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Feeling Uninspired? Take a Glimpse of Goodwill Industries’ Social Impact

Feeling Uninspired? Take a Glimpse of Goodwill Industries’ Social Impact

Awards & Recognition, Clothing & Apparel, Events, Retail

by John Garvey

Edward on a computer at GoodwillAt a glance, Edward Smith’s past didn’t bode well for his future. A felony conviction and prison sentence tend to limit a person’s career options.

“When I was incarcerated I realized all the barriers that I had against me,” Edward recalls. “And I said to myself that I have to be willing to do three times the work as the average person in order to be on an equal playing field.” So that’s what he did at Goodwill Denver.

“And in doing that, it’s propelling me towards my greatest potential. And to me it means the world. Goodwill gave me an opportunity based off of the mission of the company and also me putting my effort and my intellect towards that. On one hand, they give you a platform but on another hand you have to be willing to step up and utilize that platform to build upon it.”

Edward began working at Goodwill as a Donation Attendant, an important but unglamorous role. His strong work ethic, poise and kindness were immediately evident to his supervisors. And he wasn’t working for an ordinary company. Goodwill was more interested in his character than his past, which allowed him to assume greater leadership and responsibility over a relatively short time.

Now a Certification and Compliance Specialist, Edward leads a team with extensive responsibilities in the electronics department at Goodwill Denver. He’s also pursuing a masters degree and recently received the prestigious Goodwill Opportunity Award.

Goodwill Industries isn’t exactly a retailer. It’s a nonprofit organization whose call to arms is helping disadvantaged people find meaningful, long-term employment. See what they have accomplished in their hundred year history.

Goodwill’s programs assist people with diverse needs, including at-risk students, people with disabilities, individuals like Edward striving to overcome their past, farmers and ranchers, and anyone who wants the dignity of work. Each program is unique, but shares a common denominator: The Power of Work.

Goodwill Industries Impact Summary
(Click Image for Larger View)

“Our programs are all workforce-oriented, so all of our mission programs are geared toward getting people back to work, making sure that they have the training and the skills that they need to succeed in the workforce,” explains Jessica Hudgins Smith, PR & Digital Media Manager at Goodwill Denver. “Our mission is to spread the Power of Work and help these individuals reach dignity and self-sufficiency. That’s what Goodwill is all about really”.

“We have these retail stores that exist so that we can provide these workforce development programs.”

Goodwill Denver’s largest program is currently the Youth Career Development Program, which serves close to 16 thousand students a year.

“Those programs are geared toward making sure those students have the tools they need to graduate, but also to either enter the workforce right after high school or to succeed in college and beyond,” Jessica states.

“And that programming can be anything from one-on-one mentoring to job shadows. It can be apprenticeships. We do mock scholarship interviews and a variety of different mentoring groups for those students.”

Edward’s role is to ensure that electronics are recycled responsibly. This requires thorough due diligence over multiple parties and an astute understanding of environmental and workplace safety regulations.

Edward holding a Goodwill sign“You have to perform your due diligence so that you can remain a good steward for the environment,” he explains.

“It’s way bigger than your business. You have to consider your global impact. … And that’s my job to go through my downstream vendors. Their ratings, their environmental permits, the individuals that they’re doing business with, making sure that they’re following EPA regulations and OSHA regulations, making sure that they have safety programs in place for their employees as well and making sure that they have an environmental health and safety policy that’s beneficial for the company.”

Retail Control Systems has partnered with Goodwill Industries of Denver since 2014, as well as several other Goodwill chapters. Without reliable point-of-sale and business support systems, Goodwill wouldn’t be empowering people like Edward.

“I personally have worked with Retail Control Systems for the last three years,” states Cherie Bardsley, Goodwill Denver’s Retail Operations Business Analyst. “They’re a great company to work with; they do a really good job of supporting us on the point of sale system side and we’re happy with them.”

The Goodwill locations we partner with use NCR Counterpoint, one of the specialty retail point-of-sale systems we provide. “We work together really well and our combined goal—both mine and theirs—is to make sure that when we implement something that it’s flawless,” notes Cherie, “And I think we do a pretty good job at doing that.”

Needless to say, it makes us feel good to be working with Goodwill. Several of our team members attended the recent Power of Work Luncheon in Denver, which Edward was recognized at. We’re also enthusiastically looking forward to the upcoming Goodwill Industries Summer Conference.

Edward’s optimism about his own future comes across loud and clear through his language and demeanor.

“Because the fact is I have a felony on my record, and there’s no escaping that,” he acknowledges, “but people are trusting me enough based off of the role that I’m modeling to put me in charge of different things. So it means a lot to be able to demonstrate that as an employee. And as a dad, to have my son watching me and having a positive role model in his life—a role model that I didn’t have in my life.”

Make a Financial Donation to Goodwill Denver

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8 Proven Tips to Keep your Customers Coming Back

8 Proven Tips to Keep your Customers Coming Back

Just for Fun, News, Retail, Technical Tip

By John Garvey

There are several reasons you should prioritize retention over new customer acquisition. Harvard Business Review reports that “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one,” citing research from Bain & Company. The same, oft-cited research suggests that improving customer retention by five percent results in a 25 to 95 percent increase in profits.

Focusing first on your existing customers, assuming they’re profitable, is less work and often makes customer acquisition easier to boot. If you retain customers and create exceptional experiences for them, they’ll also become your best advocates.

Male customer talking to paint specialist woman in a store
  1. Time-limited offers. Harvard professor, best-selling author and persuasion expert Robert Cialdini named scarcity as one of his 6 Principles of Influence. In a business setting, one way of harnessing this is time-limited offers. Prospects are more likely to act on an email marketing offer, for instance, when it’s time-limited.

