They Don’t Make ’em Like That Any More

“[Sir Ken Morrison] showed us all the importance of aiming high but never forgetting the practicalities of life and the humanity of those we deal with.”

These words encapsulate the essence of great retailing, great business and great Customer Experience. Ken Morrison was an innovator – for example he built Morrisons on a model of vertical integration, directly controlling many of its food suppliers, and developed the Market Street concept of retail theatre combined with expertise directly available to the consumer.

Customer Experience: What We Need Now is People Being Nice to One Another

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.

So, Here’s My Idea for BHS

So what is my idea for BHS?

Well, the clue’s in the name: British Home Stores. Yes, it sounds a bit old-fashioned; however that’s because BHS has done little to shift our perception of a brand stuck in the 1970s, or the 1980s at best.

My starting point is that “British Home Stores” could be a blank canvas for a new conceptBritish Retail in department store retailing – a store that literally offers the best British products for your home. Here I agree with Mary Portas when she offers a vision of a market place, showcasing “young British makers or designers” alongside cool fashion at keen prices.

Customer Experience: a Warm Glow

I just want to share an experience (Experience) with you:

I’m in the middle of renovating a house. It’s been quite a challenging process, and I could write a book about it – specifically, the highs and lows of sourcing and selecting contractors and materials; the contractor sales process; the things I’d do differently, etc.

An experience I had yesterday, however, demanded a post of its own.

Spring is in the Fair! Five Ways to Create “Kick-ass Retail”

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?

Consistency – the Brand Manager’s Mantra

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?

Customer Service: Talk to Me – Don’t Talk to Me

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.

So, What Would be Unique About a POSITIVE Business Plan?

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…

Customer Experience: 82%? This is Our Life!

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.”
– Steve Jobs

I stayed in an above-average, boutique-ish hotel this week. The directions to the car park were ambiguous, so before checking in I had to abandon the car, run into Reception, and ask how to find the car park. When I returned, having parked, to check in, I noticed that the receptionist didn’t ask me whether I had found the car park.

Then I noticed a plaque on the wall, behind Reception. It said: “2014 Award of Excellence. As honoured by our Guests. 8.2/10.”

It struck me that 8.2/10 – 82% – was not necessarily something to shout about; not really something to be deemed an “honour”.