isn’t just about your business being more efficient. It’s about the micro-economy that your business creates being stronger and more resilient. That economy involves you, your suppliers, your employees and/or contractors and their families, your landlord if you rent or lease space, and so on.

When you create a job, it’s a great day. It means many positive things. Yet we want to be careful to create jobs that deliver as much value as possible to our businesses and to our customers. Jobs that CANNOT be easily replaced by the aforementioned system, machine or software.

The easiest way to afford that is to replace the ones that can be replaced. When we do that, we create opportunities for our businesses and our staff. The other thing this does is create jobs that are difficult to devalue. Devalued jobs are too easily discarded because they don’t create enough value. You can’t afford them. They’re “overhead”, not value creators.

Learn from Undercover

In the show “Undercover Boss“, the plot is always the same. The CEO of a large company leaves their office, dresses up like a line worker, does “real work” with their line staff for a week and realizes that their focus on their front line has been lacking.

They learn that the money they think they’re saving by not updating equipment, improving systems and training staff are costing them dearly because they’re impacting the quality of their products, services and/or experience their customers.

The now eyes-wide-open CEO then makes changes that usually involve training, equipment and systems. They see how much time a wasteful process or an outdated piece of equipment costs them as it is multiplied by every person who does that job. It reminds them of something they knew when they got into this business – and what might once have been the difference for them – that the effectiveness of their line employees are critical to their success.

Ask your line employees one question: What would help you do your work better, faster and with more consistency without losing quality?

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attitude Business culture Consumer Advocacy Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Employees Leadership Management Public Relations Restaurants Retail Setting Expectations Small Business Social Media Word of mouth marketing

Did you train them to defend your business or your reputation?

Them, meaning “your staff”.

Are they using your policies and training as a shield to protect your business, or are they using them as tools and leverage to protect your customers and your brand?

There’s a big difference between the two. An example is this story involving a repeatedly broken-down U-Haul truck, whose details quickly spread across Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

You can see things ratchet up here (the tweets are listed in reverse chronological order, 21m means “21 minutes ago”, 3h means “3 hours ago”):

If some of those names don’t mean much, consider that:

  • @Mashable reaches almost 3 million people via Twitter and millions more in the business and tech world via retweets and Mashable.com.
  • @petershankman reaches 140k people on Twitter and has an email list full of journalists, authors, bloggers and PR people waiting for his HARO emails several times a day (HARO - Help-a-Reporter-Out)
The timeframe between 28 Jun (11pm) and the tweets marked 3h is about 36 hours. There are no responses from UHaul during that timeframe. Yet minutes after I mentioned the situation to @PenskeCares, they responded with this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/PenskeCares/statuses/219109851844984834″]

After social media pressure started to heat up, U-Haul finally spoke up on day three with this (which you see Dave’s response to at “21m”, above):

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/UHaul_Cares/status/219102539017224193″]

Defending the brand

I’m sure that Dave and his dad will be cared for. What about the several hundred thousand people (according to HashTracking.com) who have seen this? Will it be what pops into their head the next time moving related topics are on their mind? That certainly isn’t what U-Haul wants. Will Dave, his friends and family ever use U-Haul again?

Is this what would happen if your business had a problem with someone who knows how to enlist help like this?

Things break. People make mistakes. Customers generally understand. They’re cranky when it happens because it’s unexpected change, discomfort and challenge, but their reaction depends on how you respond.

Your staff’s character and training determine how they implement your policies – and whether the situation becomes the next feel good story (or customer service nightmare) that your customers talk about on Facebook, Twitter and to their friends and family.

Character, Training and Policy

Reputation damage prevention comes down to character, training and policy implementation because you can’t always be there. There’s little doubt in my mind that U-Haul CEO Joe Shoen would have taken care of this properly – just like you would.

But Joe isn’t the one answering the phone.

