business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

It’s amazing to think that the best defense against the onslaught of electronic commerce might be the most obvious asset out there: employees.

Last week my wife and I trudged into the local mall to select a gift for a teen-age girl on our list—a trip I would have begged out of gladly if I were given an option. It was Eye-Opening instead. We went into one of those classic mall shops geared to supply teen-age girls with the endless array of things that they supposedly “need.”

What made the trip so special was what happened next. We found an item and brought it to the cashier who smiled and told us that we could get a second item for 60% off the regular price. Needless to say, we started looking for that second item. (Well, my wife started looking. I rolled my eyes.)

Actually, I first complimented the young cashier on her engaging manner and her ability to up-sell a customer. She thanked me and asked if I would mention that to her manager, which I did. Frankly I should have gotten the young woman’s name because I know plenty of retailers who would want to hire her in a minute.

Engaged employees should and are never undervalued and in today’s environment they are increasingly becoming essential.

The NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council recently completed a study on the importance of building employee engagement and although it was geared to convenience operators it has merit for any type of business, retail or not. The study gauges the impact of highly engaged staffers and examines the simple steps necessary to build that engagement.

You can download the study here.

The premise is simple: engaged staffers produce higher sales, profits and customer loyalty. What’s more, those same engaged staffers have far lower turnover rates, so the power of engagement is a win in multiple ways.

The steps to build that engagement are both simple and highly complex. It basically comes down to improved training of store level managers so they learn to interact, listen to and communicate with staff better than ever. That’s not so easy, but when the benefits are so clear and important it’s the task that simply needs to get done.

One of the great strengths of Amazon is how the site guides every purchaser to additional items no matter what you are buying. That creates impulse purchases, bigger shopping baskets and, no doubt, higher profits.

Yet, a young cashier in a nondescript mall shop got my wife and I to do the very same thing with just a smile and a well-timed suggestion.

Sounds like a powerful formula to me. And an Eye-Opener.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
KC's View: