Are you connected?BY Paul Farina
When discussing customer satisfaction, our attention is often drawn towards shopfloor elements such as visual merchandising, product ranging, seasonal promotions, and frontline staff performance. In fact, there are many ways to rate satisfaction from our online review results, to a Net Promoter Score or the percentage of referrals we receive. But in the contemporary retail landscape, there is one element that stands to affect all of these and many more.
You may be an owner operator of a small retail business, or the CEO of a Publicly Owned Enterprise, but in either case (and for everything in between), one critical action is to be connected with your target customer. To simultaneously understand your customer’s needs and wants, as well as understand the ways your overall team are delivering the experience on a daily basis.
It is usual to find ourselves taking multiple meetings, reviewing results, going to buying expos, dealing with financial issues, and a whole stream of macro and micro managerial tasks. In focusing on these tasks, it is very common that a dis-connect starts to appear. All of the sudden, all decisions are made on the basis of numbers. Excel spread sheets and weekly reports become our guiding lights. We can find ourselves buried under our ‘to-do lists’ in our back offices, with the shop floor becoming a drain on our time rather than our focus. And before you know it the end of the financial year has come and gone, and the preparations for Christmas are underway again.
But, in all of the craziness, and the wins and loses along the way, it’s important to ask yourself if you have stayed connected with your customers and with your frontline staff. Find out if you are in tune with the gap between what the customers want and what they are being delivered. These are confronting questions, but it is all too common that we are relying on diluted opinions and the interpretation of statistics to make decisions. Decisions which we hope will grow our business through customer experience resulting in higher spends and increased loyalty.
By no means am I understating the importance of reliable data in a retail operation. Working with your Key Point Indicators (KPI’s), and SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed) is a part of any retail best practice. But, there is a big BUT! And this is that numbers can only tell us so much. There is an intangible something that pure data by itself misses. The look in your consumer’s eye when they walk into one of your locations. The tone of voice the staff use when discussing benefits of a product. Or, the enjoyment a casual worker actually gets when finding the right product for a frantic customer.
And then there are the problems. A customer’s silent annoyance of the extra click they need to make on our online shop even when they buy the product anyway. The lack of attention to detail with keeping the shelves clean and tidy on one of our displays. Or, the irritation a customer feels at the cash and wrap area when the sales assistant can’t find a pen.
All of these small opportunities amount to a huge array of opportunities a retail business can tap into and increase their ability to delight customers and enhance the fun and enjoyment of a shopping experience within a store.
One of the key actions is for the leader to get out there, and see it for themselves. If you are an owner operator on the floor regularly, then make sure you tune into what customers are saying. Listen to customer interactions with your team and your team’s experiences. Ask lots of questions. Be the human sponge and build a library of examples that support your decision making. This becomes a potent weapon when matched with those weekly statistics and KPI’s mentioned earlier.
And for the Area Manager, Regional Manager, or CEO, be sure to spend a day here or there on the frontline. Roll your sleeves up, and work side by side with your team on a Saturday afternoon, or a Thursday evening. Taking on this active role once a month or once a quarter could give you the insight to make high impact decisions to catapult your business forward compared to competitors.
By taking such actions, a leader can remain connected. The crucial element any retail operation requires. Connecting on a human level with frontline of the retail operation truly is the secret weapon to being able to deliver great customer experiences on a consistent basis.
Paul has over 15 years of sales, marketing, and management experience from small independent business all the way through to the corporate world. Working with small business leaders, Paul focuses on team dynamics, systems, and adaptability to positively impact revenue. Learn more at fresheyesolutions.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul is the Founder of Fresh Eye Solutions.