Kevin Leifer

Kevin is passionate about retail, specifically aligning a brand's expectations of their customers' experience with consistent execution in-store. With expertise in leading clients toward a transparent omnichannel (on-line, in-store, call center and mobile) experience, Kevin and the ICC/Decision Services team work with clients to define the desired customer experience and use a suite of tools (including Mystery Shopping, Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Customer Intercepts) to measure that experience.
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Recent Posts

How Does Apple Get Away With It?

Posted on September 14, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


Last week, Apple revealed what’s new and different about the iPhone 7. It’s water resistant, which is a plus. But it doesn’t have a headphone jack.

Come again?

That’s right. Apple just pulled another Crazy Ivan—a bold, surprising move the average retailer wouldn’t dare make. The company did what it always does, without fear or apology: It went full speed ahead, despite the temporary pain, because it sees something better for Apple users on the horizon.

As usual, the critics are weighing in. One called the removal of the headphone jack “user-hostile and stupid.”

But is there any doubt whose products many of them will continue to buy and use?

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Satisfaction, Brand Experience, Journey Mapping, Retail

Data Security for Retailers: How to Protect Your Customers and Your Brand

Posted on August 31, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


In the retail business, nothing is more important than keeping customers happy. Nothing, that is, except keeping them safe.

It’s every retailer’s worst nightmare: a data breach that leaves the brand’s reputation in tatters and destroys consumer trust. Just ask Target, whose 2013 data breach affecting 40 million customers led to a class-action lawsuit and a $39 million settlement.

As payment systems evolve, hackers only grow more sophisticated and determined. In 2014, there were 138 data breaches involving credit and debit card numbers. Last year, that number grew to 160, exposing nearly a million consumers to potential identity theft and fraud.

So what’s the answer (short of returning to the days of C.O.D. or taking credit card numbers by phone)?

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Topics: Customer Experience, Omnichannel, Brand Experience, Retail, Security

Retailers, Here’s What Store Managers Need From You

Posted on August 17, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments



They’re the essence of the brand. The director of backstage operations. The leader who brings out the best in every associate.

They’re retail store managers: the hardworking engines that (in an ideal world) keep stores humming and drive the customer experience, day in and day out.

Unfortunately, for many brands, great store managers are like unicorns—highly coveted and almost impossible to find.

It’s easy to blame a scarcity of talent. But in truth, many companies haven’t created the conditions for greatness. Store managers may lack the requisite knowledge or skills to begin with (reflecting a poor decision to hire or promote), or their employers aren’t giving them the tools and inspiration they need to reach their full potential.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Brand Experience, Retail, Training

Customer Experience Strategy: What to Include, and What to Avoid

Posted on August 3, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


If you’re serious about competing to win in retail, then you’re undoubtedly:

  • Focused on your customers (vs. quarterly numbers).
  • Invested in creating a unique brand experience.
  • Committed to ensuring your customer experience strategy serves as an effective guide for all your teams and executes like a dream.

Reread that last bullet. Ask yourself: Does our CX strategy meet these standards?

Many retailers assume their customer experience strategy is airtight. In reality, there may be costly gaps or missteps undermining their entire effort—and killing their chances of achieving significant revenue growth.

To avoid a similar fate, you need to know what to look for (and what to avoid) during the strategic planning process. These five areas, in particular, require careful consideration.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Omnichannel, Brand Experience, Retail, Customer Service, Customer Engagement

We Hold These (Retail) Truths to Be Self-Evident

Posted on July 20, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


Over the years, we’ve worked with all types of retail organizations. And we’ve gotten to know them well.

We’ve met the individuals who embody the brand promise.

We’ve encountered the typical roadblocks to improvement (i.e., a culture or infrastructure that’s resistant to change).

And we’ve seen internal progress radiate outward and reenergize the brand-customer relationship.

Of course, every company is unique. Considerations and challenges vary widely from one category to the next. But all retailers have one thing in common: They’re bound by certain universal laws.

We consider these four to be among the most important.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Brand Experience, Retail, Customer Engagement, Training

Why Your Omnichannel Experience Is Falling Short (and What to Do About It)

Posted on July 6, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


Before you can master the omnichannel experience, you need to measure it the right way. But many retailers aren’t. They’re relying on lagging indicators, like point-of-sale data and customer complaints, to gauge their performance.

This is no way to delight customers or distinguish brands!

It’s time to get out in front of this—to get definitive answers to these questions:

  • What is our typical customer experiencing across channels?
  • Are employees executing properly?
  • Is everything working as expected?
  • Are we making it easy?


There’s only one way to fully and accurately assess your omnichannel experience: You must map it and mystery shop it from start to finish.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Omnichannel, Customer Engagement

How a Leading Retailer Uses Mystery Shopping to Deliver an Exceptional Customer Experience

Posted on June 15, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


The Walking Company, a footwear retailer with 215+ locations nationally and brands such as ABEO, Dansko, Ecco and Ugg, is "The World’s Largest Specialty Retailer of Comfort Footwear".

It’s a product pitch with undeniable appeal. But according to Barry Weinstein, the company’s VP of Training, The Walking Company retail stores celebrate people, first and foremost.

This is why, in Barry’s view, managing the customer experience is such an important (and rewarding) investment. Not only is mystery shopping critical to measuring, studying, and improving the customer experience, but the program is “in direct line with” the company’s “core values.”

