In this chapter, we will take a case study to understand the value of expanding your horizons and how it plays a critical role in improving one’s personal productivity.
DreamReads, a leading chain of bookstores, was seeing a steady decline of customers over the period of a year. The management was perplexed as to what could be the reason. They had the best employees and were in business for long enough time to have a recall value. They had almost all the major titles in the world, and had customer-reliability factor in their favor. This only made them wonder as to what could possibly be going wrong.
Traditionally, the staff at bookstores wasn’t needed to take care of a lot of things. Most of the times, the availability of a book that the customer wanted was good enough. Add good customer service, courteous dealing, and proper small-talk into the equation, and nothing else was needed from the people in a bookstore. However, it was clear to the management that this method of dealing is not cutting ice with the customers any longer.
In order to understand what is going wrong and where, they constituted a personal productivity program targeted towards customer demands and sales. They contacted Upsales, a leading service-provider in personal productivity exercises, to see if they could find out where exactly they are going wrong.
The team of Upsales started by observing the way DreamReads did business. They interviewed the people who walked out of the store about their experience. They collected feedback and took notes on what the customers looked for when they visited DreamReads. After an observation period of three months, the team submitted their report.
It was found out that the sales dipped because the customers were not always aware of what was good for them. The staff was used to the customer walking in and asking for a title. These customers had a very specific interest and always had a book in mind before shopping. However, that constituted a fraction of the crowd that visited the bookstores. Most of them just walked in to the store, and wandered around looking at the books, undecided which one to buy. They were looking for someone who could help them with what kind of books would be good, but this being a matter of personal preference, they were embarrassed about asking help from the staff.
DreamReads realized that the way their employees were dealing with customers has gone out-of-fashion. Today, the customers are accustomed to being offered the help of assistants wherever they go and whatever they shop. They can even ask for a recommendation from the waiters at the restaurants, or from the staff of a boutique about the dress that will look good on them, so it’s only natural they will expect someone to offer some recommendation on the type of books they would like to read.
Keeping the issues in mind, DreamReads completely revamped the way they looked at customer service. For the first time in years, employees were asked to share their ideas. Some of the good ideas were to train people on the products they sold, and to arrange books according to genres’ and placed in separate aisles.
This way, a guy interested in say, “Science Fiction” can straight away go to his aisle. In addition to this, the staff started being more observant while identifying customers who looked like they could use a bit of recommendation.
The employees of the stores started writing the titles of the top-sellers in respective genres and placed them in all the aisles. A short thematic note was given to explain the gist of the book. They started sharing reviews of the books by top critics.
The staff had pleasant, helpful conversations with customers that not only put the customers at ease but also helped the staff narrow down on the kind of books that the customer would like to read. This helped them in getting a familiarity with the customers, their likes, their preferences, based on which the staff could determine what the customers would like to read.
Each staff-member was made responsible of achieving a “monthly sales expectation” to keep him focused and motivated towards his job. The ones who met or exceeded their targets were given good incentives.
It was observed that in a period of six months, the sales of the stores had increased by 30%. Customers were increasingly visiting the stores and were frequently seen having conversations with the staff-people. Many just simply asked the staff what would be a good read for the weekend. This customer service and an increased aptitude for their work saw DreamReads become one of the largest bookstores chains in the US.