Are Your Employees Stealing?

Employee Theft is a tough subject. As we find ourselves on (hopefully) the tail-end of the COVID-19 pandemic, its important to remember that even typically honest employees may steal under dire circumstances, such as a global pandemic. A study on Employee Theft, conducted by Forensic Pathways, found that 10% of employees will always steal, 10% will never steal, and the remaining 80% will steal under the right circumstances.

COVID-19 has created a sense of financial instability for just about everyone in the Unites States. Even for those who were not laid off, or furloughed, from their jobs may be directly connected to many who were. Two income households may have been reduced to one. Many people have taken in children, parents, or other family members who are struggling. Everyone is feeling the strain.

Headlines in 2020 have already highlighted that employee theft will be a huge concern for businesses that somehow manage to survive the pandemic. From a Mississippi welfare agency that embezzled millions, to a Louisiana charity that was taken for half a mil, to an Idaho hospital where an employee stole funds directly from a fundraiser. Theft is everywhere, and you need to be diligent.

While your numbers may not be on such a large scale, if each employee slips a $20 out of the register, per shift, how long will your business last? What about if your bartender is stealing pooled tips? A customer service rep altering numbers in their favor month after month? Even a cook taking food home to feed their kids after each shift? This is a make it or break it moment, and with less money in the bank due to COVID, you cannot afford to lose any more.

Even trusted employees will steal if:

—They are feeling financial pressure

—They can rationalize the act (feeling underpaid, underappreciated, etc.)

—They feel they can get away with it

The employees you are hiring and re-hiring are definitely feeling the pressure, rationalizing the act will be easy. You need your employees to know that they cannot get away with it and that is where Mercantile comes in. Instead of hoping your employees are following all of your cash handling policies, why not verify it?

By implementing cash handling and theft protection audits within your company, you can safeguard yourself against employee thefts. You will reduce the thought that employees can get away with it, making them less likely to commit and theft in the first place. You will also be able to catch anyone who does go through with any criminal activity and take appropriate measures before employee theft cripples your business.

Contact a Mercantile Systems Inc. (MSI) team member today to find out how we can help you protect yourself.

Why Responding to Reviews is Critical

According to Reviewtrackers.com, a staggering 94% of consumers admitted that a bad review convinced them to avoid a business! A single bad review can negatively affect your business, but that does not mean there is nothing you can do about it. In fact, 45% of consumers stated that they were MORE likely to visit a business that responded to any negative reviews. That means that in order to combat any negative reviews on social media review sites, you must be proactive in your approach to reviews, both negative and positive. By responding to reviews, you can prevent consumers from being driven away.

Responding to reviews online should be viewed with the same importance as if the customer was complaining to you in person. Vertical Growth.com suggests when responding, “Advise the individual what you would like to do to resolve the problem or what the company will do for the future. This will allow the individual to appreciate the response and for others to view the company as more respectful and professional.”

When a consumer takes the time to leave a review, they expect to be heard, by both those considering their opinion when deciding which business to frequent as well as by the business. They do not want to be left waiting, either. In fact, 53% expect a response to a review within a week. Timeliness and appropriate action for online reviews is as important as giving each customer a good experience in person. Your response is not only about that one consumer, but about all those who read their review.

Responding to positive reviews is also a valuable tool, however. It validates to consumers that you appreciate and value their patronage and extends the good feeling that prompted them to write a review in the first place. It has been documented that once a business responds to positive reviews, the more likely it is that more customers will take the time to write their own positive reviews.

Any business that wants to succeed knows that customer service is the pillar upon which the company can grow and thrive. In today’s digital world, customer service has ballooned out from what happens in a mortar and brick building to what is occurring in the vast world of the internet. That means you must monitor and respond to what you consumers are saying online.

