The only way to survive the recession is to demand more from your employees than ever before. Over the past year, we have mystery-shopped jewelry stores across the country, and the results we witnessed were not encouraging. Aside from a laundry list of retail sins committed by salespeople behind the jewelry counter, what concerned us most was the general acceptance of substandard performance. The poor economy has forced many businesses to adapt and change their rules and standards, and it doesn’t look as if the situation will improve any time soon. Why so many in the jewelry industry seem afraid to raise the bar in terms of staff performance standards and expectations remains a mystery.
We believe the widespread lackluster commitment to customer satisfaction we have seen, and much of the reason why salespeople are underperforming, is directly due to a lack of training, expectations, and accountability. We believe this points directly to ineffective management and leadership. From our observations, many store owners and managers lack the necessary training and passion to be effective themselves, and this has trickled down to their associates.
Nevertheless, it is possible to put an “A” team in place, performing to the best of its abilities and your expectations. Here’s how:
First, evaluate your staff. Assess whether you have any “A” players worth investing in, and consider replacing those who are not—even if it means restructuring your entire sales staff.
Next, sit down with each staffer individually. Thank them for their previous hard work. Let them know, however, that in this tough economy, you’re raising the performance standards you expect from them. Just because the economy has taken a downturn does not mean your customer satisfaction levels should as well. Set the standard, give them a timeline to achieve it, and inform them of the consequences if they don’t. Set timelines between 30 and 60 days. Stick to the date, or you and the program will lose credibility.
Present expectations in the form of store numbers, performance, and everything that goes with them, including sales, gross margins, profits, average sale, add-on sales, repair sales, average event, largest store sale, training ability, associate accountability, personal sales, conversion rates, employee turnover, shrink, etc.
Both performers and nonperformers know who they are—the numbers don’t lie. Although it’s important for the owner or manager to offer help, encouragement, and solutions as needed, make it clear that it’s up to each associate to achieve the objectives you’ve set forth. Make sure your managers understand and agree with the new standards.
Do a similar assessment with your managers. Raise the bar on your expectations for them as well, both in terms of team leadership and personal objectives. Stress that if the team is not performing, it reflects on them.
Once you have your new goals in place, you should know within a week who will rise to the occasion and who won’t. For the underperformers, put in motion your back-up plan (which you should always have in place) to find their replacements.
The silver lining in this dark economic cloud is that it presents the ideal opportunity to perfect your staff. Expect nothing less than greatness from them. If they are not performing to your expectations and you have given them sufficient warning (both verbal and written), do not hesitate to replace them.
Make sure replacements are better performers, or you’ll be back where you started. This may mean upping your compensation to ensure you attract the best, or utilizing the services of a recruiting firm. The investment will be worth it. Consider the time and money you would spend trying to jump-start an underperformer who may revert to his old ways after a few weeks or months. Compare that to the increased sales and opportunities that recruiting and hiring a top performer can generate for your business.