Posted in Customer Service, Management, People

Do you know your a#@se from your CXD?

Customer Experience is NOT what you think

There are three compelling reasons why (bricks & mortar) retailers should conquer the science and the art of delivering customer experiences.

ONE: Declining manufacturing as a % of GDP.

Even in Australia there has been the increasing reliance on services. According to Wikipedia, the 2010 estimates are as follows:

•           AU GDP by sector: agriculture (4%); industry (24.8%); services (71.2%)

TWO: Consumers will pay more for experiences than they will pay for stuff.

In 1970 spend on services exceeded spend on products for the first time – and in 2009 we spent 2x on services: (66%) of retail spend in the US is on services:

DIY has become DIFM (Do IT For Me).

The challenge you face is to add a service dimension to whatever you sell (product or service.

THREE: Delivering an experience is the single most important, sustainable differentiator.

Web-designers spend a lot of time on (UXD – user experience design) because they understand that if you lose the browser for a split-second it they are gone with a single click. Retailers have the opportunity and the ability to create an experience that counts (CXD) – but few do.

What is a ‘customer experience’?

  • It is NOT customer service.

A clean store, friendly and helpful staff and user-friendly return policies – for example – is customer service not customer experience.

The great unspoken assumption is that you have the base right: great products or services at the right price, presented well and great customer service that meets expectations. Customer service is not longer a differentiator, it is cost of entry.

  • It is NOT shoppertainment.

It is not singing and dancing, it is not plasma screens and things that fall out of the roof – that is shoppertainment, not customer experience.

Customer experience comprises all of the above, but above all customer experience has an emotional dimension.

How do you create the emotional connections?

This is of course quite complicated because human being are complicated – and their emotions especially so.

My favourite new consumer is NewNowLo and she is not Chinese: She is the person that moved from wanting new à demanding new, now at low prices.

The world is changing and people are moving from:

  • Needing stuff >>> Demanding experiences
  • Conformity >>> Customisation
  • Plutocracy >>> Democracy
  • Self >>> Community

Consider just two emotions and a few retailers that do a reasonably good job of delivering that emotional connection.

AROUSAL OF THE SENSES

 

  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Starbucks

 

EXCITEMENT/TENSION FROM NOVELTY

 

  • Zara
  • Daily Deals
  • Anthropologie

 

Delivering the customer experience is reliant on the H-Factor. That was the basis of the talk I delivered recently at the Melbourne Retail Expo and Conference.

I have publised the latest newsletter (ReadThinkLearnLaugh). SUBSCRIBE HERE and receive access to the latest issue which contains a series of screencasts exploring how you create and deliver a customer experience. (HINT: customer experience is NOT customer service.) I have based on the presentation menioned above – and there is a special offer for readers 😉

 

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Posted in Management, People, Productivity

Fiddle

When I say to people that it does not matter what you do, but that you do, they look at me as if I have broccoli in my teeth.

Every entrepreneur must go through the stage where they have to step up to managing people as part of their growth curve. Usually this causes some discomfort to all but the most natural people managers.

When it comes to people management, there is a lot of advice around. The problem is that it is usually contradictory as you find out when you dig deep enough or have been around long enough.

Not to worry; the reality is that it does not matter what you do, just that you do.

Just fiddle, that is.

The ‘Hawthorne Effect’ is what happens when people improve or modify an aspect of their behaviour simply in response to the fact that they are being studied. That is, they change because they are being studied.

The term was coined in 1950 by Henry Landsberger when reviewing experiments conducted earlier at the Hawthorne Works by Elton Mayo (image) to see if its workers would become more productive in higher or lower levels of light. The workers’ productivity seemed to improve when changes were made and slumped when the study was concluded. It did not matter whether the lighting was better or worse, their productivity went up.

So it is with managing people. As long as you are showing them some love – fiddle with the structure, fiddle with the benefits, fiddle with the staff uniforms – any kind of fiddling really, they feel happy – or at least happier.

Companies go through natural cycles; centralisation, decentralisation or diversification and then focus on the core business. (See what I mean by contradictions?) There is always an argument to be had for the opposite of the status quo, so companies use this to effect changes – which will usually work – at least in the short term.

Switch on the lights, switch off the lights.

Just show that you care.

That is the basic rule of management.

Posted in Merchandising, People, Retail Operations

They said…

This post is not about the shameless self-promotion. It is about being proud to have made a difference.