“When our freedom to have something is limited, the item becomes less available, and we experience an increased desire for it,” states Cialdini in the modern classic Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. “However, we rarely recognize that psychological reactance has caused us to want the item more; all we know is that we want it. Still, we need to make sense of our desire for the item, so we begin to assign it positive qualities to justify the desire.”

  1. Customer surveys. As we’ve noted before, for every customer who complains directly, there are about two dozen customers who are quietly dissatisfied with some aspect of your service. In addition to identifying areas for improvement, surveys can generate testimonials and keep customers engaged.

Customer surveys are often focused on identifying problem areas. While that’s important if you value repeat business, a Harvard Business Review article, The Power of Positive Surveying, suggests that a more positive slant can improve customer satisfaction and retention.

“Beginning a survey with what the researchers call ‘open-ended positive solicitations’ seems to be an easy, low-cost way to increase satisfaction and spending.”

By getting customers to recall and relate positive experiences, you increase their sense of well-being and make them more likely to return. While customers should have an outlet to vent (ideally not Yelp!), surveys that focus too much on uncovering problem areas can backfire.

“Companies should look at the customer feedback process not only as a chance to listen but also as an opportunity to subtly influence customer perceptions.”

  1. Ambience. Every introvert has walked out of a cafe, restaurant or store because of excessively loud or grating music, too much ambient noise or overcaffeinated staff. A lot of retail settings are geared toward extroverts because of the perception of the giddy shopaholic, but a third to a half of us are introverts. The reverse can also be true, of course. Lighting and music geared towards one kind of customer risks driving off another, potentially larger group of customers.

Music should also be attuned to your customers. This may seem like common sense, but individual employees may enjoy country music or electronica, which people tend to either love or hate. It may seem like micromanaging to dictate which genres or stations employees can choose, but in many cases it’s good business sense.

Ambience was one of the keys to Starbucks’ success. When Howard Schultz took over the company, he was inspired by the Italian cafe scene. Much like the English pub, these were uplifting social spaces conducive to exchanging news and sharing ideas. Coffee stopped being a commodity and became more of an experience.

Two women talking in a coffee shop
  1. Be ultra-responsive to online reviews … the good and the bad. We discussed this in our March blog, Best Practices for Dealing with Negative Customer Reviews. Responding to a positive shout out–even a trivial one–reaffirms that you value your customers. Not responding to a negative review–even if it’s petty–validates the complaint.
  2. Personalization. This begins with understanding your customer personas: their aspirations, their pains, preferred methods of communication and social media habits. Focus on the channels that matter most. If you have someone in charge of social media or email marketing, it may even be good to have that person sign off on messages using his or her first name (under the company label, of course). This can make you stand out regardless of what size your business is.

Telling customer stories is another great way to do this. While beyond the scope of this blog, there are a variety of great ways to do this including social media, case studies and video blogs.

One emotional and vivid customer story is far more persuasive than a data dump in 85 PowerPoint slides. – Carmine Gallo, The Storyteller’s Secret

  1. Email marketing (Yes, it still pays). Hubspot and Search Engine Journal state that email marketing has an average ROI of 4300% – but that’s obviously quality dependent. Email marketing keeps you top of mind and can help personalize your brand. A point of sale (POS) system with email marketing integrated can segment customers by purchasing history and preferences, allowing you to deliver relevant, individualized offers. Organized customer data is a prerequisite to effective marketing and systems like NCR Counterpoint, which we offer, make it easy.

Electronic receipts delivered by email, another feature built into our POS systems, also allow businesses to send customer feedback surveys and additional offers with ease.

Male and female customers paying a merchants with a credit card
  1. Rewards programs and exclusive offers. Again, the better your customer data is, the more you can tailor offers to entice customers. It’s a truism that loyalty programs make people feel valued, but also consider throwing out the occasional surprise reward. These can coincide with birthdays or be completely random.

Incidentally, this is another example of Cialdini’s scarcity principle at work. An offer available to few people will be perceived as having greater value than one available to the masses.

  1. Understand your mission and communicate it across channels. Know your “Why” and weave it into every aspect of your business. Use it to galvanize employees and communicate the value of what you do. This can be a social mission or it can simply be exceptional commitment to satisfying a market need. One of our partners in Fort Collins, Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, has a close affiliation with Sustainable Schools International, a nonprofit supporting education in Cambodia. A portion of every sale goes to SSI and customers have the option to “round up” their payment to the nearest dollar. This provides further financial support as well as generating awareness for their cause.

Have anything to add to the conversation? We’d love to hear from you!

Google Runs the World, Not Your Business

Google Runs the World, Not Your Business

E-commerce, Just for Fun, Retail, Technical Tip, Web Tips

By Ryan Parks

Everyone on Facebook does a good job of updating me about enjoying a vanilla latte at their favorite coffee shop (at least my friends do). However, people don’t always remember to update their business profile on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other platforms if there is a special event or something out of the ordinary happening.

Google search screen on a computer on a tableOn a recent trip to Seattle I was reminded how important it is to keep your business profile up to date. While visiting we went to one of the main attractions in the city. Now, we only had a few days and this particular attraction was only open the first day we were there due to construction, so we knew it was going to be a time crunch. According to their website they would be open till 8pm and the last tour left at 7pm. We arrived at 6:45 with what we thought was plenty of time, only to have the security guard tell us that they close at 7pm. But… we contested, the website says 8pm, he then proceeded to tell us, “well, that’s google’s listing, we don’t control that.” As someone who traveled from out of town and wasn’t sure when he’d be back, this was disappointing to say the least.

