With the proliferation of discounted box stores and online retailers such as Amazon, competing on price for small businesses is a non-starter. More than ever Main Street has to position itself as an “experience destination.” At the forefront of these experiences are your employees. Even the most sophisticated marketing programs can’t overcome bad or inattentive retail customer service.
The first step of turning this potential obstacle into an asset is recognizing that your employees are exactly that … assets. Your employees are not expense items on your income statement – but rather assets in your balance sheet. And like any worthwhile asset, your job as a business owner should be to make them more valuable. The perspectives of those on the front line of your establishment seldom feel that way however. Maz Iqbal, a UK-based customer service consultant shared the following observations from years of experience.
- On many days the store is short-staffed.
- The folks dealing with customers on the frontline are not adequately trained.
- Owners distant and cut-off from the reality of the world of the store (that particular store) make decisions for that store.
- Customers are demanding at best, rude at their worst.
- Their employer and their manager do not care for them.
Maz’s observations are nothing new to anyone who’s worked in retail. I’m sure we’ve all felt this way and identified with more than one of the above points. But that doesn’t mean they have to be the method of operations in your business. The more effort you make as an owner or manager to confront these issues, the more appreciated you employees will feel, the more engaged they’ll be and the better the experiences they provide for your customers will be. And we all know what that means.
Aside from making your company a better place to work, what is one of the main key to employee engagement and loyalty? It’s “Providing jobs in which employees feel they are genuinely contributing to society.” This falls in line with the basic tenets of Melvin’s Neighborhood. Not only are your employees responsible for making your business successful … they are on the front lines of making their community successful. And when the customer experience includes creating and implementing Solutions to your community’s problems and opportunities your employees will be immersed in their contribution.
Even though it is your employees job to insure the success of your business or organization, Melvin’s Neighborhood has added another level of incentive. We believe the strength of our community lies with the people who live in it – and that includes your employees. We offer the role of evangelist to those who wish to recruit additional Resident to the Neighborhood. These evangelists are called Community Empowerment Concierges (CECs). For each Member one of employees (or anyone else for that matter) signs up to the Neighborhood, they are rewarded with 10% of the revenue that the Neighborhood network brings in from that Resident forever. In fact, all new Residents must have a sponsoring CEC to even sign up.
If a Resident spends $100 at your business, and they receives $10 in loyalty bonus points. Upon redemption of the these points, you the Front Porch (merchant) pays Melvin’s Neighborhood $5 as a fee for inclusion on the network and related services. Out of this $5, your employee receives $.50 or 10% of the loyalty amount. It may not seem like that much – but this is payable on all transactions generates through all participating Companies on the Neighborhood network.
We need to find organizers, Community Empowerment Concierges, in our communities’ Front Porches who can lead. We then need these leaders to train and mobilize fellow members and friends from our Front Porches … seeding the process to continue on. The act of activism is preparation for more activism and building civic muscles, or “civic self-efficacy.” Collectively we can then build an organization (and database) that can be mobilized for Solutions, causes, movements, and even structural changes. And with each movement and each participation our collective New Power strengthens and proliferates. No longer will we be dependent on the illusion of the “man on the white horse” riding in to save us. We will save ourselves!
Employee Access and Security:
Each employee in your organization will be given an employee number and from this they will set their own password. It’s important your employees keep their passwords confidential, much like they would with their banking transaction. The integrity of the transactions and the security of the Neighborhood system (the bleedingEDGE platform) is dependent on this confidentiality. As an additional level of security, the platform generates a register number for each transaction. The employee originating the transaction then enters this number into your company’s existing register when executing the sale.
- FRAUD POINT #1: Creating fake Neighborhood Transactions so an Employee (or a friend) can receive points.
- Check the integrity of transaction by comparing the daily Neighborhood transactions to register info (numbers and amounts). If fields across both databases don’t match (using delimited text format) then flag and list from reconciliation. The Employee number will be identified on any discrepancies.
Member sign-up and transaction procedures:
A Front Porch representative (employee) initiates the transaction by accessing the Melvin’s Neighborhood input layout by entering their employee identification number and password. Once access is obtained, the representative begins the transaction by entering the Resident number (cell phone).
If no cell phone is found a Resident account is created. The new Resident is informed what Melvin’s Neighborhood represents and it’s purpose in making the community a better place as well as its mission to “Elevate the Human Condition.” Also, the Member is given details on Gems, the Neighborhood loyalty program (including your company’s conversion rate) and the networks marketing and well-being program (two daily consolidated emails along with four text messages).
The Resident’s new account is created using their cell phone number as their Resident identification. A confirmation text welcoming them (with an access URL and temporary random-generated password) is sent out immediately with instructions on access their Melvin’s Neighborhood profile. If a customer is a Resident of the Neighborhood network but has not yet activated their account with your business – this will be done automatically upon the transaction.
The Front Porch (merchant) information will be automatically entered into the transaction record once the Resident information is either found or a new record is created. The employee then enters the following manually depending on the details of the transaction and the interaction with the Resident:
- Transaction type (pull down menu options)
- Initial transaction amount (determine whether it’s pre or post tax and tip)
- Notes or comments (whatever the employee wants to enter depending on the interaction)
After processing transaction the representative and Resident will then be able to view the details of the transaction, including:
- Initial purchase amount (determine whether it’s pre or post tax and tip)
- Points used for the transaction
- Adjusted purchase amount to be paid by the Resident.
Upon acceptance, the transaction is then submitted. After submission, the representative will receive a notification prompting them to enter the Adjusted purchase amount to be paid by the Resident into the existing Merchant register system.
After transaction submission, a receipt email is sent directly to the Resident detailing the transaction.