Listed below are some of the comments from agents that attended the Retail Remedy makeover:

 “I thought it was outstanding. Ed and Jo have done an excellent job and are inspired to do more.  As Ed and Dennis said, News Ltd was the catalyst to freshen up a ‘tired’ Newsagency and should be congratulated. This whole concept can help ‘fix’ a lot of similar Newsagencies at not a great expense”.

 “As we are doing a makeover of one of our walls at the moment I found it inspiring and have picked up some great ideas from Eddie and Jo. I felt that it was like walking into a complete new shop. Once again thankyou to NWN and Dennis and his wife for a great worthwhile promotion”.

 “After seeing the shop on the first presentation I didn’t think it needed that much doing to it, but when we saw the completed makeover I can’t believe the difference it made”.

 “I thought the completion was good, but they should have focused more of the magazine stand at the front of the shop, I know that they plan to do that next, but I would have done it first as it is the first thing customers see.  The rest of the makeover was great”.

 “The whole idea of getting the newsagencies together with these workshops is a brilliant initiative of News Ltd, because when we get together we network & communicate and that’s where newsagents get their strengths from.  When Dennis said to just move things around in the shop as you notice it more when you do, is great advice and we should all do more of it.  I like the changes that Ainslie made and it has made a vast improvement on the look of the shop, I will be experimenting in my shop with my stock placement in the coming weeks.”

 “I thought it was a terrific improvement and you could really notice the changes, we will be taking a lot of the ideas shown to us and using them when we move into our new shop location next month”.

 “The changes are good, the before & after is very different, we are doing the survey and I am working with my senior staff to see where we can make improvements in our own shop.”

 “The whole shop looks brighter and there are noticeable improvements, the makeover overall looks great, it shows what a little money spent in the right areas can do”.

Posted in Customer Service, Marketing, People

Bee bee dee dee beee dee

“You haven’t lost your smile at all, it’s right under your nose. You just forgot it was there.” (Anon)

 Roger Dooley wrote recently that the Japanese are developing robot babies and those inanimate objects can spark human emotion.

Consider the different emotions of the robot baby below. (People involuntarily smile when they look at the face with the smile and open eyes, and the opposite happens when they look at the sullen face of the robot baby.)

And these feelings are created by a robot! 

 

(Positive emotion – 2nd from left. Negative emotion 2nd from right.)

 

If a fake (inanimate) object can create emotions in people, it seems that even an insincere greeting/contact/ service touch point would be better than none at all.

We love where we live, but the service is shocking. The local council and chamber want to encourage ‘buy local’ but it is doomed simply because people know a shitake mushroom when they are served one.

Just in the last week:

  • A junior staff member blamed me (Moonyeen) when I returned a faulty shirt and said “you must have hooked in on a something and that is the reason for the tear in the shirt”.
  • We stopped for a roadside takeaway, but when served on plates, we indicated that is was for takeaway. Instead of just making the change, she actually fetched the docket to verify our claim before wrapping the toasted sandwich in the smallest piece of paper she could manage.
  • Space, and the fact that swearing would be inappropriate, prevents me from relating the service at the post office.
  • The local coffee shop, may or may not greet you at all when you walk in, may or may not tick the loyalty card and in fact may or may not serve the coffee at all – because they ‘forgot’. And, I kid you not, actually hid the newspaper under the counter when I came in because I always read the paper with my morning coffee.
  • The staffer at the bakery actually throws the roll in the microwave if you ask for it to be warmed up and then returns it with a fairly significant and obvious shove.
  • The local newsagent treats us well – gives us special rates even though we are not account customers. But when they take a (well-deserved) break, it is a different story.

And it is not just us. We know we are critical – it comes with the territory when you run a mystery shopping for a living – but one of my trainees (age 18) wrote on his Facebook recently that he cannot wait for the time when he does not ever need to go and visit a retail store in his life.

I may prefer a robot behind the counter that will smile when you walk in, and will still smile even if you screw up the order and smile when the fixt it; even if it fake.

Other customers may just order online and be happy with a J – even if it is just an emoticon.

And if you think it is not happening in your business, I am really sorry to say you may have to think again.

I wonder how much those robots charge per hour?

Posted in People

Everything you think about HR, but did not want to say.

Retail is a great business to be in. After you get over the initial stages (earning the minimum wage) the scope for advancement is excellent, the pay is fair, and you could not ask for a more exciting, varied job in any business environment. (The Coles MD is reported to be in line for a $38 million bonus if he hits his five year targets – even if that is wrong by 50 per cent, it is certainly compares favourably with any other industry – banking excepted…)

The following home truths are somewhat brutal. They are aimed at people joining an organisation in a managerial capacity with aspirations to get to the top. I have no particular expertise in this area, but do I have a BTDT degree in corporate shenanigans (been there, done that).

