Customers can feel the culture, tone and atmosphere of a store the moment they walk in – or click on. Who determines that culture? Is it the corporate office? Is it the frontline employees? Maybe. Partially. But the key determinant of the culture of any store is the manager.
And, crazily enough, managers are the most underinvested employee segment in business. They’re pretty much left to figure out how to do their job on their own.
All great managers have one thing in common: They act like owners. These guys and gals:
- Know their business: the marketplace, the competition and the consumers.
- See their role as “Chief Engagement Officer,” not as just a great individual contributor wearing a manager’s badge.
- Engage their teams in the culture, business, strategy and in delivering the Customer Experience.
- Drive results through their employees.
Like this time I was shopping for a piece of art for my Chicago condo and fell in love with . . . wait for it . . . a 4×4-foot plexiglas photograph of Hugh Hefner smoking a pipe in the basement of the original Playboy mansion on State Street in Chicago, just a few blocks from where I live.
Yes, surrounded by Playboy bunnies.
True story! Now, what says “Chicago” more than that? I had to have it! My wife’s only objection? The price (that’s right, just the price). So I asked if the piece came in any other size, in the hopes that something a bit smaller would be more affordable. The sales person quickly dismissed me with a wave of the hand. “Oh this is an original. This is the only one.” And walked away.
Lucky for me (and the store) the manager was nearby, and he’d heard the conversation. He said, “Sir, have you purchased with us before?” I said, “No, I haven’t, but I’ve been window shopping with you for months.” “Oh great,” he said. “I can give you a first-time-customer 10% discount on that piece.”
BAM. Bought it right then and there, and went back that same day and emptied my pockets at that store even further. That manager knew what I wanted and was able to make a real-time decision to win me as a customer and begin to create a loyal relationship. That manager was acting like an owner. It wasn’t just the discount – it was his knowing what to do and how and when to do it.
Now, what happened to that hand-waving sales guy? And is his behavior that manager’s fault? Well, I don’t want to take up word count here – I want to give you some tips to help you improve your business starting today – but I do go into all the juicy details in my book, 720 Haircuts: Creating Customer Loyalty that Lasts a Lifetime. (And yes, there’s a story behind the title too.)
Empowering Your Managers is as Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4
Here are 4 ways you can start empowering managers to act like owners TODAY. Think of this an investment in delivering a world-class Customer Experience.
- Take managers offline to learn about your business and their role in it. Don’t let your manager feel like the best individual contributor on the team, make him or her feel like a business owner! Every manager in your organization should understand how their success is driven by the success of their team. The best managers are the lynchpins between the corporate office and the frontline. It’s up to you to make sure people understand this critical function of being a manager.
- Immerse them in your industry, the marketplace you serve and your strategy to win. As people deepen their understanding of the marketing, the competition and consumers, they’ll feel like the experts they are and bring that confidence to work with them. This will make your customers trust them, seek them out even and hopefully, if all goes as planned, become loyal customers who appreciate the knowledge your team provides them. All because you took the time to invest in your managers and give them all the knowledge they needed to truly understand your organization and your industry.
- Let them make decisions as if they owned the store, while upholding the standards of the business. Encourage and empower your managers to make split-second, real-time decisions that convert window-shoppers to buyers and first-time customers to loyal ambassadors. Yes, organizations have protocols set in place that should be followed . . . in most instances. But, be sure your managers understand when on-the-fly decisions are safe risks with big customer experience rewards.
- Build their skills so they can be CEOs – Chief Engagement Officers – of their teams. Your managers should view their role as Chief Engagement Officer, someone who main responsibility is to engage, coach and empower their team members. The best managers? The ones who understand the business and know how to engage each of their team members to this mission too. It’s all about driving results through their team members.
Once you’ve taken these steps, you are sure to see the benefits. It might not be easy and will take time and effort on your part, but empowering managers to act like owners is an investment in delivering a world-class customer experience.