“What Keeps Retail CEO’s Awake At Night?”

by | Nov 10, 2014 | Assorted

1)     Cash flow?

2)     Staff Problems?

3)     Supply issues?


If you guessed all 3, you’d be …wrong.

The one thing that can eat into those quiet restful hours is the thought that a customer might leave one of their stores unhappy.

The prospect of an unhappy consumer walking out of one of their stores unsatisfied, resentful and with a poor customer experience can age most CEO’s faster than a stock market crash.

The reason I say this is because nowadays most retail chains offer the same lines of products at similar prices, with similar loyalty programmes and similar marketing.

While the chains may have different logo’s to represent themselves in the market, what is the real difference between them? How does a consumer choose between shopping at one or the other?

What is the single biggest motivating driver or demotivating barrier in the mind (or heart) of the consumer that activates the choice of purchase point?

In any competitive business in the modern age, that single factor is the Customer Experience.

Yep.There’s that phrase again.

Customer Experience.

In a recent telephonic discussion I had with one of South Africa’s most respected authorities on marketing (who shall, out of respect, remain nameless), he dropped an atomic bomb of an observation.

For the sake of this article , let’s call him James.

James said that,” Big retail could increase their bottom line by 10%-15% if they delivered a superior customer experience.”

Now, consider that for a minute.

Would those previously sleep deprived CEO’s rest like the proverbial dead if they saw a 10%-15% bottom line increase?

Oh hell yes – Are you kidding me? They would be celebrating in their dreams every night!

So, how do you get a Customer for Life? How do you make a retail experience so seamless, so rewarding and effortless for a customer that they become that brand’s Unicorn?

The Brand Ambassador, the person that flies the brand flag at every opportunity and drives their own personal network of trusted friends to that brand, the consumer that is loyal for life and passes that loyalty on to the next generation?

What would inspire such fantastic affinity by one person to one brand?

One word – L.O.V.E


Love not for the brand, but for the experience of the brand- more specifically, love for the way the experience makes that person FEEL during the experience process.

People buy emotionally and by making an emotional connection that leaves them feeling valued, prized, looked after, listened to and taken care of, you will have delivered the pinnacle experience and be rewarded with a loyalty akin to a great marriage.

Price and product become secondary, almost immaterial compared to the pursuit of the experience. It’s like a powerful high and the only goal is to feel it again regardless of the required actions to get there.

We are all consumers and customers of brands in this world, I guarantee you that right now, you could easily name the brand that you would support loyally regardless of how far you need to travel, or how much more expensive it is than a nearer competitor.

The reason you have this connection is because of a personal, emotional connection to that specific brand- and more specifically, the connection you have to a person representing that brand with whom the customer experience was exceptional.

So how do you achieve this? That is a relatively simple answer even though the process to success can be complex – but only as complex as the intention of the organisation to achieve this.

The first step for any organisation is to RECOGNISE and ACCEPT that the delivery of a superior Customer Experience is the only true differentiating factor in today’s market and more importantly that this is a process that they have TOTAL Control over.

Due to the massive amount of information and access to information available at their fingertips, consumers are far more savvy around products, pricing and offers than they ever have been.

In a few seconds they can see if your offer is the cheapest, best, greatest etc..

If they need real effort to get into your store, then find the right product by getting the right information on that product which addresses their specific requirements; before eventually paying and getting out of the store – forget it, they’re gone.

It’s easier to do it online or at a competitor. Plus, if your loyalty programme doesn’t offer real value and is simply a token because everyone else is doing it, your success there will be just as poor.

In many instances, the customer is relying on the salesperson to provide them with accurate and relevant information so that they can make an informed relevant buying decision in that store.

If they even get a whiff that the sales person is pushing the sale for their own benefit – they’re gone.

Consumers know when the BS is flying – we all do. We have an innate sense of it. It’s that “yeah right” feeling. You’ve felt it before.

“The job of salespeople is not to get the Sale, the job of salespeople is to establish the TRUTH of whether there is a sale or not.” Ari Galper – Unlocking the Game.

This is customer experience defined.

Just in case your were wondering ,this isn’t James – this is Nick Woodman…looking very happy with his Go-Pro!

A really great example of an incredible customer experience was when my esteemed guest James was in New York recently and was looking for a specific accessory for his Go-Pro camera.

Walking into a store, he found the product he was looking for, only to be advised by the salesperson that the specific product was out of stock at that store.

Did he walk out and go somewhere else? No. The story continues.

The salesperson went online to a competitor, found the product and ordered it online for him! Charged him the store price and when he got back to his hotel, the product was there waiting for him!

Do you think he remembers the name of the online store? No. Do you think he is now a Customer for Life of the retail store? Absolutely and not only of that store, but the store chain!

What did that cost the store itself? Nothing really, a bit of data and a slightly lower profit, but what was the return on that? It was a sale yes, but more importantly, they gained a Customer for Life.

Herein lies the truth. Delivering a great customer experience doesn’t cost anything, neither does delivering a poor customer experience. It’s the commitment to the choice that matters.

Look at the example above. In this country, could you name a retail store salesman that would have gone to that extent to get you the product you wanted? I couldn’t.

Maybe they could find the product for you at another branch and then maybe arrange to have it shipped to your branch, but that would take a few days to a week – and YOU WANT IT NOW!

How many floor salespeople have you seen that have Tablets on hand on the floor to access the latest technical specs and pricing for you so that they can give you relevant information on the product?

How many times have you left a store and when you got home, the product that was out of stock at the store was waiting for you?

So, without the product and with that disappointed feeling coursing through your system , you leave the store despondently to go somewhere else and see if maybe you can find what you are looking for, preparing yourself for another touch and go retail experience.

Would you return to that same store in the future? Probably, if they had something you wanted, or couldn’t find it at a competitor.

Would it be a grudge visit? Probably, since the bad taste left from the last experience is still lingering.

Now, here’s the kicker.

If you had an experience like the one James had in New York, none of the above would apply.

If you have driven a truly incredible car, watched a movie on a top of the range home theatre system, stayed in a 7 Star Hotel and been treated like royalty, those experiences can move the soul and leave you thinking,” Now THAT’S what it’s supposed to feel like! I loved it! I want more.”

Those experiences are like that because they have BEEN ENGINEERED to deliver that from the very core.

It is not incidental in the least. Every single aspect has been meticulously planned and executed to deliver the very, very best money can buy – and ask anyone who has done it and they will tell you, “It was worth every cent and I would do it again tomorrow.”

Can the majority of South African retail stores deliver that level of experience to their customers every day across all touch points in their organisation?

The answer is a clear and definite YES.

The real question is, do they want to?


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