Whilst some HR people will take offence, the good ones won’t. They have a role to play in the business – and a valuable one at that. Just not in the way that some of them think and would like to have you think.

When you join a company

Just sign the paper work. Don’t ask questions don’t try and make connections. Don’t talk about your career path with anyone. They have no power and little influence – it is your line manager’s call.

While you are working

Never approach HR for help, counselling or advice. You will be seen as weak by the rest of the business. And the only real assistance HR can give you as just more advice and counselling. They can’t make your problem with the boss go away. (They already know your boss is a jerk, but they can’t do anything about that unless his/her boss wants to anyway.)

When you leave a company

They are watching you and your internet traffic. Don’t even think about leaking something or taking something. If you do, good riddance and you deserve to be slapped with whatever they can slap you with.

I they make counter-offer, do not accept the offer. The company has a long memory and will always wonder when you’re going to threaten to quit again.

Decline the exit interview. They don’t really care; they don’t really do anything with the data and they know you won’t be stupid enough to burn any bridges.

And here is a piece of advice I give only because I care:

If you have a complaint about the company (harassment, discrimination etc.) my advice (not legal opinion) is for you to LEAVE. It is a battle you can’t win, and it is a company you don;t want to work for anyway.

(And if you think I am wrong; does Kristy Fraser Kirk and DJs ring a bell?)

Conclusion

HR can be very useful to an organisation by managing training, payroll, recruitment etc. But like Marketing and Finance, HR is a staff department and not a line department. They are experts in their domain but can shape the careers of the people in their respective departments only. (Your boss can tell HR to give you a go, but HR will never be able to convince your boss if he/she doesn’t believe you deserve it.)

The first principle is always to identify the decision maker in anything and deal with them. If you are trying to sell something, deal with the economic decision maker only. If you are trying to advance your career, deal with the person that can make the decision.

HR are expert advisers not decision makers. If you have an issue (any issue not just a people/performance one), identify the real decision maker and go to them. Don’t assume that is HR even if they tell you they are or can solve that particular problem.

This does not diminish their role, because there can only be one decision maker and that is the person responsible. If you can’t figure out who that is, you probably deserve the advice you will get from whomever you ask.

And finally, do not assume that the decision maker is the person that the organisational structure or job description depicts as the decision maker.

The real skill of getting ahead is being able to chart your own path to cross those who can make a difference to yours.

Posted in Management, People, Strategy

YOU

Last week I asked the question: ‘What’s your problem?’

In a nutshell, I postulated that there are ‘everyday’ problems and then there are problems associated with the specific inflection points as the business goes though its lifecycle.

The good news is that there is a solution, and even better news is that you already know the answer.

This week I want to post the answer, specifically for businesses trading in a maturity stage of the lifecycle. That is, businesses that must ‘jump the curve’.

Right now, almost every traditional, bricks-and-mortar retail business has to also jump the curve due to the environmental forces shaping the industry, so the answer is quite pertinent to many readers.

If you want to be around in 10 years, you must be relevant.

If you want to be relevant, you have to offer something of value.

The things that customers value have not changed in centuries. How they seek and find that value has changed and is changing. And, their ability and propensity to source alternate solutions (to yours) has vastly changed too.

What is the solution?

I shall turn to the management guru of gurus to give you the answer.

Tom Peters wrote this on last Friday – and I couldn’t have hoped for a better endorsement of this solution:

  • You take care of the people.
  • The people take care of the service.
  • The service takes care of the customer.
  • The customer takes care of the profit.
  • The profit takes care of the re-investment.
  • The re-investment takes care of the re-invention.
  • The re-invention takes care of the future.

(And at every step the only measure is EXCELLENCE.)

I will briefly discuss only the first few steps in this process since most are pretty self-evident, and space does not permit elaboration.

To reiterate:

The success of any venture always starts with a passionate, committed and motivated person who empowers their team to deliver great customer experiences.

Stop – if you think ‘I have heard that before’ or ‘what’s new’ or even ‘oh no , not that topic again.’

You may have heard it.

You may even get it.

But have you actually done it?

If you read this post of mine (June 2010) titled: Neither customers nor employees should be your priority; you will see where the process really starts. HINT: Look at the first word in Tom’s post above.

