Pete's Pumpkin Carving Quest
On the Saturday before Halloween, my son-in-law Pete went looking for pumpkin carving devices. When he left our house to run the errand, he thought he would be back in a jiffy. 90 minutes later, we began to worry about him. When he did finally get back to our house, he told me this story. Before he hopped into his car and drove around town, he decided that he should look online. He checked the web site of one of his favorite regional super centers. On the web site he found out that there were 19 pumpkin carving kits in stock in Ankeny. More than enough to carve pumpkins for his family, even if there was a run on the kits before he got there.
When he got to the store, being a self-sufficient male, he looked around for the kits by himself. After a while of not finding them, he found an associate and asked for help. They walked to where the kits should be and neither Pete nor the associate could find them. The associate then looked at his phone and checked the inventory listing. The screen showed him the same thing it showed Pete when he looked, there should be 19 kits in the store. They tried the seasonal section, no luck. They tried the garden section, no luck. Then the associate called for more help.
Two more young associates came to the rescue, and then there were three associates trying to help. In theory that is good customer service. After Pete and the first associate explained what they were looking for and having trouble finding, one of the associates started looking on his presumably more accurate device. His discovery was identical to what both Pete and the associate discovered, there should be 19 kits in stock in the store, somewhere. The third associate went to find a manager to help. Neither he nor a manager ever returned to help.
One more quick look around for those elusive 19 pumpkin carving kits, and the employees admitted defeat. There might be 19 kits in the store, but they sure didn’t know where they were. The presumption was that the computer updated inventory once a day and all 19 kits must have been sold. Pete walked away without the pumpkin carving kits he wanted. As small business owners and managers, web sites and computer inventory systems are critical to our survival. An out of date web site can turn off a potential customer faster than no web site at all. While an up to date, accurate and helpful web site can help gain customers that you might not touch otherwise.
The more interactive your web site is with your potential customers, the more likely those customers are to buy something from you. Some small businesses get by with a very simple web site with only their hours of operation and a phone number. But they are missing out on lots of sales. Web sites are not that expensive to build and maintain. The more customer questions you can answer via the internet, the better your chances of making a sale.
As far as inventory management systems go, there are dozens to choose from at mostly reasonable prices. You do not need the latest, highest cost technology, but knowing what you have in stock and don’t have in stock is essential. A store like the regional super center Pete was shopping at, should have most certainly have a real time inventory system knowing exactly how many pumpkin carving kits they have on hand. Small businesses know their inventory, but they still need a system to help them manage it.
Pete checked the regional super center web site again the night before Halloween. He didn’t need the pumpkin carving kits anymore because he bought them from a competitor. But the web site said they still had 19 kits in stock. Which is not surprising assuming they still couldn’t find them.