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A view of the industry through the eyes of independent and chain retailers.

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Why You Need an Executive of Customer Experiences

Someone to study what your customers do, act, think, and where they shop.

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (May 3, 2010)

There’s a new revolution coming your way – a Retail Revolution where everything is about to be changed, re-defined, or eliminated.

What will the Retail Revolution impact? How about advertising, acquisition, strategies, blue laws, buyers, capital, census, chain stores, competition, consumers, department stores, discount stores, big boxes, independent retailers, retail employees, and retail employment; marketing, social medias, the Internets, full price, sale pricing, promotional pricing, retail growth, income, manufacturers, suppliers, vendors, inventory, investment, labor force, market share, operations, payroll/sales ratio, outlet stores, population, profit margin, retail industry, retail strategies, retail events, urban locations, suburban locations, NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), trends …. We’re exhausted and we haven’t reached the tip of the iceberg. Or the depth of the Revolution!

RETAIL REVOLUTION: NEW ASSIGNMENT – ECE 

Lately, we’ve been on the look out for Revolutionary Retailers who have embraced the Revolution and are doing the things that are right for today’s customers. We’ve met the good and we’ve then the outstanding. Here you’ll meet two outstanding grocers but only one who has joined the Revolution.

Store number one is a large, well known grocery store that we were excited to visit. Once inside, we were immediately impressed with the store’s bright, colorful décor. The music wafting through the aisles was upbeat and the sound of shoppers shopping was strong. There were plenty of customers and almost every register was open – what more can you ask for?

Half way into the store we stumbled across a big-deal, in-store event – lots of product demos to help solve that quick dinner dilemma most of us occasionally have. Okay, frequently have …. Customers were enjoying the samples (you know our motto: Food is Good!) and they were perusing the menu and recipe cards they could take to help recreate the dishes at home. Pretty cool.

Or was it?

We were not seeing the smiling faces we expected to see, so we asked a number of customers what they thought of the event. The collective answer: Not so much.

One man summed it all up when he said, “This isn’t such a big deal, or even new. Every grocery store does this.” He said his next stop was another grocery store (he prefers their produce) just a little over a mile away. He urged us to check them out and we did.

Store number two also had good ambiance and plenty of shoppers. This store was clean and, we had to admit, the produce was spectacularly displayed. Even better was the customer noise; it was over-the-top laughter sprinkled with applause. So we followed our ears to a demonstration of … You guessed it: Quick dinners. This time there was a twist. In addition to the expected food samplings, this retailer had included a mini-cooking school – customers were actually preparing the entrees right on the sales floor. There was a crowd of shoppers watching and taking in the inside tips from the store’s resident chef. We looked at each other and smiled, knowing that each of the two stores we visited were essentially doing same thing. The difference was the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

You know we asked questions. We wanted to know why the second retailer made such a production of quick dinners. “Easy,” said a store associate. “Our focus in on the customer experience. We value that more than counting how many people go through the checkouts each day.”

Music to our ears! For years we’ve talked about the importance of “The Sultan of Sizzle” – the person assigned to add pizazz to whatever is going on in the store. It’s the Sultan’s job to look at everything from the customer’s point of view; the Sultan influences everything in the store from sales floor layout to in-store events and promotions. And it’s a big influence, and an even bigger impact.

We’ve been told that Wal-Mart – yes, Wal-Mart – has someone in the position of Vice President of Customer Experiences. That’s just pure brilliance. Here’s a company that understands the importance of market share expansion, but also understands that because customers today compare the retail experience from store to store, their stores need to stand out.

It’s no longer 1995 and the same-old, same-old rules of retail no longer apply. Every retailer – yourself included – needs to change because your competitors are changing, too. The battlefield is raging for the top position in the mind of the consumer. And once consumers learn that a trip to the store can include great service, a unique experience, and be FUN all at the same time, they will demand those qualities from every place they shop.

And so we say, every, single retailer in business today needs to appoint an Executive of Customer Experiences (ECE). This job description includes knowledge of what’s going on beyond the four walls of the store, and how the store can affect the customer experience. Your ECE’s job is talking with customers, walking the customer walk, visiting places your customers hang out, even if that’s a competitor or a business that has nothing to do with what you sell – the goal of the ECE is to know and understand what your customers are up to, and what they expect from you, at any given time. The job of ECE holds a lot of responsibility.

We’re in a Retail Revolution. This means we need to do business differently than we have ever done business before. As the old ways of doing business make way for the new, don’t waste another moment on things that no longer work the way they used to work. Instead, meet with your team and talk about the customer experience in your store. Find out what they know and how you can combine this information with new and unique ideas to grow your business. You will see the value of creating the office of Executive of Customer Experiences. Once you make this customer-centric move you will have officially joined the Retail Revolution.

(Note: To read previous columns by Rich and Georganne, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)

KIZER & BENDER Speaking! 

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COPYRIGHT KIZER & BENDER 2009. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

xxx

 

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