I have been hired to be the closing speaker for Fred’s Pharmacy to help them improve sales. I will be speaking to their 650+ store managers and executive team. Their locations are typically in the southeast in towns under 10,000 population. My research has been interesting as I prepare my message. Competition is of course up as the “Dollar Stores” (Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, Dollar General) continues to expand at an aggressive rate.
Why do you shop where you do? For example, you likely have a favorite between Lowes and Home Depot given a choice? What was the moment that motivated that loyalty beyond proximity? I believe that one surprising act of service can build long term loyalty.
How can Fred’s continue to compete, thrive and improve same store sales?
It is easier to show an increase in sales when you are adding many stores each year, but Fred’s is not. Why will customers make the trip to the typically centrally located Fred’s rather than at the “Dollar Store” that may be closer to their part of town? Fred’s is similar to that kind of general merchandise store but most Fred’s have a pharmacy, which if of course an advantage especially with older customers.
On my visit to the Sweetwater, TN I met the store manager Shannon and a five year employee Margie. As I interviewed and interacted with both as they were working, one thing stood out. Virtually every customer that walked in the store they knew by name. They have a relationship with the customers. When I asked Shannon about Margie she said customers come to Fred’s just because of Margie. The power of those relationships was a reoccurring theme with the different store managers and district managers I spoke to. It is a key point of differentiation.
One strategy to open the relationship is to find a way to make a connection by performing an act of unexpected service. It could be as simple as walking someone out to their car with an umbrellas on a rainy day or searching multiple stores to find more of the blinds they are looking for. Some said they take phone orders for someone who has a difficult time moving and taking everything to their car. Maybe you offer a coupon or a special on an item they did not know existed. The pharmacist calling the patient after picking up a new prescription. When you go the extra-mile you set yourself apart from the others. That “wow” from the surprising act of service creates a memory with the customer. That ONE memory can influence their every buying decision in the future!
- Talk to your team about what customer “touch points” lend themselves to an unexpected act of service.
- Create fun rewards for the team members who go the extra-mile so they will do it again.
- Rewards could be a special pin, gift card for a free lunch, movie ticket, personal note, public praise, company swag.
- Occassionaly use a Jackpot Reward that is well beyond the normal reward.
- Share the stores with all the team company intranet, Facebook page or other social media, your company newsletter, company meetings.
- Reinforce to each employee what the lifetime value of loyal customer is in your business model. For example: average sale x average number of purchases per week/month/year x average number of years customer will shop with you. You are not losing just one sale when a customer leave you.
We are talking here of course about a retail environment. The basics of this concept are the same in almost any business model. My feeling is that in general customer service is average and not very memorable. When you have a team of employees who understand the lifetime value of your customers, enjoy delivering unexpected acts of service and get rewarded for it, YOU WIN!
Margie & Shannon