"Eat your own dog food." It's a term that I learned years ago that transformed our business; and it's something you need to do too. And I'm going to teach it to you now.
It means that unless you use your own products and services you have NO IDEA what your customer experience is like. And years ago when I started forcing our team to use our own tools to train and manage our own people, it was a real eye opener -- and caused us to completely redesign everything to make it something that I would take pleasure in using.
So as a retail executive, do you even know what your shoppers experience? In every store? In slow times and during the holiday rush? Have you tried it?
WELL YOU CAN'T. NOT PHYSICALLY, ANYWAY. BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO MANY STORES AND TOO MANY VARIABLES TO SAMPLE.
You can't be physically at every store, in all kinds of conditions, and perpetually sampling what you're putting your customers through (and yes, I'll say it again: putting your customers through). Your retail company may be different, but ask your friends, family and neighbors what they think of their average shopping experience, and you'll get an earful of what they've been put through. And it's not pretty.
Here's the average experience: bad parking lot design, no carts (or filthy carts, filled with trash), poor and irrelevant assortment -- and even that is not well merchandised -- with untrained, product-unknowledgeable associates, who are apathetic at best and rude at worst -- leading to a self serve model that is MUCH better and easier executed on Amazon.com.
EVERY RETAIL BUSINESS PUTS THEIR CUSTOMERS THROUGH SOME PART OF THIS AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER.
Face it. If you rely on people (flawed human beings) to carry out your perfect vision all kinds of bad things can happen:
- Honest people who aren't trained well 'think for themselves' and deliver an experience that is inconsistent and in-congruent to your perfect vision
- Well meaning people who will just never get it or can't perform are 'putting your customers' through bad experiences all the time
- Dishonest people are stealing the wages you're paying them
- Indifferent and apathetic people are treating your customers like dirt
- And store managers are NOT immune to these issues
People are people. And if you don't build a culture on purpose, nurture it, protect it, train people in how to deliver your perfect vision AND test constantly to get a real world perspective on what you're delivering, it will ALWAYS devolve into a mess because even if you got it perfect today, turnover, and lack of continued messaging and culture will tear it all down.
Now the fundamental problem is HOW can you deliver the SAME message to EVERY employee MANY times and CEMENT the attitudes, values, beliefs and ACTIONS you want into EVERY employee -- AND attract employees with similar traits AND cause those who DON'T fit to self-select out?
Not just in ONE store. Across all of your stores? (Find out here.)
And going back to the idea at the top of this post, HOW can you continuously TEST the shopper experience to KNOW for YOURSELF that it's consistently GREAT?
You need to TRY IT.
Assuming you can figure out how to do it logistically, you need to know... You need to KNOW what is BROKEN in EVERY store before you can fix it. Is it a bad employee that a manager hasn't uncovered? Is it a bad manager? Is it a retail execution problem? A buying problem? A customer service problem?
Once you know WHAT the problem is, you need to figure out a way to FIX it -- both strategically and tactically. Strategically, you need to reinvest in your people-scaling activities. People need more coaching and training, and more communication of your culture. Tactically, you need to figure out some way of getting it done.
So you make the investment in building up your people -- again. But did it cause the result you wanted? Did it create the impact you wanted?
You need to TEST IT.
Because unless you test it, you can NEVER know for sure if you created 100% of your desired result, and achieved 100% of your desired impact. So you need to fall back and TRY IT again after you've made business inputs.
And then you need to TWEAK IT.
Chances are, your first attempt will fall short. Maybe it's your messaging, or maybe you need to insist on more training, culture, role-play, etc. Or maybe you just need to reintroduce some store employees and/or managers back to the job pool, because no amount of training, practice, or coaching can save them.
Then you need to START ALL OVER AGAIN.
Because the minute you get it right, somebody is going to quit, or get fired, or you'll need to hire temp workers for the holidays. All day long, every day, stuff just happens to tear down the perfect systems, and the perfectly behaving humans you worked so hard to put in place.
So once you have everything perfect, you need to keep TRYING IT to monitor, detect, and remediate.
ONLY with this continuous feedback loop can you ensure that all customers gaining trust that your company delivers a great shopping experience, every time.