In today’s retail landscape, there are few things that wield as much influence over a retailer’s success as the customer experience. Many of the most high-performing brands in our space have dedicated countless resources and made major investments in order to innovate, redefine and elevate the in-store shopping experience. Consumers have come to expect — and in some cases even demand — more from that in-store experience, and brands that have delivered have thrived.
Consider retailers like Nordstrom, Apple and Tiffany & Co. Each brand has innovated the customer experience in a way that sets them apart from their competition. And as such, they’ve elevated their brand beyond competing with the masses, where price wins the day and little else matters.
At the other end of this spectrum, consider brands like Walmart, GameStop, Big Lots, Kmart and JCPenny. Each of these brands scored at the bottom of the 2019 American Customer Service Index, indicating the frustration consumers have with the experience these brands provide. Coming in very last place on that list is none other than Sears. And what all of these brands share, aside from their low ranking, is the fact that they are struggling in the customer experience department. Walmart may epitomize success from a bottom performer in customer experience, but they’ve long hung their hat on the lowest price and nothing more.
How then, does this relate to your team? It’s quite simple. No Independent retailer with aspirations of continued success can adopt the Walmart model, which sacrifices customer experience while also killing margins. Quite the opposite is our reality, as we’re obligated to deliver a great customer experience if we hope to compete with more ammunition than price alone. Who, then, owns the responsibility for executing an excellent customer experience? Our teams!
Research has shown a close correlation between the team member experience and the customer experience. Happy teams deliver great experiences and create happy customers. Disengaged, unhappy teams overwhelmingly create lackluster experiences that leave potential clients equally disengaged and unhappy. Simple, right?
For many years, we’ve seen almost universal agreement in our channel that people are our most valuable asset. Unfortunately, the share of time, attention, resources and focus that are invested in this area have failed to live up to this statement. However, for retailers who have placed an intense focus on their team member experience, the results have been powerful.
Over the past two years, scores of Nationwide Member companies have participated in the Nationwide Executive Leadership Summit, where the focus has been clearly on people, team development and leadership. A common challenge shared by the retail leaders in attendance is that they completely understand that highly engaged, happy teams are a requirement to delivering a great customer experience, but they lack the necessary tools to credibly discover their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities as employers.
In keeping with Nationwide’s mission to solve retail problems while saving dealers both time and money, we launched Nationwide Retail Insights in 2019, and we have worked with an ever-growing number of Members to pilot this powerful service over the past year. In short, the best way to find out how your team feels about working at your company is simply by asking, and doing so in a proven, credible manner.
Nationwide Retail Insights offers you two studies, both compliments of Nationwide! First, an engagement study will help you better understand your team’s engagement level, revealing the areas where they feel strongly connected to the company, and where you have opportunities to forge connections. Second, an alignment study will help you better understand how well your team understands and connects with who your company is, what you’re striving to do, and what you believe. Understanding these important metrics, especially when combined across these two studies, will help you leverage your strengths as an employer, address your weaknesses and capitalize on your opportunities.
The companies that have participated so far have found this program to be very effective and very revealing. Paul Sherman, leader of Sherman’s in Illinois, recently shared: “The Retail Insights results we got back were amazing. I’ve never gotten that much candid information of what our employees feel like it is to work here, where we’re doing well and what areas we need to work on. It’s just a treasure trove of things to go back and work on and then reengage and see how we’re doing next year.”
Time and again, we’ve seen team members more willing to share their honest thoughts when they feel secure and are given anonymity by the process in which these surveys are conducted.
Refining the customer experience belongs on your list of priorities in 2020, to be sure. However, starting at the foundation of that experience by addressing your team member experience will give you unprecedented opportunities to make real and lasting strides in securing the long-term success of your business.
To learn more about how this powerful tool, included with your Nationwide Membership, can be put into action or to learn more about the upcoming Nationwide Executive Leadership Summits, email NRI@nationwideprimemedia.com, and our team will be in touch!
Mike Whitaker is