Mercantile Systems, Inc. (MSI) understands that adding on yet another task to your overwhelming days may just not be something you can take on right now. With the usual day-to-day survival, coupled with the COVID-19 craziness, even taking an extra hour or so a day to respond to reviews could be asking the impossible. That is why we are pleased to offer our assistance in getting your reviews up-to-date and maintained. Our trained professionals can work with you to cultivate a response plan. Take a few minutes to talk to us and find out how we can take hours of time off your plate while helping your online presence succeed and thrive!

Lessons from Amazon: Focusing on Experience

From the beginning, Jeff Bezos knew analyzing customer experiences was one of the most important aspects to his start-up company. According to Forbes, the founder and CEO of Amazon invested 100 times more money into investigating customer experience online than he did in advertising! In a time in which barely half of companies were investing in User Experience (UX) Audits, Bezos utilized the opportunity to become a leader in online sales by understanding what most companies were neglecting. He continued his UX search by looking into the difference of experiences when using a desktop versus a mobile browser and/or mobile app, making sure that no matter how a customer utilized the shopping giant, they walked away with a good experience.

In 2020, it is estimated that there are over six billion smart device users (phones, tablets, etc.)! Those users are frequenting mobile websites with a staggering regularity. In fact, 94% of smartphone users look for local information on their phones. Websites that load slowly on devices lose more than $2B in combined sales each year and smart device users are 5 times more likely to abandon the website if it is not optimized for mobile use (Source: Intechnic).

One of the most important UX statistics you need to be aware of is that an amazing 85% of UX problems can be solved simply by testing only five users! Such a simple fix for so many problems, yet only about half of companies are utilizing this option. This is a huge opportunity for you to be in the winning half of companies in a time where online usage is rising at an astounding rate.

User Experience Audits, or Customer Experience Audits, are one of the most cost-efficient ways to get ahead of the competition and make sure you are giving your customers the experiences they want and deserve. The return on investment makes these online mystery shops a no-brainer. When you poll your direct customers and structure your desktop and mobile websites to the users’ mental mindset, there is an 80% success rate.

Mercantile Systems, Inc. (MSI) has a shopper pool closing in on 100,000 evaluators. Our shoppers are your customers, and we can tailor suit an UX Audit that is customized to your company’s needs. We create a direct link between you and your customers, taking the guesswork out of what they are thinking. We have shoppers experienced in both desktop and mobile shops, ensuring that you are given complete analytical data on how to optimize the UX of your website.

Do not wait until your competitors learn about this competitive advantage. Talk to an MSI team member today to make sure you have the cutting-edge information to place your company at the top.

Reputation Management Made Easy

Word of mouth is no longer family, friends, and co-workers. It is word of internet – hundreds of strangers giving their opinions based often on a single experience. So many reviews nowadays include references to “been going there for many years but never will again” based on one bad experience. The years of good experiences were never documented or reviewed, but that one bad one will forever be hanging out there in the world of the web. The good news is, diligent Reputation Management can help offset any negative information being passed around.

I recently went looking for a supplement for my dog. I found prices ranging from $10 up to $75 for similar products. Of course, the cheaper ones appealed to me more on a brief scan, but I know that you get what you pay for with many products, and I wanted a powerful product – without paying too much.

I did not know anyone personally who was currently using anything like what I was looking for, so I went to the next best source – reviews from strangers. I did not even open any links for products under a 4-star rating. Those over 4-stars I opened and scanned the first few (always positive) reviews, and then went searching for the negative reviews to see what they had to say. It was those people who were not happy with the product that I wanted to hear from the most.

I also looked at the number of reviews each product had received. 5-stars but only three reviews? That seemed like a shaky review base, so I tended to shy away from those. I wanted a high number of reviews to make sure the “control group” was large enough to give me an adequate view of the product.

If people are searching for your company/product/service, see less than a 4-star rating, you can pretty much bet your link will not even be opened. Do not have very many reviews? You may be passed over for a company with a slightly less rating but with more people weighing in on the subject. 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses.

While the “Karen’s” of the world will be asking to speak to a manager, the majority of people will not say a word – until they vent behind the anonymity of their computers (of phones, tablets, etc.). Which means a company would not even know about the negative reviews unless they have an active Reputation Management system in place.

