Here's a hypothetical situation: A new hire, currently being trained, goes home at the end of her shift, with her last appointment not showing up, so she leaves the paperwork with the sales manager. The customer does arrive later and the sales manager doesn’t collect all the money owed for the sale because there was no note stating money was to be collected. The next morning, the new hire asks the sales manager if he collected the remaining monies and the sales manager gets angry, raises his voice to the new hire and tells her that she should have stayed and waited for the customer so she could do her &@%#^&! job.
Or this situation: A customer storms into a store and approaches a young lady at the cosmetic counter about returning a product with no receipt or any packaging. She demands a refund and when told that it is store policy that returns can only be accepted with a receipt and/or packaging, she starts yelling and cursing at the counter attendant and demands she call the store manager at home to deal with the matter. The attendant calls for a supervisor who listens to the customer yell and rant and simply exchanges the product and the customer leaves. The attendant pleads for support when treated badly and cursed at by a customer and the supervisor replies “Not now, I’m on my lunch break,” and walks away.
How do you suppose those employees feel after those experiences? Do you think their loyalty has improved? How about going the extra mile for the company? Is there any possibility that these staff relationships have been strengthened as a result of these encounters? There are two very real reactions that can be expected from these situations. The first could be that the employee “snaps into line” and the second would be to recoil and avoid any interaction if possible. I see nothing positive coming from when an employee is “thrown under the bus.” More importantly, the employee has lost trust in their manager.
Owning or managing a retail business has its fair share of challenges and when dealing with people, it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re either a referee or a babysitter. This can be frustrating and stressful, yet it can and must be managed. In small- and medium-sized dealerships, an owner or GM must balance leadership (developing direction, strategy and vision) and management (implementing that direction, strategy and vision). This is not an easy task, yet we have to strive for that balance. Your success depends on it.
Your staff represents your dealership and in effect, your brand. They can make or break your business so it’s very important that the relationships with your staff must be constructive, open and respectful. If you want your staff’s best efforts, loyalty and respect, they need to know you have their back and support them, regardless of the situation. This is an issue of trust and without it, there is no respect, loyalty or effort. So how do you build strong relationships and inspire your staff to give their best effort?
To start, your staff need to have a clear understanding of their job responsibilities. It’s easy to quickly run down what you need them to do and send them on their way but it’s so important to have it in writing. This will help you both have a clear understanding of what is expected and comes in handy during a review or when job performance is an issue. It’s also important to explain any store policy that you have. Some examples would be; Work hours and breaks; Returns and exchanges; cell phone usage as well as dress code.
Your staff is going to make mistakes. We all do and what’s important is that we learn and grow from the experience. When your staff makes a mistake, maintain your composure and never, ever reprimand someone in front of a customer or other staff and never tolerate verbal abuse towards any employee. You can never make this a teaching moment if they feel humiliated. Resolve the situation and then take the employee to a private area where you can discuss what happened, why the action was a mistake and how to avoid repeating it. Remember that respect is a two-way street.
This approach allows you to reinforce company policy from a company perspective while at the same time shows that you support the employee in helping them to do their job. This further promotes a team atmosphere and instills confidence in your employees. There is something to be said for treating people the way you want to be treated and everyone benefits, especially your customers when your staff has the confidence to follow and implement your direction and vision.
Bruce Marcia is the director of Bruce Marcia and Associates, a retail management consulting firm that specializes in assisting and supporting dealerships in the RV/marine and powersports industries. As a recognized troubleshooter with over 30 years of experience in inventory finance, dealership general management and as a district manager for a major OEM, Bruce has had the unique opportunity to understand and learn from all three important fields that make these industries function.