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How to Pass on a Handshake? And Other Ask PETS+ Answers

Just say “Let’s not … and pretend we did!” Sort of.

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elbow to elbow

In these socially constrained times, what’s the best way not to offend a customer who extends his hand in greeting?

Elbow bumps and non-contact Asian-style greetings have all been suggested in the media, but we like sales trainer Shane Decker’s straightforward approach: Say, “I’m so glad you came in. We’ll shake hands when we can. Let’s pretend that we did.” Nothing remedies an awkward situation like well-articulated lightheartedness.

I’m thinking of going open book with my finances so that staff can better understand what’s involved in running a successful business. What do you think?

Sal Salafia, the owner of Exotic Pet Birds in Webster, NY, says he allows his employees to see the company’s profits and losses, which helps inform their decisions on which products to bring in and which to pass on. “My staff has become very close over the years. Each of them know I have their back, and we know they have ours,” he says. Such a level of transparency is commendable but not for everyone. You may just want to reveal your sales figures, although profit margin is a much better indicator of performance. Let staff know that with anything much less than a 5 percent net profit margin, your business is barely surviving. Otherwise, discretion may be your better course of action. “Know what numbers you can share and defend, or just keep your books closed,” says Greg Crabtree, a CPA and author of Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits.

I’ve discovered a shrinkage problem at my store, but when I contacted the local police they didn’t seem that interested.

When it comes to offenses that spur urgent police action, retail crime lags a long way behind murder, drug dealing or even car theft. This means you’re going to have to show the police you have a good case and that, as Detective Richard Milburn of the Mesa Police Department in Arizona said at a recent National Retail Federation event, you understand the difference between “Probable Cause” versus “Probably Cuz.” First thing, be sure you contact the right agency, and that you have anticipated the need to establish evidence (What will be needed to pursue a case? Do you have video or other evidence?), Milburn said. Be aware, too, that you may have to “re-sell” the case to another law enforcement agency if the first one declines. The key takeaway from all this? Never forget that safeguarding your merchandise starts with you and the processes you use to track and safeguard it.

Any tips on how to get more efficient on the phone. I often find myself looking at the “duration of call” display and thinking, “Darn! 12 minutes! I really can’t afford to waste that kind of time”?

Phones can be a time suck, which is why millennials love texting so much — you’re in control. But phone calls will no doubt be around for a bit longer. Business consultant Jo Soard suggests these tips to improve your telephone efficiency:

  • Get to the point. If you are the caller, say: “Paul — Hi, I need two questions answered, and I know you are the only person who can help me.”
  • If you’re receiving the call, cut to the chase with the ever reliable: “Hi Lynn. Nice to hear from you. What can I do for you today?”
  • And to avoid never-ending phone tag: Leave short and instructive voicemails, stating the purpose of your call and exactly what you need. That will equip them with the information they need to respond promptly. For example: “Hi Kent. It’s Wimmer from ZZ Pet Supplies. Please call me with the shipment date for that line of Christmas-themed treats I ordered.”
One of my post-COVID-19 projects is to get better feedback from customers. What are the best questions to ask?

Mark Hughes, author of Buzzmarketing, argues there are only two questions that matter: 1) “How did you hear about us?” (which tracks word-of-mouth and marketing effectiveness) and 2) “Would you go out of your way to recommend our product to a friend?” (this measures customer evangelism, or buzz.) Getting answers to both of these questions will show you clearly whether you’re doing things right. All other questions are meaningless data dung,” he says.

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Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 16 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+'s editors at editor@petsplusmag.com.

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