A negative review can drive away an estimated 40% of potential customers! However, that can be decreased by getting enough positive reviews to power down the effectiveness of a bad review. Higher starred businesses will still get enough business to counteract the power of a negative mark. Especially if the business has responded in a positive manner to anything negative reported. Proper Reputation Management is not only knowing how many stars you have on the multitude of review websites. It is also about properly, and promptly, responding to the reviews posted. There are so many these days, how can you ensure that you are properly monitoring all of them in an efficient and effective manner?

Mercantile Systems, Inc. (MSI) has again researched and discovered a way to help a growing problem! With our Reputation Management System, you will get a complete analysis if each of your locations’ reviews, retrieved from the major review websites. Our Reputation Management System is focused on fast and easy turnkey implementation.

-Monitor the reviews for each location from the most trusted review websites

-Complete a comparative performance analysis of different locations

-Analyze the reviews with comprehensive reports

-Focus on reviews with specific keywords (I.E. COVID-19)

-Direct links to reviews to respond quickly and efficiently

Contact an MSI team member today to find out how we can help you gain the online advantage by protecting your company’s reputation!

Improving Your Customers Experience

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have become a huge fan of ordering my groceries delivered straight to my door! Shipt is my app of choice. Their shoppers are amazing, and I always receive great customer service. However, recently I have run into some peculiar tech issues, that have seriously detracted from my experience. There are two different Targets within five miles of my house and mysteriously, the Target I order from somehow changed without my knowledge. Ordinarily, this might not be a big deal, except the Target my Shipt order switched to does not have any fresh produce and their selection is much more limited.

I spent almost an hour searching both the app and the website to try and find out what had happened. I finally connected with an online Associate, who was able to switch my ordering store back to the original Target. No explanation, or fix – just a hope that this won’t happen again. I love Shipt! I love the ease and convenience. However, if another order gets messed up by this glitch – I might have to start looking for a different service.

In fact, over 50% of consumers are less likely to engage with a company after a single bad experience. (Source: intechnic) Technological issues that you would never have even thought of will cost you customers, and revenue. Do you know what your customers are experiencing when they visit your website? What about your mobile app? What are the pain points? Where are users most likely to bounce? If you are not measuring your customers user experience, then you need to be. Investing into your user experience can be a more effective way to increase revenue then any marketing campaign. UXCam boasts that they have seen an average return on investing into UX of 9,900% meaning, that for every $1 that goes towards refining your customers UX your return would be $100, pretty crazy right?

The same study, by UXCam, showed that a staggering 80% of first-time users will abandon a mobile app or website if they have a bad user experience. You will very rarely (if ever) have the chance to get those customers back, even if you fix the issues that caused them to leave in the first place. Which means you need to know about any potential issues before the customer does! Repeated, in-depth User Experience (UX) audits are the most efficient way to find any points of frustration your customers may experience.

Mercantile Systems, Inc. (MSI) has been working diligently with many top companies to help customize their UX audits and we would love the chance to work with you, as well. We make sure that each company’s audits are designed to cater to YOUR target customers and their expectations, YOUR specific services and products, and YOUR steps of online service. We keep our costs low while maximizing your revenue. Contact an MSI team member today to find out more.

The ‘New’ Customer Experience

One negative feature on your website could be costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars, no matter how great your product or service may be. PwC conducted a study which showed that one in three customers would leave a brand they love after just one bad experience and 92% would refuse to return to a company after two or three bad experiences. It is key that your business is proactive in addressing customer frustrations, and this is easily done by completing frequent User Experience (UX) audits.

In a recent survey conducted by Mercantile Systems, Inc. (MSI), 2/3 of the respondents indicated that they recently had a noteworthy experience when using a service or product. Of those, less than 17% of the responses were recalling a positive experience, the overwhelming majority indicated that they had a noteworthy negative experience.

