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Don’t shoot the manager.

Commentary: Business is Personal

Recently, we made a trip to Shelby, MT for a swim meet – a trip chock full of lessons.

My mentor often talks about people’s actions not being congruent with their stated desires. I like that word – congruent. Behavior that isn’t congruent exactly describes a convenience store we stopped into on the way.

The store is owned by a large Montana corporation and is located in what I consider an “economically challenged” town. Not doomed, just challenged.

When I walked up to the register in this store last Friday, I noticed a sign on the wall behind the registers. It said ” – Most Improved Convenience Store for 2006″, which impressed me, because quality businesses just don’t seem to happen here too often for some reason. Lowest common denominator is more of the norm, unfortunately. A sign of improvement big enough to be noticed by a corporate office several hundred miles away is definitely something to celebrate.

Then my eyes dropped to the sign just below the “Most Improved Store” certificate, seen below:

Print readers: The sign says “Suppose we refund your money, send you another one for free, close the store and have the manager shot. Would that be satisfactory?”

Keep in mind that this isn’t in the employee break room where no customer would ever see it. It’s right behind the register. Right under the “Most Improved Store” Certificate. In my direct line of sight as I look at the checker. I was astounded.

Can you imagine the reaction from customers who see this? Perhaps the locals don’t care, but it’s not a great first impression for the tourist on a long drive across the prairie who finally sees the mountains and stops for a break. This is the oasis they stop into before they mosey down the road 30 miles into Glacier Park, only to be confronted by this sign – easily readable from the counter.

Even my 15 year old son, who gets indoctrinated regarding business and marketing by osmosis, couldn’t believe they put that sign where a customer could see it.

And here’s the kicker – it’s on the wall right outside of the store manager’s office!

Sure, it could have been worse. You might have seen a “F*** YOU”, or a “If it’s tourist season, why can’t we shoot them” t-shirt on someone behind the counter. I see shirts of this nature on customer-facing employees far too often. I don’t get it. Do business owners think it impresses their customers? Hardly.

Things like this are just one more reason to have your store(s) secret shopped. If you aren’t having your stores and telephone sales / service / support lines secret shopped by a friend, consultant or a professional secret shopping service, you’re missing out.

What is secret shopping? It’s a retailer / service provider’s secret “weapon” for improving the customer experience, as well as making sure that your sales procedures, scripts and policies are being followed. It’s pretty simple: Someone enters the store and pretends to be a customer. One might buy, another might not. They might come in during different shifts. They might call, fax or order online.

I expect most of my readers who own retail stores and service establishments know all about it, know their big box store competition uses it; and know how effective it is, but I wonder how many actually use it?

Why not?

Let me relate what happened in a meeting with Dan Kennedy last summer. He asked “How many of you have bought something directly or indirectly after being on a phone seminar?” Hands go up. Then he asked “How many of you use phone seminars in your marketing?” Fewer hands go up.

Instructive.

Got a business or marketing question you’d like Mark to write about or just want more info about him? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.