Loyalty begins with an engaged workforce

Nick Murray (Marketing Week, Opinion, 7 April) states that brands are ‘wasting millions each year on consumer-facing campaigns that may well be getting the people into the store, but, critically, are not getting the sale’.  To address this, he suggests that customer loyalty ‘begins and ends on the store floor’ and explains that brands need to communicate with retail staff and get them to become brand advocates.  However, I fear rather than having the desired result, this approach could be detrimental to the retailer and customer alike.

To illustrate my concern, imagine walking in to an electrical store intent on buying a washing machine.  If the sales personnel have only been ‘engaged’ by brand x, then they will try and persuade me to buy it regardless of whether brand y would have better fulfilled my needs – and would have given the retailer a higher profit margin.  But when I get brand x home and find it doesn’t do the speedy wash I wanted it for I’ll tell all of my friends to buy something else and shop at another store.

Now imagine my friend goes to buy a washing machine at another store.  Imagine that at this store, all the staff have been given product training on all of the goods that it sells.  Imagine too that the retailer has shared its vision with all staff, each sales person knows what is expected of them at work, has the resources to work well, has been given the opportunities to do what they do best, has been encouraged to learn and grow, feels valued and cared for, that their opinions count and what they do is important.  Imagine then, that this ‘employee engagement’ is what leads to great customer service and my friend buys the washing machine which is right for him – and he goes on to tell all his friends how good brand b is, and what a great store it was to shop at.

Of course, Nick could respond that all the brands sold by the retailer could invest in campaigns aimed at ‘engaging’ staff.  But how realistic is this, if as he advocates, staff are busy trying to win ‘money can’t buy prizes’ and ‘merchandising their stores at their own expense’ – surely the customer is in danger of being ignored? 

He also advocates getting rid of dedicated teams of field marketers and demonstrators in favour of using the retailers own staff to run promotions – but doesn’t explain who will pay for the sales person’s time and how such favouritism could lead to other brands refusing to supply product to the store.

Another concern too, is that Nick suggests that his programme has ‘important implications for assisted purchases, such as brown and white goods’.  But what about the retailers we use everyday for unassisted purchases e.g. supermarkets?  Now tell me whose approach will work best to engage the customer – his ‘brand engagement’ or my ’employee engagement’ approach?

To read Nick’s comments in full go to: http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/opinion/loyalty-begins-and-ends-on-the-store-floor/3011946.article

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