Google Business

Yes, you do control your business listing on Google, or at least you should… If you haven’t already, go add or claim your business listing on Google. Seriously, go do it now, stop reading this. Okay, you are now in control. You can now edit your post, add pictures, change the hours, add special hours for holidays, events, or construction. The Google business listing is often one of the first things people see when they google your business, if you don’t see one for your business you should create one. Keeping this listing up to date will greatly benefit your business, but it isn’t the only listing to keep in mind.

Facebook

Phone with Facebook next to computerIf your business isn’t using social media, you are missing out. Even if you feel like your company doesn’t have anything exciting to share on social media, it is an area you need to have a presence. With over 70% percent of Americans on Facebook, your business page has the potential to reach millions. Facebook now has a feature that allows people to ask for recommendations. For example, if I was traveling to Austin, Texas, I can now ask my friends who live there or who have traveled there if they have recommendations for a restaurant or a record store. Facebook will then add details about your friends recommendations. A Facebook business page is a great way to get more online traffic, but don’t forget to keep that information up to date as well. Learn more about creating a Facebook business page.

Website

Lastly, but certainly not least, your website. You want to make sure your website’s information is always accurate. Companies list their address and store hours in all sorts of places, the about section, the contact page, an information page. It’s okay to have this information in more than one area and certainly don’t remove it if you’ve always had the information in a certain location. However, the easiest and most convenient section is at the bottom of your site in the footer. The footer is on every page and is an obvious place for your location, phone number and/or store hours. Even if you only do online orders it is a good idea to have a physical location listed on your website. Sometimes people want to know how far away an item may ship from, if you’re local or what timezone you are in if they want to call. Also, it helps let people know that you have a physical location and aren’t just a vague concept floating around the internet.

These three areas are not the only places where your information can be listed, but they’re a good place to start. Keep in mind that people traveling from out of state or even out of the country may be relying on this information and you don’t want to damper their experience or cause them to write a bad review. Remember, Google knows a scary amount of information about your business, but you still control most of that information, for now…

9 Sustainability Tips to Reduce Waste, Save Money and Enhance Your Business’s Public Image

9 Sustainability Tips to Reduce Waste, Save Money and Enhance Your Business’s Public Image

Just for Fun, Restaurant, Retail

By John Garvey

We’re going to be real candid here. Most things marketed as “sustainability” efforts are more accurately “waste reduction” initiatives.

What’s wrong with waste reduction, you ask? Nothing whatsoever—it’s great! What follows are some proven insights on how to reduce waste, adopt more sustainable business practices, boost your bottom line and win customers. While progress towards sustainability and cost savings may seem at odds, there are plenty of win-wins. Some of the following tips apply mainly to retailers, others to restaurant managers, but many are flex options that apply to various industries.

1) Adopt a paperless documentation system

M&E painting in Fort Collins recently rolled out a paperless documentation system. While this saves hundreds of pounds of paper, the more impressive benefit is saved time.

Off the cuff, M&E Founder Matt Shoup estimates that M&E’s new paperless documentation system saves each team member a couple hours a week. While the new system was challenging to implement, he expects it to pay for itself many times over.

“It’s been received really well,” notes Shoup.

“The other thing that it did was it freed up a lot of physical space in our office where we were storing paper and filing cabinets,” he adds.

Stack of paper cups in a coffee shop2) Default to waste reduction options with day-to-day customer service

When was the last time you ordered a drink at a coffee shop, fully intending to enjoy it there, and were given a to-go cup complete with a plastic lid and sleeve? Yesterday? Last week? Conversely, when was the last time you came home with carry-out and said, “Great! I don’t have to borrow silverware from my neighbor because they put plastic utensils in my to-go bag!”

You get the picture. Giving out single-use, throw away items usually isn’t the best practice to default to from a business perspective. Changing that default is a quick win, saving money and reducing waste without compromising your customers’ experience.

Additionally, compostable utensils, cups, napkins and to-go boxes are now affordable for most businesses, thanks to industry leader Eco-Products and other companies.

3) Identify low-hanging fruits for energy savings

LED lighting and other commercially-available, affordable technologies cut utilities bills substantially. LED bulbs cost more than conventional bulbs, but they pay for themselves several times over in the form of lower utilities bills and much longer life cycles. If your frame of reference on pricing or quality isn’t current, take a fresh look: The Department of Energy reports that the price of LED bulbs fell 85 percent from 2008 to 2013, and is still dropping. Their light quality and longevity have improved over the same period. Yay LEDs!
Various light bulbs hanging
Still not sure? Check out this resource: Philips LED savings calculator to help make informed decisions on building upgrades.

If you own the building you conduct business out of, or if you’re responsible for utilities on a long-term lease, consider an energy audit and retrofit. With a deep energy retrofit, a company such as Efficiency Matters, here in Fort Collins, first takes a thorough look at your building to identify the most cost-effective ways to improve its efficiency. They then retrofit the building, strategically insulating key portions of it, sealing leaky areas, changing out incandescent light bulbs and, in some cases, replacing windows.

These deep energy retrofits may have a long financial payment period in terms of utilities savings, but they have an immediate payback in terms of comfort. Perhaps more enticing to a landlord or property manager, studies show that energy-efficient buildings have lower vacancy rates and less frequent turnover than conventional buildings.

