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, Journey Mapping, Brand Experience, Retail

Macy’s Store Closings: 4 Valuable Lessons for Retailers

Posted on September 7, 2016 by Nanette BrownComments


Much has been written about Macy’s brand struggles and its 100 store closures ahead of the 2016 holiday season. Among the observations being made:


These are all fair points (although none of these issues is beyond Macy’s power to change; we’ve argued as much here, here, and here).

Here’s the real question, from our point of view:

What did Macy’s know, and when did the brand know it?

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Topics: Customer Experience, Customer Satisfaction, Mystery Shopping, Retail, retail innovation, Omnichannel

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, Brand Experience, Security, Omnichannel, Retail

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

Customer Experience Strategy (Part 2): 6 Steps to Happier Customers, Higher Revenues

Posted on August 10, 2016 by Nanette BrownComments


Last week, we wrote about building an effective customer experience strategy. This week, we tackle the hard part: execution.

To do it well, you need to understand who you are as a brand. Build a culture, and design a customer experience, around your brand personality and values.

From there, you need to know where you stand, where you’d like to be, and how to achieve your ideal. Not assume, not guess, but know. Everything depends on how well you track your progress.

Here, we’ll walk you through the six steps to meaningful change.

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Topics: Customer Service, Customer Experience, Customer Satisfaction, Retail, Mystery Shopping, Training, Brand Experience, Customer Engagement, Employee Engagement

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

4 C-Level Obstacles to Your Customer Experience Goals (and How to Overcome Them)

Posted on July 27, 2016 by Nanette BrownComments


If you’re struggling to meet your customer experience goals, you might assume the problem lies at the departmental, regional, or store level.

But more often than not, the problem originates in the C-suite.

It’s not for a lack of strategic planning. Most retailers understand the issues they face. They stay focused on their preferred KPIs. They set multiyear targets. Yet they can’t seem to get anywhere.

So what’s holding these retailers back?

Here are four of the most common obstacles we’ve encountered.

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

Retail Customer Experience: How to Stop Competing Internally—and Start Competing to Win

Posted on June 8, 2016 by Nanette BrownComments


If managing the customer experience were easy, every customer would be delighted. Every brand would enjoy rock-star status. Chart-busting revenue growth would be the industry norm.

But we live in the real world, where the CX ideal and the sales-floor reality are often miles apart. As are brands’ and their customers’ perceptions. While 80% of companies claim to deliver superior customer service, only 8% of customers agree.

Even worse, only 1% of customers say they experience consistently good service. (Ouch.)

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Brand Experience, Services, In-Store Marketing, Retail, Customer Service, Customer Engagement

Customer Experience Management: Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts

Posted on May 11, 2016 by Nanette BrownComments


Now that product and price are no longer the big differentiators in retail, managing the customer experience is crucial to staying competitive. It’s how leading brands become dominant, and how they stay on top.

Unfortunately, many retailers have the wrong idea about customer experience management. They see mystery shopping, customer satisfaction surveys, and customer intercepts as:

  • Service programs designed to encourage employees to be nicer to customers;
  • Tracking programs that run in the background; and/or
  • Simple solutions to complex problems.

Customer experience management is something else entirely. It’s specifically designed to: 1) ensure a consistent brand experience for all customers at all times; and 2) increase sales.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Omnichannel, Customer Satisfaction, Brand Experience, Retail, Sales

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

Guest Post: 5 Questions CMOs must now ask when “they don’t show up”

Posted on April 18, 2016 by Chris Petersen Ph.DComments


Marketers need to engage like they are throwing a party for friends

What if you held a really important event, and spent a lot of time and money on decorations and catering … and no one came? Well, maybe a few people showed up out of curiosity or for the food, but not the really important guests you were expecting. A really successful personal party or event is based upon dynamics of relationships. When you plan an important party you don't just drop invitations in the mail or a text … you follow up personally. In many ways, businesses are "throwing a party" and just blasting out anonymous invitations, ala mass media, in the expectation and hope that "they will come". The ultimate irony for CMOs in an omnichannel world is that more channels does not necessarily mean more traffic or sales. To change results will require new questions and behaviors in the marketing arena.

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Topics: Omnichannel, Retail, Customer Service

Why We Love Negative Customer Feedback (and Why You Should Too)

Posted on April 13, 2016 by Nanette BrownComments


Bill Gates famously said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Imagine if Gates hadn’t bothered to ask for feedback or address his customers’ concerns. Would Microsoft have become the iconic brand it is today?

Not by a long shot.

Asking customers about their experience with you, and doing something meaningful in response, is critical to staying competitive. It’s not only a diagnostic tool for improving service, but also a sign of caring and goodwill—and helps to avoid social media disaster.

More importantly, it gives you a chance to shine when things go wrong. In the eyes of your customers, how you react to negative feedback is the truest measure of your brand.

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Topics: Mystery Shopping, Customer Experience, Customer Satisfaction, Retail, Customer Service

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

Guest Post: The Winning Formula For Retail Stores In 5 Simple Letters

Posted on March 7, 2016 by Chris Petersen Ph.DComments


To master CX, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts

In our latest guest post, our colleague Chris Petersen explores commonalities of world-class customer centric organizations and what it takes to be considered among them.

The world of retail is not out of the woods in terms of recovering from worldwide economic declines. There are of course exceptions. Notably, ecommerce continues to grow at a double digit pace. Yet, 80+% of retail sales are still store based. What is interesting to watch is which retail chains are winning, and why. Radio Shack just went bankrupt. Target exited Canada, and Best Buy is closing Future Shop stores there. Yet, retailers like Apple continue to profitably grow and expand worldwide. The reality for retail store chains is that the old rules of retail are being rewritten by today's consumers. Future survival and success will depend not upon a sale today, but a winning formula for CX (Customer Experience) that creates relationships.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Retail

Customer Experience Update