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Marc Prosser

6 Lighting Tips for Your Small Business

By January 29, 2015 No Comments

1-29 Lighting for Biz smallSelecting lighting for your store can be complicated. However, good lighting is one of the most important aspects of highlighting your product and making it pop. An in-depth guide to selecting lighting for your store is beyond the scope of this article, but here are 6 quick tips gathered from retail lighting professionals that should prove very helpful along the way.

 

1. Buy LED Bulbs By the Batch

LED bulbs have come along way in the last several years. Their energy-efficiency, long-life, and consistently improving color quality are leading more and more business owners to switch to LED’s. Despite all this progress, there can still be variations in color temperature and tone between batches of LED’s, even if they are technically the same product.

 

Because of these small variations, it is important to buy all your LED bulbs at once, by the batch. This ensures a consistent color temperature and tone from bulb-to-bulb and therefore throughout your store.

 

2. Do Not Burn Your Customers

According to Fit Small Business, “it is very important to make sure that the heat from your lights will not make customers uncomfortable.” Be aware of this and select your bulbs accordingly. Incandescent bulbs are the warmest, LED’s are the coolest, and florescent bulbs are somewhere in-between.

 

3. Be Sensitive to Color Temperature and CRI (Color Rendering Index Rating)

Each individual bulb has a natural tone to the light it produces. This is known as a bulb’s color temperature and is measured in kelvins. Lower-end kelvin ratings (1-2700) generally mean a warmer and softer light. Mid-range ratings (4000-4500) produce truer colors and a more natural light. High kelvin ratings (5000 and above) mimic a day-white light and are generally used in areas that need really focused and bright task lighting.

 

The CRI (Color Rendering Index Rating) is basically a measurement concerning light and true product color. The higher an index rating a bulb has, the truer your item color will be under that light.

 

4. Factor In Replacement and Energy Cost

Everybody factors in upfront bulb cost when they purchase bulbs. However, there are other cost considerations as well.

 

You need to include energy cost (cost of electrical usage/yr) and replacement cost ([annual hours of use divided by hours of bulb life] x cost per bulb) in your calculations as well. This will give you a more accurate picture of what you can expect to spend on lighting per year with each bulb type.

 

5. Use Dimmer Switches

Dimmer switches allow you to control the light level of your bulbs. This does several things:

 

  1. It allows you to adjust your lighting needs to fit your store atmosphere – If you have areas of your store that need different lighting needs, dimmer switches are an easy solution that does not require custom tailoring each bulb to each store space.

  2. It can save quite a bit on energy costs – If you are working in the store after-hours, you probably do not need the same level of light as a customer would. So, you can just turn down the dimmer switches and save electricity while still providing enough light to stock inventory or whatever you need to do.

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If you do decide to go with dimmer switches, just make sure the bulbs you get are dimmable as well. A small detail but one that can be immensely frustrating if forgotten.

 

6. Spend Your Money On Accent and Task Lighting

As great as it would be to have endless resources to spend on store lighting, this is generally not the case for the average business owner. But this raises the question, where should costs be cut?

 

Although the real answer is going to be store specific, it is generally agreed that you want to spend your money on Accent and Task lighting. Accent lighting highlights your product, which is why your store exists in the first place, to sell product. Your task lighting ensures that your employees have enough light to keep the store running and perform necessary tasks.

 

If you are going to cut costs, cut out a decorative chandelier or get some cheaper general lighting. Although important, it is much easier to cut corners in these two categories without too significant a loss in overall store lighting quality. However, if you skimp on your accent and task lighting, your customers will know it.

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Should salespeople be doing customer service?

By July 17, 2014 No Comments

Prosser BlogThis is a question of great importance to companies with 20 to 50 employees. While there are exceptions, companies with only a few employees don’t have the resources to allocate separate people to sales and customer service. Larger companies tend to divide up these roles, providing different training and compensation plans for employees that do sales and customer service. But, there is not necessarily a clear path for companies in the 20 to 50 employee range. Here is why my former company decided not to separate these functions at first, and then went with a hybrid solution in which certain types of support were done by specialists.

My former company was in an industry with a really bad reputation (ten years ago). The industry was known for high-pressure sales tactics and shady practices. Our company was different.  We wanted to create a reputation for outstanding customer service, instead of pushy sales people.

We believed that having the sales professionals handle responsibilities for both closing the sale and dealing with any communications that occurred afterwards would dramatically change the way they approached selling. It would encourage them to do a good job setting expectations and educating customers prior to closing the sale. If they didn’t, the salespeople might have to deal with unhappy customers later on.

This approach was “mostly” successful, however, it did create some problems:

  1. Great salespeople tended to dislike this system and felt they were undercompensated. Some left the company, because they could make more in a “pure” sales job where they wouldn’t have to devote time to customer service.
  2. Many of our customer service oriented salespeople did not make any effort to close sales.
  3. Resolving certain types of customer service issues like a hard technical support question, sometimes took a while.

Before I discuss how we dealt with these challenges, I would like to emphasize that combining these functions did achieve the intended goal. Our company received very high marks for customer service, and established a reputation as having more integrity than our competitors.

Great salespeople want to both be recognized and rewarded for their skills. The key to both is tracking their performance. We heavily relied on our CRM system to see how different salespeople were performing.  We measured both their performance on the sales side (new leads that opened accounts) and customer service side (how many interactions they had with existing customers, and how frequently they were able to resolve the customer’s issue).  This information was used both for performance reviews and in making decisions regarding bonuses. While salespeople may not have been able to devote all their time to closing, they received praise and financial compensation for bringing new business.

It should be stated that we did not pay salespeople a commission, but a base salary and a quarterly bonus based on both the company’s and their personal performance. We believed that providing commission based compensation would lead to poor customer service.

We did lose some good salespeople, but many good salespeople liked the customer friendly environment.

The bigger problem was getting customer service focused employees to close sales. Surprisingly, the solution to this problem turned out to be “social” pressure. While these employees earned 0 or smaller bonuses, this did not seem to motivate them.  After a few warnings about putting more effort into sales, the company had to let a few of them go. However, there was a better solution that we found only years later. When we put the sales numbers of each employee on public whiteboards, there was a dramatic cultural change, and we saw an improvement in their performance. Because bonuses were based on personal and group performance, the weaker salespeople and their colleagues were suddenly aware of how these people were hurting their own compensation.

As the company grew, we did start separating certain customer support functions. The first area was technical support. Instead of having a general salesperson be the client’s point of contact in handling difficult tech issues, the company created technical support specialists which only dealt with technology related issues. This enabled tech support issues to be resolved more quickly.

Bottom Line: Keeping sales and customer support together sends a message to employees that customer support is not a second class job, but integral to the company’s success. On the other hand, it makes it harder to keep sales stars happy, and can create motivational issues for less sales driven employees. Combining sales and customer services puts more pressure on management and in the short-run can hurt sales.

Marc Prosser is the publisher of Fit Small Business.

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