If you have an open-minded landlord, he may be willing to assume the cost of these upgrades. The building owner is really the long-term beneficiary here because buildings that have low operating costs, good indoor air quality, minimal ambient noise and minimal temperature fluctuations attract better tenants. That’s property management 101.

Red bike parked in front of an office4) Incentivize alternative transportation

If you’re in a multi-tenant building you may be able to renegotiate your lease to unbundle on-site parking. Encouraging employees to bike, carpool or use public transportation is easy in places like Colorado’s Front Range, but admittedly not everywhere. That said, if you can save a couple hundred dollars a month by freeing up a couple parking spaces, why not try?

You wouldn’t be the first to do this. Every lease at Boulder Commons, a Net Zero Energy office building in Boulder, has parking and office space unbundled. The fewer parking spots your employees take up, the more your business saves.

Installing bike racks in front of your store is another way to encourage biking to work that can also attract clients. This is both because of the signal it sends and because of the convenience.

Orange tire hung on brick wall as planter5) Use drought-resistant landscaping

Next time you’re giving your landscaping a face lift, using indigenous plants can cut back on water bills. If your business has minimal or incomplete landscaping this is also a good investment. Why? Views of nature increase productivity and reduce sick days, studies show. Potted plants or, if you’re really ambitious, a living wall may also improve indoor air quality, which improves mental focus, self-reported happiness and employee health.

6) Purchase renewable energy credits to offset energy use

Many businesses that don’t have the wherewithal to generate all their own energy with renewables opt to buy renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset their energy use. The Rio, New Belgium, Odell Brewing and dozens of businesses in Northern Colorado do this. Buying wind energy or supporting a solar energy cooperative costs somewhat more than conventionally-sourced electricity, but whether an end in itself or a means of attracting eco-conscious customers it can be an affordable and sound decision.

7) “Gamify” your waste reduction efforts

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Challenging your team to reduce waste by measuring and charting how much you’re hauling makes waste reduction efforts tangible. This can also be done with energy consumed, total commuting miles by car and anything else that will galvanize employees without seeming overbearing. With a little flair, tracking waste reduction can be fun and morale-boosting.

8) Restaurateurs: Compost when feasible

Hands holding dirtCase in point: Happy Lucky’s Teahouse

Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, one of our partners in Fort Collins, quickly became a downtown staple after opening in 2009. In fact, my first visit to Happy Lucky’s completely changed my conception of what tea is supposed to taste like. I’ve been back many times.

“Our biggest waste reduction, started when Happy Lucky’s Teahouse opened in 2009, is composting our used tea leaves,” notes owner and “Chief Leafster” George Grossman. “Through the years different customers have brought in five gallon buckets which we fill with our spent tea leaves.

“Composting tea leaves happens fairly quickly even in our relatively dry Colorado climate. My worms in the basement love them too. Composted tea leaves smell great and can help any garden.”

Depending on they kind of organic waste your business disposes of, different composting methods (basic composting or commercial/industrial composting) may be used. Industrial composting “is financially advantageous over landfill-bound waste hauling in areas where a compost facility is within 50 miles,” notes CBRE Sustainability Manager Emily Willson, writing for GreenBiz.com.

One man’s waste is another (cow’s) treasure

If you’re in, or near, an agrarian community, livestock can take a lot of food waste off your hands, saving you hauling fees and eliminating a major source of atmospheric pollution. To touch on that second point: food breaking down in landfills it produces methane, which has over 25 times the greenhouse effect as CO2. You may even get a modest additional source of revenue if you’re a brewery or cidery because leftover apple pomace mash and spent brewers grains are nutrient-rich (and livestock love them). Here in Fort Collins, Summit Hard Cider, New Belgium, Horse and Dragon Brewery and several other beverage makers do this. It’s a win-win.

That said, food waste is a bear. Different composting processes are required for different types of food waste. If not contained and hauled promptly it can also become an odor hazard. Companies like A-1 Organics that specialize in industrial food waste composting may be able to serve you affordably if your business isn’t far away. The U.S. Composting Council website is a great resource for restauranteurs interested in implementing a composting program.

Case in point: Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant

“With compost in particular, there’ve been issues with finding people to haul it,” discloses Erich Whisenhunt, the Director of Food and Beverage for Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (“The Rio”).

Whisenhunt lives on a small farm and gives food waste from the kitchen prep line (vegetable trimmings and the like) to his pigs.

“For restaurants on a small scale, that’s a pretty good solution,” he states.

During Whisenhunt’s tenure as Kitchen Manager, he oversaw various waste diversion efforts including glass-to-glass recycling, food waste composting and vegetable oil recycling for biofuels.

9) Finally, make sure you take rebates into account if you’re looking into ROI

Rebates vary by state and locality, but they can often nudge a waste reduction effort from a “no-go” to a “go” by shortening the payback period of certain sustainability initiatives. If you’re on the fence about a lighting retrofit or food waste composting plan, double-check with the relevant local, state and federal offices. Yes, some rebates distort incentives, steering people to the less beneficial of two initiatives, but we’re here to help you run a business, not critique policy.

While some sustainability investments are a values call, many have a decent bottom-line justification. In other words, environmental stewardship and sound business judgement are often one and the same.

Going back to the point we opened with, however, make sure you’re walking the talk. You don’t have to obsess over sustainability to run a good, admirable business, but if your behavior is out of sync with your public voice it’s likely to be labeled as “greenwashing.”

We’d love to hear from you if you choose to implement any of these ideas, wish to add to the discussion or even disagree with anything.

The Frick Customer Spotlight!

The Frick Customer Spotlight!

