The real challenge for every consumer-facing business is not the rising cost of doing business: it is changing the way we think about costs.
I’ve previously posted about the defeatist mentality of businesses that are locked into a downward spiral of cost-cutting – the only possible outcome of which is the alienation of employees first, and then of customers. Think BHS today, and WHS – if not tomorrow, then soon. You read it here first!
As I’ve said before, businesses need to become adept at delivering memorable, differentiated and personalised experiences – there truly isn’t any alternative (not even in online, or via increased deployment of technology). To do that, businesses must stop measuring only costs, and start measuring potential. Productivity doesn’t mean doing more with less, it means doing more with what you have.
In other words, this is about focusing and energising the whole organisation: becoming truly customer-centric; becoming truly people-centred. Machines don’t buy from you, people do. And first, they buy the experience you create.
Let’s keep it simple: I have a model to share that encompasses the five primary elements
of a consumer facing business – the STARS model:
S is for Story: your business must be guided by a compelling and coherent narrative. That narrative must involve the consumer in your brand experience, and everything the business does must underpin that experience. A great example is this Aveda concession – the story is “Be the Artist of You”.
T is for Team: everyone in your business must be focussed on delivering your Story – and this is the starting point for seeing potential not cost. Your “payroll” becomes your investment in a Team of Customer Experience Professionals, engaged and empowered to bring the Story to life in every interaction, with customers and with each other.
A is for Ambience: what does the experience look, feel, sound and smell like to your customer? Is it consistent with your story? Is it designed to maximise customer engagement? Does it facilitate the buying experience, and make it memorable? (Bear in mind that the experience must be consistent through every touchpoint – be it the physical or online setting, the way a product is delivered, installed and so on).
R is for Recipients: literally, everyone on the receiving end of your experience. Customers, yes (of course) – however, a truly customer-centric organisation designs the experience for its Team, partners, suppliers and stakeholders with equal care.
S is for Systems: here’s the rub – any amount of investment in product and setting, and any amount of marketing and discounting, will not save a business that is not operated in a manner consistent with its Story. For example:
- How do you recruit, engage, develop and motivate your Team members?
- How do you design, maintain and enhance the setting for your experience (Ambience)?
- Are your business processes based on your limitations, or your customers’ aspirations?
To sum up:
Every business has at its core the imperative to attract, serve and retain customers – however, especially as businesses grow and mature, there’s a tendency to be driven by financial and/or shareholder pressure instead of customer aspiration.
This leads to the syndrome of focussing on what can be measured today – revenues, costs, even historical performance – instead of identifying and unlocking potential.
The greatest potential in the business lies in re-engaging and re-energising the members of your Team, so that they will re-create your Story in every interaction with every Recipient. Achieve that, and you will have a loyal, productive Team creating loyal, productive customers.
What to do:
The starting point is to embrace the aspiration to unlock the latent potential in your business.
Next, a review: the STARS model can be used to identify where you are today, and what the opportunities are.
From there, an action plan – Project STARS – is devised, to engage the whole Team (from the Boardroom to the front line) in a coherent, compelling journey, with milestones and measurement of progress. Of course you will still be measuring actual performance, but your targets will be more aspirational and your options, in the event of underperformance, will be more, and better.
If you’d like to explore how Project STARS could enhance the profitability of your business, you can contact me on +44 (0)7921 812253 or send me an email.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the opportunity to turn your “payroll cost” into realised potential. There really isn’t a better way to stay in business.
Stephen Spencer is a keynote speaker, business coach and consultant, helping organisations create better Customer Experiences to unlock team and profit potential. He has over 25 years’ experience as a leader, trainer and experience developer with some of the UK’s most prestigious Retail, Tourism and Hospitality brands. Sign up for Stephen’s POSITIVE Customer Experience newsletter here.