Macy’s Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, has meant for many, Turkey, Football and Macy’s annual parade in New York City. This year, the parade festivities might be overshadowed if Macy’s decision to open its stores Thanksgiving night draws the same backlash other retailers faced for opening on turkey day in recent years.

The following is from Macy’s website:

Macy’s, Inc. clearly recognizes that the customer is paramount and that all actions and strategies must be directed toward providing a localized merchandise offering and shopping experience to targeted consumers through dynamic department stores and online sites.

“At Macy’s, Inc., our greatest strength lies in the skill, judgment and talent of our people. Every day a production of enormous magnitude takes place on our selling floors and behind the scenes, where our people bring the company’s strategic goals to life. Our priority of attracting, retaining and growing the most talented people in the retail industry has been and will continue to be our greatest advantage.”

The above information can create a challenge for Macy’s if employees are not engaged (due to working Thanksgiving Day) and therefore cannot deliver a consistent “Macy’s Experience” to the customer. It would appear many customers do want them open on Thanksgiving Day. However, Macy’s needs to be careful here and clearly understand what their people think about working Thanksgiving Day. If by staying open Thanksgiving, they jeopardize the stores ability to “produce an experience” for the customer that is in line with its Brand, then it is the kiss of death. Further, if opening on a family holiday jeopardizes their ability to attract and retain the most talented people; thereby jeopardizing their self-proclaimed “greatest advantage”, then staying open is indeed a decision based on the short term and will ultimately damage the brand.

If however, the employees embrace staying open as an action required to fulfill the needs of their customers and their Brand maintains Integrity, this could be a good decision. The key for Macy’s is to be consistent with the values they have defined and espouse to their customers, show integrity in how they remind/reinforce those values with employees to be sure they live them and constantly assess and measure how they are doing. It will be interesting to see the long term effect of this decision (if it can be isolated from other “incremental” choices) on the ultimate success or failure of the Macy’s brand.

If Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast, Engagement Eats Competition for Every Meal

Ask yourself, does your company “outbehave” the competition?  Not “outperform”, but “outbehave” – do you have a workforce that is so engaged in your branded experience that they literally behave better and more consistently than the competition?

Take a moment to rate how much you agree with the following statement.

Employees throughout our company are aligned, committed, and motivated (engaged) to deliver a consistently great customer experience.





What does your rating tell you about your employee base?

The companies that consistently win are the ones that can get the majority of their workforce to understand how to deliver the branded experience — to live the brand. These are the companies that recognize that regardless of the industry their employees are on stage every day delivering an experience to one another and the customer. These companies know that customers and employees are judging the company by the experience they have with it. These companies know that every interaction with every employee is advancing the brand or detracting from it.

So, if you buy into the fact that every interaction is the brand in action, how can a company afford not to ensure all employees are engaged in the experience the company wants to deliver and the customer wants to receive?

The type of engagement I am talking about is not going to be measured by a lame annual employee satisfaction survey that quite frankly focuses on lag measures that don’t mean anything. Who cares that employees are satisfied – satisfaction is like dishwater, not clear enough to see anything. Who cares that employees don’t trust leadership – how do you even know what leaders employees don’t trust? So, your employees like your benefits and vacation policy, now what? It means they’ll leave when they find a better benefit package and vacation policy. What do you do with this employee satisfaction information? I know, you fill up landfills with binders full of paper, dust, and meaningless data. This information serves its purpose – a purposeful waste of trees, electronic bandwidth, employee time and company money.

Why not invest the money and resources to understand and manage and measure how truly engaged your employees are with respect to your company experience. Employees want to be part of something that matters. That something is YOUR COMPANY EXPERIENCE. Then, teach managers to use your company experience on a daily basis to actually manage to the experience and get employees to “outbehave” the competition. Then you’ll be “outperforming” them!