Museums Attractions

By Casey Albert
The Frick Plate
Retail Control Systems is delighted to announce The Frick Pittsburgh as our Customer Spotlight for the month of March! They have been in the RCS family since May of 2015.

Located on the Pittsburgh estate of late-19th -century industrialist Henry Clay Frick, The Frick Pittsburgh is the steward of collections left as a legacy to the people of Pittsburgh by Frick’s daughter, Helen Clay Frick. The permanent collections include fine and decorative arts, cars, carriages, historic objects, and buildings. The Frick experience includes The Frick Art Museum, the Car and Carriage Museum, Clayton, the Frick family Gilded Age mansion, and six acres of beautifully landscaped lawns and gardens. Also included are an Education Center, the Frick children’s playhouse (designed by renowned architects Alden & Harlow), a large working greenhouse (also designed by Alden & Harlow), The Café at the Frick, and the Grable Visitor Center, which houses the Frick Museum Store.

The Frick Pittsburgh is a unique space and RCS has helped to make the customer facing and internal user experience the best it can be. The intricacies of operation are greatly improved with help from the RCS support technicians, the Frick is confident they can contact Retail Control Systems with any inquiry and they will find a solution quickly.


The Frick utilizes NCR Counterpoint, Outbound and Raiser’s Edge, all integrated, in multiple areas of their facility – Museum, Educational Classes/Tours and more! The Counterpoint POS software is there for the day to day sales, Outbound handles all the reservations and Raiser’s Edge manages the museum memberships.

The museum also uses CP mobile to help to manage the operations many buildings across the campus. They utilize CP mobile mostly for events or to sell memberships on site. As Lynn rice states, “It’s great that RCS has so many options for us to expand and reach our retail and membership base.”

The company works with Ariel Leggett from RCS and says, “Ariel is the best, she is available to help at a moments notice and always has the right answer”. As their account manager, Ariel helps them with any new purchases, receipt paper, new integrations, upgrades and much more!

“RCS has helped our site advance in many ways and continues to work to help our business improve.” – Lynn Rice, Systems & Data Manager

RCS is thrilled to have The Frick Pittsburgh as part of the RCS family! We are excited that we can assist them with reaching their goals and we can’t wait to see where they go next!

About Retail Control Systems

Founded in 1987, Retail Control Systems specializes in retail and restaurant management software and hardware solutions. RCS has built a reputation for finding specialized business management solutions that help businesses gain complete control over their operations and finances. From inventory control to daily sales management, RCS has the experience and expertise across the full-range of retail and restaurant industries to meet the unique needs of any business. RCS has been providing superior customer service, exceptional quality, and innovation to the retail and restaurant community for nearly 30 years.

To learn more about RCS, visit retailcontrolsystems.com or call 1-800-417-3030.

For more information about The Frick, their products, and services, visit thefrickpittsburgh.org.

Best Practices for Dealing with Negative Customer Reviews

Best Practices for Dealing with Negative Customer Reviews

Technical Tip

By John Garvey

Whether you’re a retailer, restaurateur, tour guide or museum director, your first negative review can make you feel like a donkey kicked you in the stomach. Don’t go all Chicken Little on us, though—The sky is not falling! Before we get to how to deal with negative customer reviews, we’ll point out a few benefits (yes, benefits) of negative reviews:

Man in Suit giving thumbs-up

Despair not!

According to Hubspot, five times as many buyers seek out bad reviews as good reviews. That’s because they want to make an informed purchase, weighing the credibility of negative and positive reviews. Rarely are they looking for reasons not to buy.

In fact, Reevoo, a brand management and market research firm, reports that 19 out of 20 customers become suspicious when they see only positive reviews. An occasional negative review lends credibility to your positive reviews by showing that you aren’t gaming the system.

A mature, helpful response to a negative review that shows you aren’t squeamish about negative feedback boosts your credibility and may generate sympathy for your brand.

Finally, “Customers who have their complaints satisfactorily resolved tell an average of five people” according to Colorado State University marketing professor Douglas Hoffman. If you win over a dissatisfied customer, they’ll be a stronger advocate than a customer who was happy all along. That’s because, done right, resolving a complaint shows an unusual level of commitment and maturity.

In short, a negative review creates the chance to turn a small loss into a big win.

Hopefully, having provided some positive perspective on negative reviews, we’ll turn our attention to how to manage negative online and offline reviews. There are four cornerstones: Initiative, Vigilance, Empathy and Process.

We’ll end with a few SEO tips so hang with us!

Initiative: Be proactive.

The most important foundation of managing negative reviews is taking specific, customer-centric measures to prevent them in the first place. There’s no foolproof method to stop all bad online reviews, but there are established ways to reduce their likelihood.

  1. Convenient sounding boards. First, make sure there’s a convenient resource such as a physical or online “comment card” available to customers to voice complaints and provide testimonials. It’s far better for them to complain directly to you than to many prospects via social media. Customers given a convenient sounding board will often be more candid, focusing on the substance of their complaints rather than speculating about the “why,” which may amount to an unwarranted attack on your business culture and motives.
  2. Follow up quickly on offline complaints. If not acted upon promptly, offline complaints become public. A slow, inadequate or non-response adds to a customer’s frustration, making it more likely that he’ll flame you on Yelp, Facebook, OpenTable or Google.
  3. Email tags. Every employee using a company email should have links to your site and social media accounts below her signature, not only to grow your social presence but to make it easier for customers to post reviews.
  4. Soliciting testimonials. Finally, remember that the point of sale, when the customer is excited about a new purchase, is the best moment to solicit reviews. A simple URL on the bottom of a physical receipt, a link to a super-short survey on a mobile or email receipt, or even a physical comment card will generate more reviews than a suggestion that they visit Yelp or TripAdvisor.

