Well it’s been quite a few days here in the UK: there are more questions than answers, and uncertainty – that enemy of business confidence and growth – seems set to be with us for at least the next few months, if not years.
So what should business do for the best?
I had two experiences last week that showed, simply yet dramatically, where business’ focus should be over the foreseeable future: on engaging and empowering people to deliver memorable Customer Experiences.
I visited a museum at the weekend – just scraping in on the last day of a heavily-promoted, blockbuster exhibition.
As I waited at the ticket desk, I noticed that, despite there being a queue, only one team member was selling tickets – and yet there were four team members behind that desk. Two of the other three were having a chat; the other was (there’s no other word for it) slumped in her chair, staring into space.
The exhibition was great – I’d recommend it to you, but it’s over!
Also over is the massive opportunity the museum had to maximise its return on investment…
Kick-ass Retail is about knowing the market, knowing what is available and finding ways to go one better. That’s why I happily walked over 20 kilometers in a day on my 27th visit to the International Spring Fair at the NEC (I’ve attended most of the Autumn Fairs too). I’ve long ago learned to shut my ears to those who say “I hate the Spring Fair. It’s too big”, or variations on the theme of “I can’t be bothered to go the extra mile (let alone the extra 12)”. Being better than the competition involves hard work, constantly evolving expertise, and the rocket fuel that is Enthusiasm.
So what are my five top tips for getting the most out of trade fairs so that you can create Kick-ass Retail?
To achieve consistently excellent coffee, you source the best beans, the best milk, the best equipment; you work out a process for creating the required drink and you train your Team to follow that process. All of this can be systematised. Even checking that everything is being done to specification, is part of the system. That is how McDonald’s, starbucks and their ilk got so big – they created a product the market wanted, and designed a system to produce it, perfectly, every time.
But – can you systematise the interaction between the server/barista and the Customer? Well – yes and no: the coffee company in my example certainly thinks you can. But how do you systematise the spontaneous reaction to an off-the-wall request by a harassed Customer who just wants change? Or water for their dog? Or directions to the local tourist attraction?
Here’s a little checklist for every Customer-facing business. Nothing on the list costs very much money (just commitment, and time); however everything on the list will definitely make you (more) money. And – before you read it – please don’t assume you do all this already, or do it well enough. With the greatest respect, I’ve read too many Customer Promises and experienced too many one-sided Service encounters to believe that there isn’t a single business that couldn’t benefit from reviewing this list.
What do you think of when you hear the words “Business Plan”?
• A dry, weighty document, full of jargon?
• Pages of spreadsheets, showing income and profit projections?
• (Perhaps) a “Mission Statement” on the cover, with (perhaps) a picture of the CEO above it?
• Something for senior management – never to be read or engaged with by the wider Team?
Imagine if your business plan was an inspiring piece of work…
During my tenure as Head of Retail for the Royal Collection, I was fortunate enough to spend quality time with the late Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, who, with her husband, Andrew, the 11th Duke, set the standard for historic houses open to the public.
The youngest of the legendary Mitford sisters, “Debo”, as she was known, was a visionary with an eye for detail, a passion for quality and the most wonderful sense of humour. “To me, the most fascinating part of retailing,” she once said, “is seeing what people want, and to be able to up the taste a bit, instead of dumbing it down.” She also said that Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Ginger & Pickles”, concerning the failure of a dog and a cat to run a village shop on unlimited credit, was “The best book on retailing ever written.”
This year, Christmas at Chatsworth (“with Mr Toad”) owes much to Debo’s philosophy.
Not for the first time, football has given us a fascinating contrast in Leadership styles: Jurgen Klopp, the new Liverpool manager, versus Jose Mourinho, the ultra-successful, though currently struggling, Chelsea boss. The Liverpool Echo describes Klopp as a “football geek”, claiming he has “usurped sarky, surly Mourinho.”
As I’ve stated before, Leaders must demonstrate that they know where they are going; they must tell a story; that story must include and engage their followers; they must be humble; and they must be credible. By making his story exclusively about himself, Mourinho now finds himself at risk of losing his credibility.
This is a short post with a simple message: recruit, induct, train and support people who will engage with your customers and take pleasure in adding value to their experience, and you will have a more profitable business!
With People 1st also highlighting the extent to which a lack of soft skills is holding back career development (see graphic) and – AND – the fact that a 1% increase in productivity could drive an additional £1.43 billion revenue to the industry, it seems blindingly obvious that there is a MASSIVE opportunity here.