Despite frequent good experiences with a company, one respondent to our survey made the impactful statement, “It’s a miracle I still even use this service.” He was referring to a delivery service website in which he had always received great customer service and felt that the personal service went above and beyond, yet he had serious doubts about continuing based simply on the multiple tech issues he had to go through when using the app. A great example of how a second-rate experience can deter from a five-star product.

Another respondent told us about trying to order a specialty item online. After spending an inordinate amount of time re-doing the order repeatedly due to products being out of stock, the customer just gave up and went to a competitor.

There are countless pitfalls throughout an online ordering process that can cause customer frustration without a company even knowing they are occurring. Difficulty in navigating the system or inability to quickly locate the information they are looking for. Pages that take too long to load. Too many questions to answer. Not being able to view sites well on different devices (cell phones, tablets, etc). Even something as seemingly ridiculous as color scheme or too many photos can deter customers from your website. According to SWEOR, 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout are unattractive.

No matter what industry you are in, over the last decade your customers experience has changed. There has been a shift to digital, and COVID-19 has only amplified this. Forbes found that internet usage has increased by 70% since the pandemic began back in Spring. Your customers experience has changed, and you need to measure it.

 

Contact an MSI consultant today about how we can help.

 

 

What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You

User Experience (UX) audits allow a business to truly understand what their customers are experiencing when using their products or services. Whether ordering food, buying clothes, booking or renting a service, or just trying to reach a customer service representative, if a business is not looking at things from their customer’s point of view, they are missing critical information. What you don’t know will hurt you!

2020 has been a crash course into what finding out exactly what we did not know! Questions have emerged that we never even thought to ask before. There have been countless changes for both individuals and businesses, and we still have not even began living the “new normal” – whatever that means.

One of the biggest changes has been the complete dependency on online services. Whereas BC (Before COVID-19), online services were a nice luxury, they became a necessity that defines a business’s success. Unfortunately, this was not a slow growth process. Restaurants had literally hours to create and/or optimize their online options, whether curbside, to-go, or delivery. Retail outlets had mere days.

Businesses that had a strong online presence already had a small advantage. They still needed to make some major changes within a short amount of time. Adding COVID-19 safety measures and increased cleanliness procedures. Trying to decrease glitches in a time of growing delays and frustrations.

If you do not take the time to go through the process from the customer side of things, you will miss considerable opportunities to increase your visibility, provide more upsell opportunities, and create better customer appreciation. You will also decrease any unknown technological glitches and identify any areas of customer frustration.

MSI has over 65 years’ experience in gathering customer information and opinions. Mystery shopping and data collection is not just about sending one of our vast array of shoppers to a location to gather information on-site. We have nearly 100,000 evaluators at our disposal who have experience in online surveys, as well as extensive site familiarity.

Talk to an MSI team member today to find out more about UX audits and how we can provide the knowledge you need to succeed in today’s online atmosphere.

The Art of the Apology

Apologizing as a business is an art form. You cannot simply say, “I’m sorry.” The absolute worst thing you could say would be, “I’m sorry, but…” Placing the “but” in there (no matter how you phrase it) is reducing the impact of your apology. By learning from the successes of business giants such as Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and JetBlue, you strategize how to turn an error into a triumph. There are several factors that will add power to the apology:

  • Sincerity
  • Make it personal
  • Owning the issue
  • Clarify what happened without excusing it
  • Outlining the course of action planned

Sincerity must be the first aspect of any apology. When JetBlue made a huge miscalculation in weather which resulted in about 1,000 flights being cancelled in less than a week, founder and CEO David Neeleman sent on of the best examples of a sincere apology. You can read more about this effective apology in this University of Waterloo article (Source).

Neeleman started off stating how sorry and embarrassed the company was. He did not excuse, clarify, or explain in the introduction. He simply and sincerely expressed their apology, starting the entire letter off on the right tone. Going deeper into the letter, the CEO admits they let customers down and apologies were again expressed throughout the clarification of what went wrong. In closing, Neeleman states that the customers deserved better and that they could only hope that customers would give them the chance to regain their trust. The absolute sincerity that came through helped JetBlue recover from what could have been a company-closing event.

