Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Small businesses are the foundation of our economy. Showing support to these hard-working business owners is what those of us who understand small businesses do.
As I was out and about doing some shopping, I made a point of supporting small business retail shops.
What I learned through the experience is that many small retail shops undermine their own success by doing silly things that turn off customers – and most likely cost them sales.
Most shops were displayed well with friendly, helpful employees. However, there were a few small businesses that astounded me with their lack of awareness of the paying customer.
Here are seven examples of things not to do or say and some responses that may sit better with a paying customer.
1. Scolding an employee in public.
Yes, it’s true. We were in a cute boutique, and the store owner came charging from the back room and confronted the woman at the register for not following some instructions.
There were half a dozen people in the store at the time, and we all stopped and observed the interaction.
I don’t know if the scolding was justified or not, but what I do know is there are better ways to handle employee issues.
And doing so publicly was embarrassing to the employee and created a black eye for the business owner.
Say this: “Hi, Marilyn, could I meet with you for a brief moment in my office?”
Not that (in front of paying customers): “What are you doing? I thought I told you…….”
2. Going on a break when there is a line of customers waiting to checkout.
There are not many things more frustrating for a paying customer than to have to wait in line to “give” a business their money.
Seriously, when I am ready to purchase something, I simply want to be able to walk to a register and pay for my merchandise.
I was recently at a hobby store that I frequent, and three employees were running the cash registers.
The line was about seven people deep, but it was at least moving. Then, one of the employees closed down her register and walked away. Really?
I was astounded at how she could simply close up shop with all of us waiting to checkout.
As I was waiting, I heard the other employee tell her coworker, “If she doesn’t take her break now, she will never take it…”
This is a busy time of year for retailers – no doubt. However, there should be a plan in place to keep registers staffed and schedule replacements so employees can take a well-deserved break.
Hey store manager, maybe you should step in to help.
Say this: “Suzie is scheduled for a break, so we are calling Jackie up from the back to help ring out customers while she is out.”
Not That: Nothing – cashier simply walks away from her register while several people are standing in line.
3. Sorry, we only accept cash.
There is a small kennel that I use to get my dog groomed. I love the groomer, but she has a cash-only policy.
What? How can anyone even say that in this age of plastic and apps to scan a sale?
The only thing I figured out is she doesn’t want to pay those pesky credit card fees, but guess what? That is the cost of doing business.
Not to mention, having all of your transactions go through a third-party processor would greatly reduce the opportunity for embezzlement in the workplace – which is epidemic.
Say this: “How would you like to pay? We accept cash or credit cards.”
Not that: “Sorry – we only accept cash payment.”
4. Write the credit card number on a paper processing sheet.
I was at an art fair recently and visited many of the small vendors.
It’s always scary for me to go to these events because I rarely have cash in my purse and often hear the “cash only” request.
I was grateful that this particular vendor did accept credit cards.
However, she pulled out the credit card processing sheets (remember from about 15 years ago) and proceeded to write down the credit card number, expiration date, and code on the sheet. Who does that?
There are so many portable credit card processing tools for small businesses to use to avoid the risk of having someone’s credit card number written on a piece of paper that it makes no sense for anyone to manually process a credit card.
Say this: “Which credit card would you like to use?”
Not that: “Let me see your credit card so I can get your credit card information…”
5. No food or drinks allowed.
I was in a cute little shop doing some Christmas shopping. I had just stopped at Starbucks and had a cup of tea in hand.
A sweet woman approached me and informed me that I could not have a drink in their shop and had to leave my drink outside. So I walked out.
As I sat outside waiting for my friends to come out of the shop, I thought, is it really worth the risk of losing a sale on the possibility that someone might spill something?
And even if someone did, was the cost of the cleanup worth the countless customers who would not even enter the store? Makes no sense
Say this: “Welcome to our store. Is there anything I can help you with?”
Not that: “I’m sorry you will have to finish your drink outside….”
6. Don’t touch.
We have all seen the signs, “Drop it, and you bought it,” or “Don’t touch the merchandise.” Some of us have even had an employee follow us around the store to make sure we are compliant with the no-touch rule.
Guess what, if there are so many rules of shopping, customers will simply frequent an establishment where they can casually browse the merchandise.
Don’t turn customers off by making so many rules for being in your store that they simply walk out.
Say this: “Is there anything I can help you find.”
Not that: “Please don’t touch.”
7. Lock the doors. It’s closing time.
Ok, I get that people want to go home at the end of their shift. But what I encountered took it to a whole new level.
We were in our favorite ice cream shop waiting for a scoop to be served – it was a little before 9:00. The shop closed at 9:00.
As we paid for our ice cream, we went to walk out of the door as a family was approaching the door to come in. It was 8:55!
The employee saw them approaching and ran to the door and locked it right as they were reaching for the door.
I almost started laughing because it was so ludicrous. Would another five minutes really have made a big difference? I wonder if the shop owner would have done the same thing.
Say this: “Hi. We are getting ready to close, but what can I get for you?”
Not that: “Sorry, we close at 9:00…”
Small business owners need to understand who pays the bills – the customer.
Is your silly rule worth losing a paying customer?
Rules are important for employees to follow to maintain consistency in practice.
Other rules may make sense to you (no drinking in the shop, cash only, no touching merchandise) but probably won’t sit well with a customer.
Don’t risk losing a possible sale for a determination to force customers to follow your rules.
You may never know how many paying customers simply vote with their feet.
How often do you say this and not this?