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Customer Engagement

How to Survive (and Thrive) in the Age of Amazon

Posted on June 2, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


Three years after Amazon went online, and one year after it became a publicly traded company, Deep Impact (1998) premiered in theaters. The film depicted an E.L.E., or extinction-level event, befalling mankind. A huge meteor fell to earth and wreaked havoc. Many lives were destroyed.

Consider the parallels here.

Amazon’s explosion onto the scene has had a seismic impact on the retail industry. And the carnage continues, according to experts. The company is widely blamed for wiping out the dinosaurs (with chapter 11 filings continuing to mount) and for diminishing most of the brands that have managed to survive.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Omnichannel, In-Store Marketing, Customer Engagement

Take the Quiz: How Customer Centric Is Your Brand?

Posted on May 18, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


Many retailers claim to be customer centric. They’ll tout it in a quarterly statement or in the press. But words are meaningless if the brand experience doesn’t match.

Retailers that are customer centric demonstrate it on the sales floor every day. They provide a consistently great experience that revolves around the customer’s interests, behaviors (past, present, and future), and goals. Customers feel appreciated and special every time they engage with the brand.

How customer centric is your brand? Not just in spirit, but in reality?

Your responses to these five questions will reveal the answer.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Journey Mapping, Customer Service

Marketing and Associate Training: The Yin and Yang of Customer Experience

Posted on May 4, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


Marketing and associate training are inextricably linked. They’re the yin and yang of customer experience.

Or at least they should be.

When you make a brand promise, you’re communicating values and priorities. You’re creating an expectation about what a relationship with your brand will entail. Consumers expect you to deliver 110 percent; they want to know your brand promise will hold across every channel, location, and experience.

It’s up to your associates—the human face of your brand—to deliver on your brand promise. They make shoppers feel welcome (or not), help them make better and larger purchases (or not), and give them a reason to come back (or drive them into the arms of your competitors).

If your in-store teams aren’t fully on board with your branding and marketing campaigns, all the hard work you’re doing to bring shoppers in the door will be for naught.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Customer Engagement, Training

Get Serious About Your Customer Experience in 3 Steps

Posted on April 20, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


Many retailers are stuck in a defensive crouch. They fixate on their comp sales ID, comparing today’s number with where it was a year ago. They’re focused on protecting what they have, and maybe getting a nice win this year.

It’s a dangerous way to live.

Foot traffic, on the whole, is in decline. Malls are dying; online retailers are booming. Today’s busy consumers prefer the easiest route to a purchase, often bypassing physical stores altogether.

To draw customers in, hook them, and get them to spend more over time, you must become a retail destination. 

Getting there will require two things: a bold new strategy, and near-perfect execution. Fail at one or both, and you may soon find yourself on the path to irrelevancy.


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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Retail

Maximize Your Mystery Shopping ROI With This Simple Checklist

Posted on April 6, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


Is your Mystery Shopping Program a waste of time?

This question might seem odd, coming from us. But it’s a crucial one.

Many retailers kick off mystery shopping programs with the best of intentions. They understand the unique importance and value of brand audits. They want to make their stores preferred destinations.

In the rush to execute, however, some retailers don’t fully consider:

  • Which aspects of the customer experience should be measured
  • How to present the program to in-store personnel
  • How to maintain the integrity of the program
  • How to use the data to improve the customer experience in meaningful ways

Thus, they see little return on their investment.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Retail

How Smart Suggestive Selling Can Help Starbucks (Re)build Loyalty

Posted on March 16, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


To make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs. Many retailers aren’t willing to brave the mess.

Starbucks clearly is.

Last year, thanks to the My Starbucks Rewards program, the coffee giant enjoyed unprecedented sales increases. In Q3 2015 alone, the coffee giant’s net revenues rose 18%, to $4.9 billion.

Last month, still riding high, Starbucks announced it would stop rewarding frequency of visits and start rewarding dollars spent.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Suggestive Selling

The Deadliest Threat to Your Retail Brand (and What to Do About it)

Posted on March 2, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


In last week’s post, we discussed Amazon’s new brick-and-mortar venture. What we didn’t mention was that in early 2015, Amazon approached RadioShack about taking over some of its stores.

Now there’s a stark contrast.

One of these brands continues to disrupt like a scrappy startup and dominate the retail industry. The other—in business for nearly a century—wobbled in place for years, seemingly clueless, while the world rushed by. Now, it’s a shell of its former self. Like the Walking Dead.

The message here for retailers?

Complacency kills.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Brand Experience, Retail, Disruptors

What Amazon Can Learn From Apple’s Brick-and-Mortar Success

Posted on February 24, 2016 by Kevin LeiferComments


Amazon is stepping out into the world. The real world.

In November 2015, the online retail giant opened its very first brick-and-mortar bookstore. Apart from the strength of its brand, there are two reasons Amazon is betting on the store’s success.

First, a growing number of consumers—particularly millennials—favor print books and the act of buying them in physical stores.

Second, Amazon Kindle sales are in a slump. A brick-and-mortar store offers consumers the opportunity to try out the devices, with Amazon associates’ helpful input.

One store in Seattle is a novelty. It could easily become an attraction. But to take this concept nationwide? Talk about upping the ante.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Omnichannel

Customer Experience Update