Saturday, February 6, 2016

Safeway May Be The Fresh Food People But They Need The Brush Up Their Customer Service

National Health Scare

As most Australians would be aware we are in the midst of a major health scare with contaminated lettuce and related vegetable products being found to be the cause of a salmonella outbreak that has already affected over fifty people with the number doubling to fifty four by the next day.

With such a horrendous set of events in motion there has been an instantaneous removal of all effected products from supermarket shelves with a mass media market push for all customers to immediately return these products for a fully refund.

Item Exchange

Now against this backdrop it would be reasonable to expect that all staff are aware of the facts and managed to respond in a caring and professional manner but sadly not at Safeway.
On entering my regular store and trying to refund an opened pack of salad with sales docket in hand the sales person asked me in a condescending manner why I wanted to exchange it.

An unusual question given the circumstances of the last few days however I replied it was to do with the recall and again asked for her to exchange the item.  With this she turned away and moments later re-challenged my desire to have the product refunded saying that the shelves had been cleared and this should be OK and again in a harsh and demeaning tone.

At this point I told her in a more assertive tone this is what I wanted and that was final. To this she finally refunded the item with an inaudible grunt and slammed the  returned item on top of a closed bin as though to punctuate the end of our discussion in a manner that she had conducted herself throughout its entirity.

 Cheerfully Refunded 

Now the irony of this story is that Safeway have an exchange policy for all goods that the customer is unhappy with regardless of the cause as long as you provide the proof of purchase which of course  is very reasonable in my opinion. So for any product the exchange should be conducted in a friendly and professional manner but for issues that involve national health scares, people being hospitalised and generally gaining global attention you would think there would be even a heightened sense of care and sensibility.

In fact the internal memo sent to each store actually directs staff to 'cheerfully refund all items' without hesitation.  Well this is certainly an interesting variation from the traditional approach to customer service with a smile.  I will not mention the persons name her because she'd be embarrassed by her uncaring and petulant behaviour  nor will I mention which store it was because the rationale in telling this story is not to malign and certainly not to injure but rather to discuss what can happen to any organisation if they allow poor behaviours to creep in gradually over time.


A friend of mine is a former policeman with many years of experience who shared with me once a valuable insight that when criminals get caught doing what they do, it is rarely if ever the first time they have done it but rather the first time they have been caught doing it. This truism is validated by the fact that one in twenty six dissatisfied customers complain and the others say nothing and simply don't return.  

So today someone complained and perhaps twenty five before me didn't. If this is the case it may mean lost sales for the store and over time lost employment for some. A very high price to pay for a person whose childish attitude and lack of emotional intelligence rules her behviours.

A word to the wise. The customer is always right and that's especially true when they are right.

So until next time, good luck and good marketing.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Five Things To Never Do In Retail Marketing

1. Assume you know what the customers needs are.
Perhaps the fast way to ensure any retailer fails is to assume you know what the customer wants.

Leading Australian market researcher, Frank Domantay (Managing Director of Decision Insights) says: “Successful businesses routinely do customer research that allows them to understand what they are doing well and what they are not doing so well.”
This research can be in the form of a survey, one on one interview or focus group. With the results directly feeding in to strategic planning for the retailer and
often being the first indication for the need to change some aspect of the business or it's product offerings.
For example a recent survey done by a local Melbourne based, medical clinic found great dissatisfaction by patients in the approach by the front office staff.
As a result, the staff was retrained on both customer relations and social style training.

2. Try to market yourself exactly like your competitors do.
To fully understand how important this point is, you need to understand that the customers need is really made up of 2 things. Firstly:
The met portion of the need which are the elements that customers are already satisfied with and secondly, the even more important unmet need, which is where the real
opportunity lies to standout from the crowd.  Now if you for example, your business follows your competitors blindly and mimics everything they do, you will basically be meeting the same met portion of the need and leaving the same unmet portion of the need.
An example of a retailer that did not follow it's larger rival's example, was Dial a Dino's Pizza. They were the first to include free home delivery and as a result differentiated themselves in a
way that not only made them successful, but ultimately compelled the market leading Pizza  Hut to buy them out or risk losing market share.

3. Take your customers for granted.
The ongoing support of key customers must also be acknowledged with incentive schemes designed to both reward and maintain customer loyalty, as well as drive demand for  future purchases.
These schemes do not need to be complex. Trendy cafe Buddha's Belly offer a simple scheme on their business card, where they offer a free coffee after 5 purchases. Simple but effective.
Larger organisations like Subway have a similar card that offers a free drink after 8 purchases of their subway sandwich. These are simple ideas that work.
It's important to remember that for a lot of businesses the 80 / 20 rule applies. That is that 20% of your customers generate 80% of your business.
The bottom line is, know who the 20% are and reward them for their support. 

