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This week, with Retail Geek aka Juanita Neville-Te Rito away on the Westfield World Study Tour gathering insights and ideas for future blogs, we invited a guest blogger to share a few pearls of wisdom.

I am the Chief Executive of a New Zealand retail chain of approximately 80 stores.  I won’t name the chain (oops, sorry, blog editor) as I suspect the lesson I am going to share could apply to many New Zealand retail chains. 

Whether we like it or not, as passionate retail professionals we have to acknowledge and accept that the standards of customer care, focus and service in New Zealand retail stores are generally at a level lower than you’d find in a market like the US.  There are exceptions of course and New Zealand boasts many world class retail stores offering outstanding customer care. However, on average, it is my observation that we have room to improve.

My organisation recently invited a world recognised customer care professional to come to our offices and advise us how we could sustainably lift the level of customer care across all our stores.  As we began explaining our challenge to him he stopped us and shared how he felt as a visitor (read customer!) as he entered our offices.

He first highlighted that he had difficulty finding a car park.  Upon entering our reception, which is not staffed, he felt confused and unsure how to contact us.  Once he identified the process to sign in he found we didn’t have a pen…

At first I was a little confused and shocked by his remarks and I was inclined to leap to the defence of our business.  However it only took a deep breath to gather my thoughts for the point he was making to become very clear. 

The customer care challenge for New Zealand retailers begins at the top of retail organisations.  It’s an issue of leadership and culture from the top more than an issue of recruitment and training at the coalface.  One follows the other, but it begins at the top.

If you are in a retail leadership role and are contemplating how to improve customer care in your business, if you’re like me, it might pay to begin by looking in the mirror.

Our thanks to our guest blogger Rod Gibson, CEO at Liquorland (oops, cover blown) for sharing his retail learnings with brevity and self inflicting humour.  

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