Retailer Secrets: How to Stop Struggling With Feedback

After facilitating training courses to thousands of business owners and managers over the past 20+ years and spending a lot of time in stores, one of the biggest weaknesses I have witnessed is their lack of ability to provide effective feedback. A number of managers/owners are very hesitant to provide feedback, thinking it will end up in an argument, so they just avoid it altogether.

The Problem

The number one reason business owners and managers struggle with feedback are that most managers and owners have never been shown how to handle feedback. It’s a natural skill only a few possess, and very few people receive training on just how to provide effective feedback. Many try and copy the way they were given feedback by a current or previous boss and when this doesn’t work, they either try some other way or just give up.

Another reason is a lot of store managers get promoted because they are great at customer service and sales, so we think they will make a great manager. It’s a whole different skill set managing a team compared to managing yourself. Just because you were the best salesperson, it doesn’t mean your team will simply follow your lead.

Feedback needs to be given at the moment, ideally as soon as the right or wrong behaviour has been witnessed. This is another issue in that managers and owners are either too busy and don’t notice when their team members do something wrong or right, or too busy to provide the feedback right then.

When feedback is provided too long after the issue, it is often wasted since the staff member can’t remember what actually happened.

“The Formula”

As most managers and owners struggle with providing feedback, due to time, they don’t know what to say or they expect the staff member to get defensive, any feedback has to counter these issues. You can’t ignore when a staff member is not doing something correctly; otherwise, you are virtually saying it’s OK to not perform at the correct level of expectation.

No one likes being criticised, so to create a positive outcome feedback has to be constructive and encouraging, avoiding blaming the language.

The feedback process (addressing when a team member is not doing the right thing), is one we have used for many years to train thousands of managers and owners, works for any age group, across all different industries, and for any situation. We call this type of feedback “improvement feedback” and it’s broken down into four simple parts which are:

  1. What’s the issue? Deal in facts – what did the staff member say or do (or not say or do)
  2. Get them involved by asking these questions:
    • How could you improve for next time?
    • Why is it important to do it that way?
  3. Get a commitment from them to change for next time
  4. Catch them doing it right – as soon as you can!


Catching people doing it right

One of the simplest things a manager or owner can do to motivate their team is providing positive feedback when they witness them doing something right. This is so powerful when it follows on from providing improvement feedback.

This tells the team member:

  • You actually care enough and have taken the time to follow up
  • You are committed to helping them be successful

However, what most managers and owners do is the exact opposite. They focus on what their team members are doing wrong and make sure they tell them, yet miss the opportunity to motivate them by providing praise.

We recommend that staff should receive at least 4 to 5 times more positive feedback than improvement feedback. And the great thing about providing positive feedback is, it only takes about 5 – 10 seconds, so it can easily be provided on the job.

When you employ improvement feedback, it takes away blame and judgment and forces the staff member to think and come up with an answer to solve the issue or confirm that they know why doing it the right way is important.

The beauty of the improvement feedback model is that it’s relatively quick— it only takes around 15 – 25 seconds, so it can be used on the job and doesn’t require the staff member to come to the office. I have observed this process being used on the job many times when helping managers and owners to put this in place after the training and it works 99% of the time.

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.