Preparing for better times: strategies, policies and procedures

This is part 2 of our interview with Dennis Veltre, President and Founder of Clicks & Mortar, a prominent marketing consultancy whose work keeps in close touch with the dynamics of the retailing sector in all its forms.

Better Times: Better Planning

GR: We ended our last conversation with a discussion of what you call “The Dominance Effect.”

DV: Yes, the difficulty of overcoming ingrained habits that inhibit individuals and companies from adopting new practices.

GR: You talked some about such things as reward or compensation programs that reflect outdated performance goals.

DV: Outdated in the sense that at an earlier time a reward policy that focused on a single channel may have made perfect sense, but now that multi-channels are in play, that policy may be disproportionate and skew performance results.

GR: Which would mislead management about channel effectiveness and inhibit new channel performance.

DV: Internal policies and procedures have to be analyzed with the same rigor and at the same time that new marketing channels are developed. That is why customer-centricity is so valuable; it enables management to begin with the most important goal and to build around it.

GR: Rather than around the channels leading to it.

DV: The customer opens doors to the various channels leading to their attention. It may prefer one channel to another but it expects that each channel will provide the same level of service and the same quality of brand experience.

GR: A perfect segue to considering the role of the contact center, which is becoming more than a medium for voice contact with the customer and now includes email and chat services.

DV: The contact center is the glue that holds the media together; it essentially bundles many of the important ways in which the customer can interact with the brand. But the increasing skills required of the customer service representative in the contact center have been a source of concern for many retailers.

GR: That seems to indicate that recruitment, selection and training of contact center reps is growing in importance.

DV: The quality and skill of the rep is becoming the most important differentiating characteristic for contact centers.

GR: And yet in a difficult economy that very characteristic is seen as one that adds cost.

DV: In the current economy keeping customers is as important as gaining them. You keep customers by providing a superior experience regardless of medium or marketing channel. You hope that those loyal customers will increase their business with you when times improve. And you know that when new customers are acquired they won’t be leaving because of poor service. Customer service is not an administrative cost, it is a marketing strategy.

GR: Dennis, we appreciate the time you have so generously shared with us and your expertise and experience in the retailing industry. Any final thoughts?

DV: The economy will eventually turn – there is no doubt in my mind about that. The retailers who have positioned themselves with strategies, policies and procedures to be ready for that eventuality will undoubtedly reap the rewards of their solid preparation.

GR: The sooner the better.

DV: It gets closer every day.

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