“We need to think like a retailer”. Really?
In listening to those who are looking to improve customer experiences, I’ve heard two very different opinions from the aviation industry this year on where the aspirations lie. The airline: “We should think like a retailer who happens to run a fleet of aircraft”. The airport: “If you think like an airport you’ll never really understand your customers”. As a passenger, I know which way of thinking I’d rather be on the receiving end of.
To those organisations in any industry who aspire to think like a retailer (code for “sell more”), I have a suggestion. Why stop there? Why not have the aspiration to make your customer experiences so easy, consistent and cost-effective that it is the retailers who are the ones who look to you and say “We need to think like them”?
One of the biggest challenges we see in creating a truly customer-focused business is the lack of clarity among employees about the overall strategy. Or, a brand that creates expectations but then has little robust structure to deliver what it promises. Whatever market we operate in, an aspiration to improve is of course admirable. But we need confidence in our own business model. Surely, we don’t want to give our employees the impression that we don’t back ourselves so we’re going to act like someone else. That message, intended or not, isn’t what will drive the right behaviours and engagement.
It’s a similar risk with searching for and emulating best practices carried out by competitors. In reality, it’s never that straightforward but if we replicate what they are good at we will, by definition, only be the same as them. And in today’s world, we need to be different and distinctive. The bar of expectations is rising relentlessly so yesterday’s best practice quickly becomes today’s norm. And it’s not always about the “Wow” moments – getting every basic element right every time is, for sure, a best practice that others will aspire too.
I hear a lot about the need to think like a retailer and I applaud the intent. Retailers have some great experiences but they have a lot of very average ones too. Yes, they sell stuff and most organisations are looking for ways to increase revenues. But I’m still firmly of the view that while we can learn from others, it is critical to aspire to get the customer experience right for our own business first. In doing so, we then become the one that everyone else looks to as the role model.