He has managers and call centers handling that. Initially, it appears they did little to assure Dave that they had his back even though (or because) this drama took place in the region near U-Haul’s Phoenix corporate headquarters.

Efforts to defend their business damaged their reputation – by design, but not by intent. By design means we train our employees to defend our business, but we seldom empower them to defend its brand.

Why? We want to be the one making the decision when money is spent or time is committed to resolve a problem. We believe that no one would make the same decision we would because the staff isn’t spending their money. The problem is that we aren’t always around when these decisions are needed, so we make policy. Policies produce consistent handling of daily operations, a good thing.

We often provide our staff with policy that encourages non-responsibility (“It’s our policy” and “There’s nothing else I can do”) combined with job insecurity (“violating policy is a termination offense”). This prevents your staff from doing the right thing when the unusual occurs.

For edge cases requiring conscientious thought, our policies are often silent. They rarely say “If use of this policy could damage our reputation, do what you think is best for the customer if the short-term cost to the company is less than (whatever), otherwise ask for approval of your resolution.”

And that’s where U-Haul is right now, both at the corporate customer support level and sadly, at a few franchises in the U.S. Southwest. Franchisees have just as much ability to damage the brand as HQ does.

It’s OK to train your staff to defend the business, but be sure they’re empowered and trained to defend your reputation as well.

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Business culture Competition Customer relationships customer retention Getting new customers Positioning Restaurants Retail Sales service Small Business

Do you know what you’re going to get…before you get it? They do.

The difference between customer’s expectations and what a business delivers is the source of so much pain for business owners.

It’s pain that’s preventable. EASILY preventable.

How? By helping set a customer’s expectations in advance: Before they do business with you. Before your next delivery. Before your service person shows up.

So think about it… How are you setting/adjusting customer expectations?

If you don’t set them, you get to try and meet unknown expectations.

Which situation is better?

Do you want customers assuming less of you than they will get? If so, they might go somewhere else before you get a chance to earn their business.

Do you want customers assuming far more of you than they will get? If their expectation is far above what you usually deliver, you’re setting them up to be angry. Every single time.

Helping customers form expectations (“the blueprint” Tony refers to) in advance before they form their own is critical because you have no idea what their own expectations will be based on – but you can be fairly certain they won’t match.

Ronald is consistent

A perfect example of this can be seen when you consider people traveling: They take their family to dinner at a franchise restaurant (like McDonald’s). Frequently, it’s a restaurant that they could visit any day of the year because there’s one in their hometown.

Why? Because they know what to expect. It’s one reason why franchises and corporate restaurants/hotels do well. Expectations are already in place and more often than not, get delivered because of the systems in place that are, in part, designed to deliver consistency from location to location.

When you run a local hotel or restaurant, it’s just one of the things you’ve got to overcome.

How do you set expectations in advance? It touches on everything you do, from advertising to delivery and follow up.

A little Tony

This video is about meeting your own personal expectations, but the parallel will be obvious. It does a great job of showing how truly, deeply powerful expectations are and why we talk about them so often.

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Business model Competition Customer relationships Getting new customers Lead generation Marketing Restaurants Retail Sales Small Business Software business strategic planning Strategy The Best Code Wins tracking

How to give MORE refunds and love doing it

sales

Last time, we discussed steps you could take to reduce the number of refunds or “lost” sales you have.

The idea is that every refund or lost sale costs you money, but if you think about this in the big picture, it’s entirely possible that you want to give MORE refunds.

And of course, I have a story about that, because I used to be pretty proud of the fact that I could count annual refunds on one hand.

A conversation with Dan Kennedy changed all that. He suggested that if we had so few refunds that it was the subject of bragging rights, we weren’t marketing or selling hard enough. Otherwise, we should have more refunds – and the payoff for that would be far greater sales.

He was right.

We didn’t have to get pushy and do the hard sell thing, we simply had to step beyond a strategy of selecting just the right people to attract to our business and turning a crazy high percentage of them into customers.