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“Nine People, Not Go on Plane”

Everyone has a good airline story, and by “good” I am being sarcastic of course.  These are the events that occurred just a couple weeks ago in Washington DC, United Airlines terminal.
Washington was our layover coming from Charlotte NC.  Our tickets were purchased months in advance.  We had seat assignments.  We had a confirmation from United.  Turns out a “confirmation” actually means “well…maybe” in airline speak.  We approached the gate when we heard our names announced.  When I questioned what was going on I was told we were bumped off the flight.  “Nine People, not go on plane” was exactly what he said.
Oh yes, I asked all the questions one should ask when faced with this strange speed bump in travel plans.  The only answer I could get from him was “Nine people , not go on plane”.  One couple was getting split up; a mother had to leave her adult daughter behind, and all with no explanation.  The flight was not over sold.  All nine of our seats were to go empty.
“So when is the next flight?” I asked.  “Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow.  You get $75 voucher” the United employee responded.   Great.
I could rattle on recounting the silly back and forth between United Airlines and the nine of us.  But that is not my point.  It’s a good story but not the reason I am telling it.  I’m telling it because in all of the crazy chaos, this one United employee clearly, without question, did not care.  He didn’t care about our missed flight, that he was splitting families up, that we had a “confirmation”, or that what he was telling us sounded ridiculous…he just didn’t care.
He spent no effort in explaining the situation because he did not care.  He was going to get paid and go home at the end of his shift regardless of what happened to me and eight other customers that afternoon.  He didn’t care.
Imagine if you approached your job with that lack of caring.
When employees do not care the customer knows it.  It comes out in tone and body language, attitude and effort (or lack of).  We have all seen these employees from time to time, and not just at the DMV!  When they are not engaged in their job, they certainly are not engaged with us as customers.  How does any business expect to thrive that allows employees to be that disengaged?
The closest I could find to a mission statement for UA was this: — “To be recognized worldwide as the airline of choice”.
The contrast between that statement and my experience that day is stark.
“Brand Integrity” by definition is the point when employees, customers, partners and the market understand, believe and experience that the organization is who it says it is.  That’s Living the Brand!

United Airlines…not so much.

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What Makes a Great Customer Service Experience?

My entire life, I could never really sit still.  I loved staying busy, going places, and being around people. I also had a strong passion for analyzing things.  I always wanted to know the why, the details, the how.   As I got older, I started to become very in tune with the customer experiences I was having.  The analytic side of me dug deep to really understand what made a customer experience a good one.   I came up with the following:

  1.  The experience was clearly thought out:  You could tell the organization spent time thinking through the desired experience and the potential obstacles that could get in the way.
  2. Employees knew how to deliver the experience: They were trained on the basic, but not always common practice, behaviors that made up the experience.
  3. The employees didn’t act like robots:  They were genuine when delivering the desired experience.  They put their own spin on the experience to reflect their personality. It didn’t seem scripted or rehearsed.
  4. The experience was consistent throughout the organization: No matter who you dealt with, you still had a great experience.

As I and the rest of society become more intrigued with customer service we are seeing that one bad experience with the help of social media can be shared with hundreds if not thousands of people.  What is the cost of not investing and focusing on creating superior customer service interactions?  When 85% of consumers said they would be willing to pay more over the standard price to ensure superior customer service.

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Net Promoter Straight Up

10 Key Observations for Customer and Employee Loyalty Practitioners 









1. Despite its ability to generate customer insights, a Net Promoter Program is a customer and employee engagement tool, not a research exercise. Its top goals are triggering customer relationship resets and holding employees accountable to embracing customer-centric behaviors. Using Net Promoter only as a customer feedback collection tool fails to engage with its primary value, ultimately undermining ROI.

2. Net Promoter has become the dominant loyalty metric and principle because of its simplicity and relative ease of adoption, whether researchers like it or not. NP is a good example of what psychologists call “Availability Cascade,” a self-reinforcing cycle that starts when a simple idea gains popularity because of its simplicity, and then is viewed as even simpler because of its popularity. A smart company should embrace Net Promoter, since trying to fight dominant trends almost always leads to isolation, but it should not rely entirely on it.