Vigilance: Keep your ear to the ground.

  1. “Social never sleeps” is an unofficial mantra in social media marketing and public relations. Make the rounds regularly: Yelp, Facebook, Google, Zomato (previously UrbanSpoon), OpenTable, Twitter, Glassdoor and so on. Know the most important review sites for your industry and pay lots of attention.
  2. Set up a Google Alert for your business so that when it’s mentioned online you receive a timely notification in your email.

Empathy: Feel their pain.

  1. Own it. Own up to your mistakes, even when it’s uncertain where the blame lies. A non-response to a negative review will compound the problem almost every time. It shows apathy. It shows that you aren’t on top of your game. In one way or another it validates the complaint.
  2. Civility. Even a justifiably defensive response to an unfair review will be perceived negatively by customers, who may sympathize with you privately but still be put off by drama. If it’s a case of a false statement, be candid yet civil.
  3. Judgement. On a similar note, use good business judgement. Don’t be overzealous when appeasing upset customers with compensations and never throw your employees under the bus.
  4. Authenticity. Why are authentic apologies necessary? Consider the following:
    • According to Lee Resources, a consulting firm, one complaint implies there are another 26 quietly dissatisfied customers (who are likely complaining to other people).
    • According to Bain & Company, one of the big three consulting firms, customer acquisition is 6 – 7 times as costly as customer retention. So try not to lose ‘em.

Woman writing in a notebook

Process: Have a checklist of things to do and avoid.

  1. Make it easy for customers to deliver feedback and testimonials. Encourage candor by not requiring them to provide more personal information than absolutely necessary to follow up, and by expressing your commitment to customer service with words and actions.
  2. Run each response by a trusted colleague with some emotional detachment before posting.
  3. In your response, make sure you direct the customer to someone who can help them resolve their complaint. Make it a direct line or email rather than a generic address like “Service@XYZCorp.com.” While easy to overlook, this detail can help bring about a speedier resolution and may result in the customer amending their review to a more positive rating.

What other lessons can you bring to the table based on experience? We’d love to hear your stories.

Bonus: SEO Tips!

  • When responding to a negative review, don’t use the name of your business or search keywords. Doing this will improve the search engine ranking of the review itself. With positive reviews, the same principle applies in reverse. Use your company name and relevant keywords to bolster the review’s ranking.
  • Freshness is one factor in how Google ranks content, so all things equal, new content outranks old content. The wake of a negative review is a good time to put up positive or helpful content you already have in the pipeline, or to increase your content marketing efforts.
A Match Made in Heaven

A Match Made in Heaven

Museums Attractions

by Casey Albert

RCS is pleased to announce Heaven Hill Brands as our Customer Spotlight for the month of February! They have been part of the RCS family for almost five years.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Shortly after Prohibition ended in the United States, Heaven Hill, was founded in Bardstown, Kentucky by the Shapira family to produce and market Bourbon. At the time, it was as speculative a new business venture as the dot com startups of the 1990’s — a company founded with no brands, no available stocks of whiskey, and at the height of the Great Depression. Today, the company is the largest independent, family-owned and operated distilled spirits supplier in the country. According to industry analysts, Heaven Hill is now the sixth-largest spirits supplier in the United States and second largest holder of aging Bourbon whiskey in the world with an inventory in excess of 1,300,000 barrels.

Heaven Hill operates two visitor centers located on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Their visitor centers are The Bourbon Heritage Center located in Bardstown, KY and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Downtown Louisville, KY. Both of Heaven Hill’s facilities offer tours, interactive exhibits, tastings and a retail store.

RCS has been able to offer an all-inclusive package pairing NCR Counterpoint together with Outbound, to manage Heaven Hill’s tour and event sales, as well as, their inventory for retail and operations. The systems also seamlessly interface with the company’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

RCS has been with us every step of the way for 5 years. At first implementing and even now helping us fine-tune and evolve the system to meet our growing business needs.”

-Stacy Clements

RCS is thrilled to have Heaven Hill as part of the RCS family! We are excited that we can assist them with reaching their goals and we can’t wait to see where they go next!

Questions to ask when shopping for a POS system

Questions to ask when shopping for a POS system

Technical Tip

by John Garvey
shaking hands
What does the term “point of sale system” mean to you? For many, it may simply mean payment processing, but if you’re a merchant you have a lot more on your mind. You don’t just want a one-trick pony. For instance, in addition to fast and reliable credit card processing, you probably wouldn’t mind a POS system that streamlines inventory management and your check out process. Would you?

There are many POS systems out there with varying features. The overriding consideration is that the POS system you use should allow you flexibility and accommodate your business—not the other way around.

It’s a business partnership, not a product.

People on laptop
What kind of training and support does your retail solutions provider offer?

Will they provide you meaningful help getting up to snuff on their platform?

How responsive is your provider?

Consider the quality of tech support offered. Some offer 24/7 tech support, but don’t advertise long wait times and poorly-trained technicians. Retail Control Systems offers a level of responsiveness and helpfulness that’s unsurpassed with a well-trained staff. That’s part of why we’ve been the # 1 NCR Counterpoint reseller for nearly 20 years!

It’s also why we have so many positive testimonials.

What kind of hardware does your retail solutions/POS provider offer?

NCR Customer and Merchant
Hardware should be intended to last. We’re talking commercial grade as opposed to consumer grade hardware. The NCR register is drop tested, warrantied, dust- and water-resistant and built to carry out millions of transactions over its lifespan.