When Johnson & Johnson had a shortage of the O.B. line of tampons, customers were furious. They admitted to underestimating the degree of loyalty for the product and worked hard to get it back on the shelves as quickly as possible. In the meantime, they created one of the most personalized apologies ever by sending out over 65,000 emails to women in their database, apologizing to each by name in a personal video! One example can be viewed on YouTube here (Source).

These videos gained a huge amount of attention, with almost 60,000 unique views in just ten days. It showed the women that Johnson & Johnson was not only concerned with losing customers in a general sense, they were concerned with losing EACH customer individually. The ability to create a personal connection to so many women ensured that the brand loyalty remained despite such a huge error.

When Apple released the iPhone 4, problems with the built-in antenna created immediate issues with customers. Apple initially went with the solution to deny, deny, deny. When they released a statement that customers should just avoid holding the phone a certain way, customers viewed that as arrogant and felt that Apple was not taking responsibility for their oversight.

Finally, Steve Jobs held a press conference in which he admitted there was a problem and he apologized for it. Though he initially downplayed the issue, the end result was that Jobs said, “We care about every user. We’re not going to stop until every one of them is happy.” He then outlined the plan to reduce the problem in the future. By finally taking accountability and showing customers that they were going to work on fixing the issue, Jobs was able to save much of the customer frustration that had been created by the initial denials. Owning the problem was much more effective than trying to deny or downplay it.

Customers do not need or want excuses when things go wrong. A company may feel compelled to explain why it was not their fault or what was going on behind the scenes that led to the issue. However, that makes customers feel that the company is trying to get out of any responsibility. Apologizing does not necessarily mean admitting you did anything wrong, It is sometimes about admitting responsibility to the customers.

Taking from an old, but very effective example, in 1982, some people died from taking Extra-Strength Tylenol that had been laced with cyanide. While the investigation into what had happened was still in progress, and while experts were predicting the downfall of Tylenol completely, the company’s chairman, James Burke, immediately and decisively put reparative efforts into place. He accepted responsibility though the company was found to have done nothing wrong and created tamper-resistant packaging to ensure it did not happen again. Thanks to Burke’s quick thinking and sincere accountability, he saved the company from ruin and instead helped it turn into a billion-dollar business.

In all of the examples outlined here, the apologies included information as to how the company planned to proceed with fixing the issue. A company cannot simply state, “Oh, gee, sorry about that!” without providing follow-up information that it will not happen again. Otherwise, customers will feel that the company is not going to back-up their apology with action. This does not simply mean throwing money at the problem or issuing replacements. It means a change in policies, procedures, training, or anything else that will ensure the problem has been eradicated.

JetBlue took this a step further and issued a Customer Bill of Rights, while also providing more resources for their crewmembers to manage future operational difficulties. Johnson & Johnson increased production on their O.B. tampons and investigated distribution issues to make them more logistically effective. Apple investigated the antenna issues and fixed them in future models. Tylenol eliminated the option to sell products in capsule form that would be made directly available to consumers and they implemented tamper-resistant packaging. Each company not only offered sincere apologies, but also concrete plans to fix the issues, showing that they cared enough to ensure it did not happen again.

Mistakes, glitches, technical and operational problems WILL occur. For any company of any size, you must be prepared for how you handle those mistakes. By taking the time to create an honest, informative apology, you can turn a problem into a solution.

Poor Pete

Poor Pete! The Boss has given him one week to complete the internal audits at eight locations by the end of the week. Poor Pete also has a to-do list of other tasks sitting on his desk. He has meetings, calls to make, emails to answer, and a family he would like to see at some point. The Boss needs detailed information compiled into an informative, concise presentation to provide to the Executive Team Monday morning. Poor Pete cannot fail! But how can he get it all done?!

