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Retailers must put customers in the driving seat

1st June 2018
woman in driving seat holding steering wheel sitting inside car

We all know retail is a difficult place to be right now. Consumer expectations have been raised to an extremely high level by disruptive brands such as Amazon, Asos and Wiggle et al.

Traditional multichannel retailers are struggling to keep up. And retail is not alone in facing this challenge.

Think about the experience of buying a car.

Why are car dealerships mainly out of town? They’re not exactly convenient to get to. And what if you don’t have a car to begin with?

When it comes to the deal I’m offered, I almost always feel as if I’ve been ripped off as I’ve been sold to. And the experience of buying a car can be a patronising one for women, where too often they are made to feel less than knowledgeable on all things car-related.

Buying a car is probably the second biggest purchase you’ll make after buying a house. Why is it then that car dealers make no attempt to maintain a relationship with you and build your lifetime value?

There is a very clear customer lifecycle to manage. Most cars are bought on a contract, yet you’re lucky if you hear from the dealer a few weeks before the contract is up.

If you’ve purchased a high-end car, then you might get a magazine sent through the post or an invite to a track day. They’re hardly pushing the boat out to ensure they’re front of mind.

Hence brands such as Tesla and Jaguar Land Rover are disintermediating, and going direct to consumer – which also involves opening ‘car stores’ in more convenient locations such as shopping malls.

I recently had a fairly serious complaint with one of the world’s major airlines, who pride themselves on their ability to serve.

After having written to the chief executive, I was palmed off to someone in the ‘customer care’ team who wasn’t empowered to resolve my issues.

I wrote back to the chief executive. Guess what? I got another call from another person in the ‘customer care’ team, who wasn’t able to resolve my issues but did assure me that my feedback would be fed back to someone, somewhere.

And if enough people complained about the same issue, they’d do something about it!

The airlines who will win the in the long run are those such as Emirates, who have a can-do as opposed to a can’t-do, mind-set when it comes to the customer.

What’s the moral of the story?

The retailers who will emerge from the current realignment of the high street are those who understand what putting the customer first means.

They will empower their colleagues to do right by their customers.

They will have the right insight, technology, processes and capabilities to deliver on their promises to customers.

They will have leaders who empower colleagues to put the customer at the heart of all they do and then lead by example, driving the cultural change required to become truly customer-centric organisations.

Retailers that can do this will engender loyalty, which in turn will increase customer lifetime value.

To address the above and many other challenges when it comes to organisations being truly customer centric, I’ve written a book called ‘100 Practical Ways to Improve Customer Experience’. It’s out on 3rd August and can be pre-ordered now from and get 20% off using code 100CX20


This article first appeared in RetailWeek on May 21st, 2018. Read it again here.

The article was reproduced on LinkedIn on May 30th, 2018. Like it here.

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