4. Fail to strengthen areas you have identified in your business as weak.
There is do doubt that a business is only as strong as it's weakest link.
You may have a great product but if it is incorrectly priced, poorly promoted or not consistently available in the store due to unreliable suppliers, it will fail.  These or any other ongoing weaknesses must be promptly addressed to ensure the businesses ongoing success.
For example, critically acclaimed 12 part mini series Camelot, after it's first 2 issues, suffered from an irregular printing schedule due to unreliable product suppliers which caused the
series to fail. Today's consumers are more aware and less tolerant than they have ever been and any on going weakness your business has that it does not seek to overcome, will translate into lost customer loyalty and sales.

5. Lose your overall perspective and work / life balance.
As important as it is to perform well and run a profitable business, retailers must always be wary that the business has the potential to take over your life and leave you with an imbalance between your work and the rest of your life. This is a complex issue but there are some key strategies that can help.
    1. Schedule time outs and honour them.
    2. Take a time management course that will teach you to be more efficient with your time.
    3. Learn the power of delegation, once you have established that an individual is capable of doing that task or role.

It is well recognised that many retail businesses fail in their first 5 years of operation.
Many of those who have failed, failed to respect the 5 must do's and the 5 must not do's of small business.
By following these rules, you will maximise your chances of not joining their ranks.

So until next time, good luck and good marketing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Five Things To Do In Retail Marketing

1. Observe your market carefully to capture opportunities and trends early.
Businesses need to be able to look at the key factors such as technological changes, in social attitudes, changes in government and legal regulations, which can profoundly affect their business. 
This is to both take advantage of possible opportunities for growth and also to help avoid threats that may harm their business. Usually the business will have no control over these market factors but still needs to react quickly to their presence.
For example: Many successful retailer selling fur coats suffered greatly reduced demand and sales because attitudes towards killing animals for fur changed drastically in the eighties and made fur coats virtually redundant.
 Another example is that one third of all photo printing stores that operated in Australia ten years ago have now shut down. This is because the technology changed from traditional film processing to digital photography.  This meant new equipment, more training for staff, the need for more capital, etc., with the result being that those who were not well prepared or able to afford the change went out of business.
From a positive perspective of following positive trends early, renowned cellular skin specialist Dr. Vivienne Finnegan, director of Melbourne based Vitality Plus, has positioned herself as the ‘celebrity skin guru’ by regularly updating her expertise abroad by studying with the recognized authorities in cellular regeneration in Switzerland and the United States.

2. Be aware of your businesses relative strengths and weaknesses.
Any retailer (especially an SME) must be very objective about it's relative strengths and weaknesses if it's to survive and grow. Unlike external opportunities and threats that the market offers you which you can not control, internal strengths and weaknesses can be controlled and changed by the retailer. For example: leading Melbourne based, creative design firm Fine Design realising that only one staff member had expertise operating  a newly available printing software CAD program,  quickly arranged for additional training to raise the skill level of the other employees to protect itself if this one employee were unable to use the program.  As well by having a complete inventory of your strengths you will be in a better position to take advantage of any opportunities that may be around.

3. Look for groups of customers with similar unmet needs you can meet.
In most markets, you will find smaller groups of customers that exist within the overall market that have similar needs and can be grouped into market segments or niches.
If the retailer can provide a product or service that can meet this common need, then it will do well by targeting that market niche.
For example: Retailer:  Easy Tone Studio in Melbourne offers an exercise studio that offers exercise equipment with a difference. Rather than the standard gym equipment, it offers assisted exercise where the machine exercises that area of the body passively. This can be used for: older people, people recovering from illness, injured athletes, etc.
Although these are all different groups, they have a similar need for assisted exercise. Suffice to say, Easy Tone has differentiated itself from other gyms, and is highly successful as a result.

4. Know exactly who your customer is and what you need to deliver to keep them satisfied.
Most small businesses retailers make the mistake of mass marketing. In other words they try to sell their product or service to everyone in the market. Simply put, different people need different things.
Therefore it is critical to look at your market and make a decision about exactly what part of the market you want to target for your business and what their specific needs will be.
For example, The Athletes Foot sells only running shoes for athletes and runners. They are known to have the best range of brands, shoe sizes, fitting equipment and general expertise in fitting to ensure the correct size and shoe for any foot. In short they have an area of proven excellence. They know who their customers are and they deliver a personalised product for each.  This is the true essence of marketing.

5. Acknowledge and reward those people who contribute to your success. 
In most businesses, your staff will be a combination of high performers, average contributors and occasionally low performers.
Suffice to say, it is imperative that you identify your top performers so that you can acknowledge their efforts and reward them accordingly.
Traditionally larger firms lead the way by having incentive packages that not only reward individuals for the period just gone, but also involve rolling incentives over 2 or 3 years, to act as an effective retention tool for key staff over a longer period.

Next Time we will look at the five don't do's for Retail Marketing. Until then.
Good luck and good marketing.