Each location is about an hour away from each other and he will need at least three to four hours at each site to gather the necessary information. That means four days will be completely devoted just to travel and location inspections. That gives Poor Pete only one day to put all the information he has gathered into a spreadsheet, analyze the data, and put together the presentation. If he has no delays and completely uninterrupted time, he MIGHT be able to finish the presentation in time – but nothing else on his to-do list will get done, leaving him backed up and just as stressed out the next week. Poor Pete is overwhelmed and feeling like he should give up before he even starts.

Now imagine the same scenario with Productive Pete. Productive Pete contacted MSI and asked them about their Cloud Based Internal Audit System. He signed up on the spot and is not only ready, but eager for the time to come when he needs to complete Internal Audits. When the Boss arrives and asks for a detailed IA presentation by the end of the week, Productive Pete jumps at the chance.

With MSI’s IA system downloaded onto his mobile device, Productive Pete is able to spend half the time at each location. He completes three audits a day instead of two. After finishing up the last audit, he uploads the information on his drive back to the office. When Productive Pete gets back to his office on Wednesday afternoon, he pulls up the secured report online and all of the data has been analyzed and placed into a clear, concise presentation for him.

Thursday morning, two days early, Productive Pete turns over the presentation to The Boss. He receives praise at his timeliness and sincere thanks for such an amazing report. Productive Pete has gone above and beyond what was expected. He turned in the reports early. All of this, while doing half the work! And Productive Pete still has time to clear his desk of the remaining to-do list before heading home, happy and satisfied, to spend time with his family.

Don’t be Poor Pete! Putting in too much work and time for a boring, basic end-result is not the way to go! Be like Productive Pete. Call MSI and find out how you can get above and beyond results with half the effort. We are here to make you look good!

Make Your Operations As Simple As They Appear To Be!

I must be completely honest here – a couple years ago, I would have likely guessed that the business operations of a storage company were relatively simple. How much could there really be to it?

Then I started working for Mercantile Systems, Inc (MSI). My introduction to storage companies was on the customer service side. The selling process alone was eye-opening! I was completely impressed by the step-by-step service that storage companies have a unique lock on. Unlike most industries, the storage industry selling technique has been in place for years and is perfected to a T. It truly is amazing to see it in action during mystery shops – when utilized correctly. However, all too often, employees deviate from the regimented process, resulting in a potential loss of sales, which is why mystery shopping is an imperative accountability tool for these companies.

A few months later, I received a crash course in the behind the scenes operations of storage companies. WOW! I was honestly blown away by how much internal procedures and policies must be in place. I fully admit my ignorance and apologize for simplifying the industry. You have so much to keep an eye on and I applaud you all for managing to make it look so easy.

I recently reviewed a customized Internal Audit (IA), AKA Site Audit or Back-of-Office Audit, that MSI carefully put together for one of our storage clients. Over 60 site-specific questions, many of which required detailed answers for different leases, units, and actionable items. From security to locking past due units to cleanliness to merchandise to maintenance. For managing one location, the amount that goes into it is amazing. For managing multiple locations, it must get overwhelming at times.

With a huge number of locations to maintain, the client whose Back-of-House Audit I was reviewing wisely talked to an MSI consultant about simplifying their IA processes. Working with us, they were able to create an audit designed by and for their specific industry. We took their specific concerns into consideration and used our Cloud-Based Internal Audit System to cut their costs and minimize the time and effort previously spent on the processes.

MSI has the ability to take your needs and simplify them. Complete the audits offline on a mobile device and upload it into the system when you are connected online. Take photos and videos for visual documentation. Then, sit back and let our system do the calculations and analysis for you. MSI’s IA System can track and trend the data from hundreds of locations over any period of time you desire. See how certain locations decreased or increased productivity over several years. Monitor how specific employees are performing at different times.

Make managing a storage company almost as easy as I originally thought it was! Let our Cloud-Based System do the work and provide improved reports. Contact an MSI consultant today and find out how we can simplify your IA (or Back-of-Office) audits for you.