Feedback forms can help improve company

score Question:
I own and operate a small retail business with five employees and often feel that I don't know what's going on in my shop - or its seems that way. What's a simple way to change this?

One of the best rules for business success is this: Make things as simple as possible.

For wxample, when people come in to your store to shop, if you have good signs, the customer can easily find you - and find what they want inside your store. The simpler you make it to buy things, the more likely they will come back - and come back again to buy.

The Internet is a great example of this prinicple. In 1998, Internet sales were 230 percent greater than in 1997. One reason is that it's easy to buy things online.

What can you do to develop simple systems for controlling operations and making sure that everything is going well?

  • Create an easy-to-use customer feedback system that lets you know if you're doing well and where you need to improve.

    A one-page questionaire with a series of checklist items is a good example. Remember, you don't need to ask a lot of questions, and you shouldn't expect people to spend a lot of time telling you what they like and don't like. Just keep it simple.

    In addition to getting feedback on your products and services, ask questions that provide input on the customer's profile, such as: Is this person a man or a woman? How often do they shop with you? How far away do they live? Make your questionaire a check-in-the-box type of questions so the customer doesn't need to take time to write a lot. With this kind of information, you can tell if one group is more satisfied than another.

  • Make sure it only takes a few minutes for people to complete your feedback form. If you want to reward them for their help, have them write their names and addresses on a seperate piece of paper an put it in a bowl for a weekly drawing. Reward a $25 gift certificate for use in the store. In this way the customer has a potential reward for giving the feedback.

  • You also need to develop a system for getting employee feeback. Find out how satisfied the workers are and what else they would like to see done to improve things. You can do this through simple informal meetings or with a short questionaire. This is an important part of the process to improve you operations.
It's not hard to effectively control operations if you do it right.

Two of the most important groups that should be monitored continuously are customers and employees. Focus attention on staying abreast of how satisfied these groups are with your company, and you'll find it pays off on the bottom line.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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