How to reassure your staff when business is slow

Editorial Team

3 min read
Table and chairs

When business is noticeably slow, employees tend to worry about their jobs. Absent any insight from the boss, they begin to speculate about the future. It’s important for business owners and managers to offer employees context and keep them focused on positive behaviors likely to improve sales. Employees need to believe they can make a difference in the future of the company and their jobs.

Research has shown that engaged employees are far more likely to believe they can make a difference to the bottom line, to reduce costs effectively, and to positively influence the quality of the products they create.

Here are 5 things managers should do to keep employees engaged and focused:

1. Encourage exceptional customer service

One great way to keep your most talented staff engaged is to make them responsible for turning other employees into star employees. Consider incentivizing them to train and mentor other staff into high-performers. These employees often have subtle things they do to offer exceptional customer service without being intrusive or overbearing. It’s these little things that make for memorable customer service.

2. Educate staff on new products/services

If there aren’t as many customers coming through the door, employees can still reach a target revenue by increasing the average ticket price of each customer. Think through which products or services bring you the most return and teach staff ways to actively promote it to people already buying from you. Fast-food restaurants have capitalized on this idea teaching their employees to sell a high-return product—soft drinks—by asking “Would you like to order the larger size for just $0.30 more?”

3. Incentivize the upsell

Combine the previous two ideas with an incentive plan for a killer combo. Choose a product or services that is high-return for the business and have your most successful sales staff teach others how to sell it. Then motivate them with an incentive plan. This should be done carefully—some customers are sensitive to upselling techniques. Reward the server who sells the most top-shelf margaritas in a week, or the hair stylist who moves the most product.

4. Follow up with customers

Ask employees to brainstorm a customer-outreach program. Can they take turns calling older customers (often out-of-reach for social media) and personally invite them back into the store for a promotion? Can they offer a free, personalized consultation during a typically slow time of day? Can they create and help promote a social media promotion? Perhaps they can call a customer who didn’t return to find out why—and entice them back with a special offer.

5. Encourage a team effort

Train your staff to think like they are co-owners of your business—what would they do to improve business? What do they notice—within your storefront and in other stores—that might affect sales? Brainstorm promotions with them. How would they cut back costs? Employees often have ideas and insights owners miss because they are on the front line talking to customers.

Slower periods are often a normal part of business. Transparency, within limits, can help keep employee morale afloat during slower times. Share with them your initiatives and plans to improve things. Train your staff to take slow periods in stride and to focus on activities that can help turn things around. If the business is seasonal or has a natural cycle of ups and downs, encourage them to use the down periods as times to evaluate what they can do better and to plan for future spikes in business. What processes can they improve? What things can they do to speed up delivery and quality service during busy periods? What worked in the past and what should they try in the future? By keeping yourself and your team focused on positive activities you’ll keep the momentum moving in the right direction.

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[image: beach cafe by Simon_sees on flickr]

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