Adding a Dose of Retail
The past several months have brought me an interesting array of phone calls. All these crisis calls were worded a little differently, but the central message was the same: “I need to find some ways to save money and get more business… I need to replace some of the money we are losing from changes in reimbursement and the usual growing business expenses… I am hoping my retail store will help my business.”
An interesting sales crisis was presented by an owner who recently called and said “Louis, my staff just doesn’t get it. They don’t realize we are a sales operation and we are not just a group of order takers.” Would any of these comments describe your operation?
While retail is a great addition to your business, it must not be treated as an independent business operation. The key is to learn how to involve your existing referral sources and patients in your retail business. Let me offer some suggestions for building retail and also integrating these varied customer bases:
Make sure every referral source knows about your retail store. Provide them with a flyer or card describing the location of the store, products you sell and the services you offer. You may want to place a picture of the store on a post card, include a small map of the location and possibly directions with information about where it’s best to park.
Make sure you have informed all of your patients when you deliver products to their home, that you have a retail store and the products you have or that can be ordered.
Review your street signage. Make sure it is clear, easy to read and at eye level for those driving by your location.
Retrain and re-educate all of your staff so that they can more rapidly assist customers who come into the store. Frequent customer complaints come from those who enter a store and believe they have waited what they believe to be unacceptable time.
For those in the store who believe they are not in sales, it is time to correct their job description, notifying them that everyone is in sales! Allowing a customer stand without being recognized, even for a minute, is probably too long. A billing representative, warehouse manager or clinical technician who notices a customer not being served must quickly move into action. When a customer continues to repeat the story of their supposedly long wait, it will become even longer.
Learn something from each retail customer. You may want to know more about the patient or the problem they are looking to solve. You may want to know about how far they traveled to come to your store. The more you engage your customer, the more likely it will be that they will return.
Make retail fun. Do all that you can to demonstrate, educate and explain not just features of products, but the benefits. Products that make a difference in one’s life should move beyond merely being “interesting” to being described as “valuable.”
Let your retail customer know about your prescription product business, i.e. oxygen, infusion, custom rehab, etc. While customers may have come into your store in search of bath aids, you want them to know that you also supply various oxygen deliver systems.
Consider asking your existing customers to share with you names, addresses and contact information of their friends and family members so that you can share with them new products and services as they become available in your store.
Finally, make sure every outside salesperson knows that most health care professionals have never entered our store. As you think about this important market of referral sources, look to offer some products that would be valuable for their professional work. If they can become your customer, they might just be interested in sharing information about your store with those they come in contact with.
So, armed with these retail business growth strategies, develop a work plan that will help compensate for the next storm ahead!
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