If the good news is that we ‘know’ the answer, the bad news is that most retail entrepreneurs will not appreciate the solution and the worst news is they will not implement the solution.

You have to seriously examine yourself:

  • Are you doing what you are doing with a long-term perspective – and are therefore willing to face reality and do something about it, or are you hoping to sell and get out soon?
  • Do you think the future is just SSDD (same s&%t, different day) – which means you buy stock, get it on the shelves, juggle the roster of part-timers and wait for customers to arrive, or are you excited about the challenges you are facing?

There are many (more) questions, but I shall leave the self-examination up to you. The reason I ask these questions, is because your attitude is contagious. If you don’t believe; if you don’t change; if you don’t deliver – then no one will.

My favourite quote of all time is this:

 

The way you do anything is the way you do everything.

Think about that.

Secondly, the one element of the retail mix that you have to absolutely nail is the delivery of a great customer experience; one that customers would not trade for the world.

Readers of my newsletter received a 15p guide on how to build customer service into the organisation. (Email me if you would like a copy.)

The difference between online and offline retail is just that: the experience.

Shopping in the real world is changing:

  • People are more social.
  • People have more options and less money.
  • People value their time more than ever.

This translates to a simple solution:

When they are in your store, you have to really engage them with a personal, relevant and satisfying and entertaining and authentic experience.

When they are not in your store, you still have to maintain relevance and still give them the option to buy from you by having an online presence. And guess what? Your online presence has to be personal, relevant, satisfying, entertaining and authentic.

It is easier than ever to set up an online store. There is a Facebook app that simply slots in as one of the tabs of your Facebook site.

  • Have a look at SHOPTAB – starting from $10 per month. Have a look at for instance the shop COLEMAN has set up using that system.
  • Or the latest company to launch in this space is STORENVY – which is free.

There is no excuse for not competing in the online space. You will have to change some things, sure, but those are just ordinary, everyday problems. (It does require a different mindset from your current one, but not different from the one you should have anyway.)

The more difficult problem is still to effect the change of attitude that will allow you to jump the curve.

And this is much harder to fix. But unless you do that, nothing will change. And if nothing changes, your business will slide down the maturity curve to its natural conclusion.

As Tom said:

  • You take care of the people.
  • The people take care of the service.
  • The service takes care of the customer.

The rest takes care of itself…

But it is only after you have made that commitment to change, that you should think about designing a new customer experience that your people will embrace –and deliver to your customers – profitably.

Make some decisions. Get stuff happening.

Have fun. (You can, and you really should.)

Dennis

PS: Read the second last sentence again…

Posted in Management, People, Personal Development

Brutal truths about HR

The following home truths are somewhat brutal. They are aimed at people joining an organisation in a managerial capacity with aspirations to get to the top.

Whilst some HR people will take offence, the good ones won’t. They have a role to play in the business – and a valuable one at that. Just not in the way that some of them think and would like to have you think.

When you join a company

Just sign the paper work. Don’t ask questions don’t try and make connections. Don’t talk about your career path with anyone. They have no power and little influence – it is your line manager’s call.

While you are working

Never approach for help, counselling or advice. You will be seen as weak by the rest of the business. And the only real assistance thy can give you as just more advice and counselling. They can’t make your problem with the boss go away. (They already know your boss is a jerk, but they can’t do anything about that unless his/her boss wants to anyway.)

When you leave a company

They are watching you and your internet traffic. Don’t even think about leaking something or taking something. If you do, good riddance and you deserve to be slapped with whatever they can slap you with.

I they make counter-offer, DO NOT accept the offer. The company has a long memory and will always wonder when you’re going to threaten to quit again.

Decline the exit interview. They don’t really care; they don’t really do anything with the data and they know you won’t be stupid enough to burn any bridges.

Conclusion

HR can be very useful to an organisation by managing training, payroll, recruitment etc. But like Marketing and Finance, HR is a STAFF department and not a LINE department. They are experts in their domain and can shape the careers of the people in their respective departments only.

The first principle is always to identify the decision maker in anything and they are expert ADVISERS not decision makers. If you have an issue (any issue not just a people/performance one), identify the real decision maker and go to them. Don’t assume that is HR even if they tell you they are or can solve that particular problem.

This does not diminish their role, because there can only be one decision maker and that is the person responsible. If you can’t figure out who that is, you probably deserve the advice you will get from whomever you ask.

And finally, do NOT assume that the decision maker is the person that the organisational structure or job description depicts as the decision maker. This is the real skill of getting ahead.