When we widened our qualifying process just a little – not a lot – it was transformational. We adjusted until we found the sweet spot – and it paid off.

Yes, we definitely had more refunds, maybe two or three times as many – but that was still only 10-15 per year. It also resulted in substantially more sales, so it’s worth a try. Just don’t use this strategy as “permission” to use every living being as your almost-perfect prospect.

Remember Jeffrey Gitomer’s “People hate to be sold but they love to buy.” There’s a lot of meaning in that which goes way beyond turning off the hard sell.

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Business culture Competition Customer relationships customer retention Customer service ECommerce Getting new customers Management Recurring Revenue Restaurants Retail Small Business Software business The Best Code Wins

How to cut down on refunds

Froggy
Creative Commons License photo credit: TeryKats

Do you have problems with too many sales turning into refunds? Or almost-sales turning into no-sales?

Do your demonstration projects frequently fail to reach the buying stage?

Does return-friendly Costco look like a tough return desk negotiator compared to you?

Do people frequently add things to their shopping cart while on your website but decide not to buy them and click away? The industry term is “cart abandonment”.

Do you sell software by offering a free trial and think “if only 10% more people bought”, you’d be doing a lot better?

Do you lose sales or have refunds from people you think should have been perfect for your product?

If you answered “Yes” to at least one of these questions, you need to take steps to cut down on lost sales and reduce refunds. In marketing parlance, you want your sales to be “stickier”.

Where to look

The simplest way to start working on this is to look at the sales you lost. If you don’t keep track of when refunds occurred (by date, for example) and what caused them – start doing so.

Assuming you have a firm date-driven return policy, are you getting most of your refunds just before the end of your refund policy period? You might assume that you can’t combat this, but you can. Better qualifying of leads/prospects will help, at least in situations where you have that sort of buying process. Costco doesn’t ask if you can afford a 46″ LED television or if it’ll fit in your apartment/office, but not everything is sold off the shelf like that.

Doing well-timed things to help folks continue to see a high ROI out of their purchase will help. Training videos, calls or webinars delivered at strategic points in their timeline as a new customer, for example.

Imagine that you offer new car buyers a free oil change for the first year of ownership. While that starts off year one as a sales promo expense, it should end up creating a habit: “Change your oil here”, which produces long term service revenue and as a by-product gets your customer back into the store every 90 days or so.

If you fail to remind them about each free oil change, they might get it done somewhere else – breaking the habit before it starts. If you do the math, the revenue loss after year one is substantial. Worse, you may lose a future vehicle sale because that person isn’t eyeballing shiny new wheels once a quarter while waiting for the oil change. Make yourself an easy habit.

Trials and Tribulations

When it comes to products that are sold via 30 day trials and the like, cancellation timeframes should be examined closely. Just because everyone cancels on day 29 doesn’t mean they didn’t like your product. It might be that they underestimated how busy they were (imagine that) and never got to the point where they could give it a fair shake.

Or maybe they got confused, didn’t ask for help and gave up. That trial ends despite the fact that they were doing well with you until they became confused. Cancellation points can change as your offerings do, so pay attention. Sometimes the problem is as simple as helping people see the depth of the value you deliver.

Tiny little things, ill-timed, can devastate people’s confidence in your product or service.

Think about the last time you put something in a website shopping cart and then clicked away. The tiniest thing is enough to break your confidence (or attention) enough to say “Maybe next time” and cause you to click away. Do you watch to see what page is most frequently used just before a shopping cart is abandoned? That might be a clue that helps you fix a problem costing you thousands of dollars in sales.

Reducing refunds is really about catching the folks who might leave because you’re missing something. It’s not really about turning around a refund as it is doing a much better job of paying attention to the prospect’s needs as well as learning where the failure points are in the process people have to evaluate and use your product/service – and then addressing them.

Those failure points can be moved or even eliminated, if you pay attention.