3. Both metric and end-to-end Net Promoter programs rely entirely on the “Likelihood to Recommend” question, which, at its core, assesses the Word-Of-Mouth (WOM) state/impact of your customers, not customer retention. The assumption is that strong “recommenders” are your most loyal customers, which links Net Promoter Scores to customer loyalty. If this particular linkage is proven untrue or inaccurate over time, the Net Promoter principle will end up being hot air. However, this is quite unlikely to happen.

4. The Net Promoter Score ranges from 0-10 and segments the market into three primary groups: Promoters (rating of 9-10), Passives (rating of 7-8), and Detractors (rating of 0-6). As a result, it measures positive WOM (based on customers’ “recommendation likelihood”), but it does not account for negative WOM, namely those who not only are not at all likely to recommend (Detractors), but who actively provide negative recommendations to people they know. The metric assumes that an individual will only provide either positive recommendations or no recommendations at all. Customers providing negative recommendations are forced into the bottom of the Detractor segment, preventing the metric from capturing a comprehensive picture of Word-Of-Mouth impact.

5. The Net Promoter Score is derived by subtracting the percentage of Detractors (rating of 0-6) from that of Promoters (rating of 9-10). Approximately 20% of the market (rating of 7-8) is theoretically left out of the equation, which implies “no impact,” while at the same time this very group of customers significantly contributes to the end result. In almost all projects I have personally managed, the Passives have provided numerous recommendations per year, but the metric treats them as if they are completely inactive or do not exist, an oversight that could easily lead to inaccurate business decisions. Executives almost always approach Passives as if they have zero contribution, a potentially costly mistake.

6. The “Likelihood to Recommend” question could be misleading in cases of customers not providing recommendations as a result of innate personality traits instead of low satisfaction with or loyalty to an organization. In simple words, a customer may state a low likelihood to recommend because he/she simply does not believe in recommending anything, not because he/she is dissatisfied with the company, product, or service. Although these cases may be the minority, they do impact results.

7. A fully operational Net Promoter program (meaning a program that includes comprehensive customer follow-up planning/execution and deep NPS integration to employee performance assessment and compensation) is expensive. Simply obtaining your customers’ likelihood-to-recommend-your-company scores (by running a customer satisfaction survey) requires a few hours preparation and may cost $250/year or less. Integrating that score to your company’s core culture and basic operational functions is where the cost can skyrocket – and the area to focus and keep a close eye on.

8. Realizing bottom-line results from implementing Net Promoter programs demands at least two to three years of persistent and uninterrupted program execution with very careful wave-to-wave refinement. Organizations that claim significant NPS increases in a matter of months are just scratching the surface, and in many cases, cannot really tell what drove their score improvements. Again, successfully developing and executing customer follow up and employee compensation models takes a fair amount of time, not just a “matter of months.”

9. Implementing NP programs is essentially a race against your own benchmark, similar to how athletes approach triathlons; each time you try to improve your previous performance. Straight company-to-company comparisons should mostly serve directional purposes and help put things in perspective. Each vertical is different with regards to customer loyalty and each organization is set up differently as well. Also, customer loyalty benchmark studies are based on different and sometimes conflicting methodologies. Instead of spending hours comparing your performance to these of your competitors, try comparing your performance now versus your performance a year ago.

10. It is no secret that Fortune 1,000 companies are already implementing NP programs in some form or another. However, the future of these programs (and, in my view, the true opportunity to prove the superiority of the concept) is their full adoption by small- and medium-sized companies. This particular market segment will need to develop innovative ways to execute end-to-end NP programs, since capital and human requirements are currently too high for these businesses to afford complete, integrated solutions. This will be the test that will determine whether Net Promoter is the de-facto loyalty principle or just a luxury for the few.

Disclaimer: I am a Net Promoter Certified Associate, trained by the co-developers of the concept, Satmetrix Systems. All content expressed on this post represents my personal opinions. The views stated here are not those of Bain, Satmetrix Systems, or any other organization and/or individual mentioned on this post. Net Promoter and NPS are registered trademarks of Bain and Satmetrix Systems.