In my post January 5, 2011, How Best Buy Convinced me to Buy from the Apple Store, I noted issues with Best Buy and how my shopping experience was so poor that it sent me to the Apple Store and a switch from my PC to Mac. I will elaborate: the sales rep sent me to the Apple store. The sales person’s own frustration with his employer was so obvious and his honesty was refreshing but a bit desperate. I left saddened that a bubble had been popped. Over the past 5 or so years, I had a great experience with Best Buy and could somehow feel their troubles were just beginning to unfold. I am now all Mac from the Apple store and hooked; and loving it.
There are other signs of challenges brewing in other large retailers and businesses that may not be so obvious. I will share one example today in hopes to enlighten and help open up a blind eye or two. Operational efficiencies are critical to the health of company. We all agree on this point! However, you may be so operationally tight that it could be squeezing your company to death without any signs of where loss is happening. An example of this point can be found in my most recent visit to a big box chain store to buy some DIY home and landscaping goods. My husband and I completed our shopping and got in the long line at the outdoor garden center check out area. It was a beautiful Saturday morning so we were enjoying being outside and were not in a hurry by any means. We appreciated the check out center’s attention to getting us through the line and completing our purchase. The attendant quickly came to scan our products with her hand held device. She scanned, chatted and was very customer service focus. It was a great experience and we got in and out of line quickly heading out of the store to our car. Great right?
The failing point in this: as we were walking out I happened to look at the receipt… the receipt said $55.00. That would be impossible unless the $240 item that we purchased along with all the other items had been deeply discounted to next to free. We stopped and reviewed this finding then turned back to see the manager. It appeared that the scanning device was malfunctioning and did not pick up the price on all of our items. We were not the only ones!
The loss of revenue on that one day may have been capped by us bringing to the attention of this malfunction to the store manager. But how many stores might this scenario be repeating itself or how many patrons may not have realized the undercharges. We are quick to see overcharges but not so quick to find undercharges. Even worse, store managers may be chalking up loss of inventory to theft and assuming new costs to control this theft! Operating under these kind of assumptions can be damaging and in some cases deadly to large and smaller retail establishments.
By all accounts this retail brand was doing everything RIGHT! Customers were happy, the experience was great, their employees love their work and you could feel it. But there is a hole in the efficient system. How can you be more observant and discover areas that may need to be refined in what appears to be a well oiled machine? You have successfully made the leap from good to great.
Here are 3 tips to help improve great!
1. The secret shopper is still a viable solution for large brands. Measuring customer experience is great. But expand the research and reviews check on the systems to ensure they are efficient and accurate.
2. Wake up to technology checks every morning before the doors open. Test, test again and then once more.
3. Empower shoppers. Ask for help from your loyal shopper base. By letting shoppers (your loyal fan base) know their voices, by way of inputs and feedbacks, could help keep product prices competitive and improve on their experiences even more. Loss of revenue eventually affects the shoppers over the longer term.