What can you expect if contingencies occur?

Business Continuity

As a customer, have you ever not been able to complete a purchase because the POS system was down and you didn’t have cash? Probably. This is disappointing when you’re fiending for something specific, like pizza, and have to go three doors down for a salad. (The memory has me choking back tears!)

If your internet service provider bonks, that doesn’t mean your business should. NCR Counterpoint maintains full functionality in offline mode. With some other POS platforms, that isn’t the case.

Security

It is technically a requirement for POS systems to meet PCI Security Standards, but compliance is also a moving target and small providers sometimes fly under the radar. NCR Counterpoint keeps on top of it, enabling you to do so as well.

Happy Lucky's Tea House Register

While compliance is ultimately up to the merchant, a compliant provider is indispensable. RCS helps keep your business data secure and protects you from liability. We also keep our accounts separate. That means even if the guy down the street gets hacked, you’re safe because we don’t group you with other customers.

Our business systems can also flag things like large discounts, excessive “no sale” transactions, voided tickets and other red flags that may indicate theft or pilfering.

Ask your prospective POS system provider what they do in terms of backing up and securing your data. With RCS, a little more money gets you a lot more security.

What features do you need beyond payment processing?

Order Fulfillment – Your POS system should enable omnichannel sales—that is, online, in-store and mobile.

Inventory Management – A quality POS system helps merchants manage layaways, special orders and accounts receivable. Specialized reports can track sales data, monitor margins and eliminate guesswork.

Gift Card and Loyalty Programs – In many cases, gift cards and loyalty programs involve transactional or monthly fees. Avoid these if you can (hint: You can with RCS).

Marketing Support – Any POS system should help you organize customer data. A good one has email marketing integrations and other marketing-related features. These include collecting customer feedback surveys and segmenting customers by purchasing history to deliver relevant, individualized marketing for email or mobile.

Integration with Other Business Systems – A POS system should have the ability to interface with other platforms including accounting software, reservation systems and online stores. You don’t want to have to overhaul a system you’re familiar and satisfied with to onboard a new POS system. This is one of NCR Counterpoint’s strengths. For instance, Counterpoint interfaces smoothly with QuickBooks and Outbound Reservation Software.

When shopping around for a POS system, consider your budget, but remember that spending an extra dollar in the right place can save you three dollars down the road.

If you have questions relating to advanced features, integration, marketing or anything else, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

RCS and Wadsworth Museum of Art together for 18 years!

RCS and Wadsworth Museum of Art together for 18 years!

Museums Attractions

Retail Control Systems is pleased to announce the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art as our first Customer Spotlight of 2018. The museum has been a part of the RCS family for over 18 years.

Wadsworth Museum

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is the oldest continuously-operating public art museum in the United States, founded in 1842 by arts patron Daniel Wadsworth. Wadsworth was an amateur artist, architect, and one of the first major American art patrons. Daniel Wadsworth originally planned to establish a “Gallery of Fine Arts,” but was persuaded to create an atheneum, a term popular in the 19th century used to describe a cultural institution with a library, works of art and artifacts, devoted to learning history, literature, art, and science.

Wadsworth MuseumThe museum’s collections of nearly 50,000 works of art span 5,000 years and feature the Morgan collection of Greek and Roman antiquities and European decorative arts; world-renowned baroque and surrealist paintings; an unsurpassed collection of Hudson River School landscapes; European and American Impressionist paintings; modernist masterpieces; the Serge Lifar collection of Ballets Russes drawings and costumes; the George A. Gay collection of prints; the Wallace Nutting collection of American colonial furniture and decorative arts; the Samuel Colt firearms collection; costumes and textiles; African American art and artifacts; and contemporary art.

Wadsworth Museum
Wadsworth Museum utilizes NCR Counterpoint to help run their gift shop smoothly and effectively. They rely heavily on the built-in reporting to keep the gift shop well stocked for customers when they visit the museum. The Purchasing Advice Report is used to see what is selling best and when it needs to be re-ordered. The yearly physical inventory count is much easier with the built-in Physical Inventory Feature. This feature makes sure their inventory has been tracked correctly throughout the year.

We have been working with RCS and Counterpoint for at least 15 years…maybe even 20. They are so helpful from the most basic to the more complicated needs we have.  The system itself is easy to use and provides great reports. Whenever I have a question, it is always answered in a timely manner.          –  Stacey Stachow

RCS is thrilled to have The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art as part of the RCS family! We are excited that we could assist them with reaching their goals and we can’t wait to see where they go next!

Read more about RCS’ Solutions for Museums and Attractions.

Read more about Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

How to Ride Out Seasonal Revenue Fluctuations

How to Ride Out Seasonal Revenue Fluctuations

Specialty Retail

by John Garvey

Open sign on shop windowRetailers face unique challenges and opportunities each holiday shopping season. Ditto for other peak buying times, as well as cyclical retail sales slumps. Both challenges and opportunities are enhanced by digital marketing, social media and e-commerce. We’ve got to take our hats off to brick and mortar retailers who are putting in extra hours this time of year. For many, key decisions related to hiring, expansion, downsizing, and adapting online sales channels hang in the balance.

Fortunately, there are new resources available to brick and mortar retail managers. These include new point-of-sale (POS) software features, digital advertising platforms (such as AdWords) with transparent practices, and better inventory tracking systems.

We’ll point you to some of those resources and offer some valuable ideas in the following post.

