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CHAPTER NINE
We love shopping
here!
Give customers the best possible experience when they visit your store
that’s how you’ll make more money. There the most blindingly obvious
sentence in the whole book! Yeah, of course such things as cost control,
the basics of margin and pricing have to be right too but the starting point
for everything we do in retail is the customer. How they feel about us,
what they want from our stores and how we meet those needs. Sending
customers out of your stores with a big smile on their faces, a smile that
lasts through getting their new stuff home and using it, is your absolute
priority. So, how do we paste that smile on their happy chops? Read on,
my friends, read on!
Great customer service
I often talk about how customer service isn’t an add-on activity – that great
service quality comes from everything you do as a retailer. Some clients,
understandably, feel that I’m hiding the secret to great service quality . . .
well, thing is, there isn’t one. What I can do here though is to point out
more of the places in which you can work to create overall improvements
in the customer experience.
That word ‘experience’ is important: great customer service is made up of
lots of individual customer experiences and I much prefer using the word
‘experience’ rather than ‘service’. It’s not a daft nod towards consultant
blether I reckon it’s easier to understand how to improve things if you
think at the individual level: ‘What can I do for each individual customer?
How can I make their specific experience of my store a great one?’ But
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when you talk about service, it feels like a nebulous thing it’s general
and non-specific.
First and foremost, it’s worth talking about why most initiatives focused
on service quality fail. Sometimes a marketing team will take a look at their
list of ‘things to do’ and one of the bullet points will read ‘make customers
love us again’ and they’ll commission an agency, or two, to come over and
create some sort of ‘service event’. They’ll then have jolly good fun taking
this event around the store estate and they’ll say to people ‘we order you,
albeit in a nice way, to smile at customers and be their friends and love
them so they will love us’.
And these one-off initiatives often deliver big early uplifts in customer
satisfaction then those gains die off, usually quickly, and before long
everything returns to normal. That’s because the focus always moves on –
no matter how committed a retailer is to raising customer service quality,
there is always another issue waiting in the wings to occupy the minds of
management and teams.
Permanent improvements in standards of customer care have to be earned
from the ground up you can’t change things by layering initiatives onto
unstable foundations. Building from the ground up is harder work but
ultimately more satisfying because gains become self-sustaining and per-
manent. Dieting is a good analogy crash dieting creates instant weight
loss but almost always results in a net weight gain once the focus slips.
Changing eating behaviours, seeking support, changing attitudes to food
and learning about nutrition means slower weight loss but, for the vast
majority, permanent and self-sustaining success.
‘Self-sustaining’ is the key phrase a successful assault on changing the
behaviours and relationships that lead employees to want to deliver great
customer care becomes a positive viral thing: changes feel good, staff get
more from their employment experience and customers get more from
shopping the store. Even better these changes reinforce each other in a
virtious circle:
Happier staff better customer experience happier customers better inter-
action with staff happier staff . . . and round and round.

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