Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Extra Mile – Meeting Two – Pre-Service

Kinloch Golf Club

Today, with increased competition, customers are much more discerning than they have ever been and only the retailers who understand this have been able to grow their business. Clubs as well as public courses that don’t provide commendable service, professional salesmanship and an incredibly friendly environment will not be attracting members who want to entertain guests or repeat customers who recommend the facility. Whether the customer has just paid a membership fee or waited in line all night for a tee-time at Beth Page, the days of tolerating dirty shops or rude clerks is history. Customers expect to be acknowledged and engaged in conversation by a friendly, smiling, upbeat staff that has been educated to point out value, features and benefits. They look to be professionally attended to, for product to be attractively displayed and they look to be sold.

The days of the self-service shop with the “hang it up and they will buy it” mentality has deteriorated to “hang it and hope” and the hope isn’t being fulfilled. The consumer, no matter what his station in life, knows how much harder he is working and how much more knowledgeable he has to be to make ends meet and expects similar effort before deciding to get out his wallet. With this as mantra let’s take a look at “pre-servicing” in this posting’s mock staff meeting and retail selling in general in the next.

The introduction by this meeting’s team leader could be something like the following:

“Anytime we know ahead of time someone is going to play our golf course, whether they are driving around the corner, staying at the hotel, booked into a cottage, or part of a group or an outing they are a potential shop customer. Any potential customer can be pre-serviced not pre-sold, we want to talk about offering services that can enhance their experience at our facility. Our staff needs to understand the effort as an important part of the Wow culture. What can we suggest to our “soon to arrive” customers?

The following contact possibilities are discussed:

“Colonel Mustard, this is Katie at the club. You have a group of seven and yourself booked into the cottage in a few weeks. Could we get your guests a shirt and a hat and have these favors on their bed when they arrive? We have your company logo and could put it on the sleeve of a club logoed shirt. I’d be more than happy to take care of this for you.”

“Professor Plum, this is the shop at XYZ. You’ve booked an outing with us for the weekend of the Fourth of July. Can we help you with a gift for each of your players, perhaps one of the new performance shirts would be hit with your group? We typically can get you a better deal than you would get from other suppliers and we can see to it that they’re individually wrapped and handed out with a smile.”

“Mrs. White, good day. We just received a new delivery of Tail at the shop. Would you like me to put some outfits together in your size and hold them until you come in Friday?”

“Miss Scarlet, this is Cary at the club. I noticed you are on the tee sheet to play your first round this season. I checked your bag in storage and our records and your clubs have not been re -gripped in over a year. Would you like me to go ahead and take care of that for you?”

“Mrs. Grey, we want you to know how much we appreciate you bringing your ladies group to our course for this year’s outing and that we will be putting a sleeve of a new ball designed for ladies play in each cart for them to try. We were wondering if there is anything else we can do to make them feel welcome.”

“Mr. Green, this is Jason at the club. We received the new Tech hats from Imperial your foursome was inquiring about last week. Would you like me to get them personalized for your friends and you can surprise them this weekend?”

“Mr. Blue, this is Jeff at the club. I noticed you are scheduled to play this Friday and noticed that it’s your anniversary. Would you like me to get you a bottle of that wine from the dining room your wife likes so much? I can have it here at the shop when you finish up your round.”

“Mr. Black, this is John at XYZ. I thought I would email you when I noticed that you are bringing some guests with you to Sunday’s tee time who have never played here before. We know you drink Bud-Lite but what about your friends?” If one of these guests drink Sam Adams Summer Lager and it’s waiting for him in a cooler on the cart on Sunday you will have wowed the group.”

Think about all the things in your life that are scheduled or regular in nature and now picture yourself being offered a ride to and from work when you drop your car off for service or you arrive early for an appointment to get your hair cut and they offer to get you a cup of coffee knowing you take cream and two sugars.

There are a number of head pros with whom I have worked over the years who view any type of selling as hard-sell that could get someone upset with them. Customers who would be put off by the examples of service provided above must have been living under a rock the past couple of years since the current economic climate has resulted in most businesses realizing that retaining existing customers is at least as important and less expensive than  advertising for new.

What is required is a sense of empowerment on the part of the creative employee and a commitment on the part of the Leader to training on the use of the phone as a business tool and email as a way to pre-service.

Over-Inventoried – The Killer

Before moving into the new season or reviewing the results from the one winding down, we should be looking at sales per category, margin and did our buy plan keep our space well merchandised without being over-inventoried. Over-inventoried is the key margin killer in most shops and that being the case, worthy of some definition. There are basically three ways to be over-inventoried and any of these situations will keep your shop from realizing its potential.

The implications of each:

A - Over-inventoried in total number of units
Obviously this translates to dollars and has put as many retailers out of business as has lack of business. Pro shops that have backrooms full of unopened boxes or tubs of stock from previous seasons have almost no chance of making any margin as they will be losing any realized profit by paying out for merchandise that is not working for them and at some point will have to give up margin in order to get the level of inventory back to healthy. Overbought pre-books are usually the reason for unopened boxes. Tubs of residual merchandise are usually the result of too quickly removing items from the floor to make room for unopened boxes.

B – Over-inventoried in total number of vendors
Having too many lines or brands of apparel almost always does justice to none. It is also most often the reason for too many units and usually comes about as a result of not understanding the space and the number of turns involved for the shop as well as not having the ability to say “No”.

C – Over-inventoried in a particular category
Owning too many units in a particular category not only limits your ability to make money in that category but by definition, has to be hurting your potential in some other category either by cramping its space or limiting its open-to-buy.

I visit many shop managers who want to discuss the difficulties they have providing the type of service level I always suggest because of the cuts they have had to make to the shop operations budget. As an example of how this is impacted by being over-inventoried, consider the hypothetical scenario of taking the residual merchandise from a collection of men’s apparel and sweeping it into a tub in the backroom in order to make space for a new delivery. This may become the normal operating procedure throughout the season, perhaps with a sale planned for season’s end; there are now stored tubs of goods doing nothing for the retail effort and they amount to approximately $30,000.  This is not as unlikely a situation as might seem – I have seen it many times. Now consider, ironically, that full time shop staff-help starts at $30,000/year.  If that employee turns out to be an enthusiastic retail salesperson who takes some ownership of the space, the business revenue and ambiance could be dramatically improved and you start to get some idea of the killer that “more goods than needed” becomes.

A healthy inventory level does not insure success at retail but it does create the most promising opportunity to create that success. It’s like going into the bottom of the ninth with the score tied and your team has the middle of the batting order coming to the plate. In both instances, there are still other factors that will improve your ability to score. Having a staff dedicated to service and salesmanship is having “no outs” in this baseball analogy, but concentrating on the process that will determine that elusive proper level of inventory and your subsequent buy plan is the key homework for this time of year to put yourself in position to win the game.