Omni-Channel Fulfillment and Marketing

Order fulfillment

Retailers need to “consider more flexible fulfillment options such as buy online, pickup in store,” states the National Retail Federation (NRF). Purchases finalized in a store are increasingly being reserved online as well, as are after hours buying and delivery features. Consumers are also doing their product research on mobile devices. The ability to get reliable product insights and place items on hold for pickup is a convenience factor that gets more people in the door. Once there, they may make unrelated purchases.

NCR Counterpoint assists with all these things and more. We’d love to talk with you about the software’s many helpful features anytime.

Generous return policies

“The tradition of giving and receiving unwanted gifts is a reliable part of the holiday season; thus, return policies play a critical role in holiday purchases,” states the NRF in its 2017 Holiday Planning Playbook. The humor of that statement may not have been deliberate, but it’s true.

Face it: You’re likely to give or receive an unwanted gift this year. “Generous and transparent” return policies that de-risk purchases also make sales more likely.

Promotions

Sign on sidewalk, awesome to the right and less awesome to the leftGet your marketing ducks in a row well before the holidays. Make sure there’s a convenient, online catalog on your site for pre-shoppers and advertise promotions well in advance. According to NRF, more than half of all customers begin researching holiday purchases in October or earlier. Including links to review sites with your product descriptions will help guide the customer to a decision and make sales more likely.

Time-limited promos are an especially effective way to entice sales. Promote them through multiple channels including social media, segmented email marketing lists and even, in some cases, print marketing. Direct mail still works if it’s targeted. Segmented email marketing lists result in a double-digit increase in open rates compared to non-segmented lists.

Stay top-of-mind using the social media platforms most popular with your customers. That varies by demographic, so know whether your customers’ platform of choice is Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook. Then focus your efforts proportionately.

Wish lists

The majority of holiday shoppers now report wanting wish lists, modeled after wedding and baby registries, to help with holiday gift buying. More and more retailers are following suit. As with other marketing practices like transparent return policies and conveniently linking products to consumer review sites, this makes people more confident in their purchases.

These practices collectively make sales more likely by reducing demands on the customer’s time and attention.

Modern, Cloud-based Point-of-Sale Systems will Soon be Indispensable—if they aren’t already

Customer patience is relatively low when seasonal shopping peaks. It follows that anything that makes the purchasing process seamless becomes super important at those times. A reliable POS system with short credit card processing times, streamlined receipt tracking and good inventory planning to avoid stock outs will make your life better if you’re in retail management.

Tracking sales data to guide future decisions can be tedious, even exhausting when you add it to the laundry list of other responsibilities: ensuring solid customer service, retail marketing, maintaining storefront displays, payroll, etc. Fortunately, POS and inventory tracking software such as NCR Counterpoint helps you do all that and more.

Inventory is cash. Having too much cash tied up as excess inventory can cripple a retailer’s profitability. Cash flow issues aside, poor planning due to incomplete data may force you to offer excessive markdowns to offload soft-selling items. While proactive markdowns allow you to clear shelf space for hot items, reactive markdowns hurt margins.

How do markdowns tie into the discussion of POS software?

Smart alert on a cell phoneNCR Counterpoint offers dozens of Smart Alerts, such as low inventory warnings, cash on hand, and real-time sales data for each product line. Because it’s cloud-based, you can choose which ones are most relevant to your business and keep an eye on things remotely.

Daily or weekly sales reports will help you adjust future receipts up or down as new sales data roles in. So you can avoid the twin menace of inventory overstock and stock outs. Counterpoint’s inventory management capabilities also allow retailers to easily transfer merchandise between stocking locations and roll out flexible pricing. Counterpoint offers over 40 inventory reports, allowing managers to opt in to the most important ones.

A good point-of-sale software system will make purchasing and pricing decisions easier with sales analytics and inventory reports. That, in turn, keeps margins healthy.

Attract Customers with Targeted, Enticing Digital Marketing

Digital marketing, including mobile marketing, allows retailers to take a more highly-targeted approach than ever before, and to accurately measure ROI of different ad campaigns. Smartphone commerce is indispensable as consumers increasingly use smartphones to price compare, browse products and place orders.

If you don’t have a mobile-optimized site, you’re losing business. Guaranteed.

“65% of consumers have a mobile shopping app on their smartphone and have made a purchase using it.”
Forbes, 28 Nov 2017

“Geofencing is helping retailers compete more effectively with online shopping experiences while customers receive a highly targeted, more relevant shopping experience.”
Inc., 7  Dec 2017

The first thing to do is make sure your site is mobile-friendly, fast, and easy to navigate with appropriately-sized font and images. Similarly, geofencing, or location-based marketing using resources like Google AdWords, will get people’s attention when they’re most likely to follow through on a purchase.

As we’ve stated in previous posts, email marketing is also very much alive and very effective when done right. Don’t neglect it, and remember to segment email lists for different types of customers. Segmentation results in a double-digit increase in open and click through rates.

Finally, marketers report that video content is increasingly important during ultra-competitive season. Again, according to Forbes,

51.9% of marketers report that video delivers the best ROI and that their customers have a preference for video over other types of content. And at least half of shoppers will search for a product video before visiting an online store.

Finally, Remember What You’ve Always Done Well

“While the shopping process is becoming more complex, the best competitive advantage remains in old-fashioned retail principles of serving the customer what they want, where they want it, at the price they desire — and with exceptional customer service. Technology may be changing the surface of the retail game, but the underlying strategies to win remain the same.”
National Retail Federation

Is there anything else you would add? We’d love to hear from you!

Give your Business a Shot in the Arm

Request a demo of NCR Counterpoint or, for restauranteurs, NCR Silver Pro.