The well-known UK fashion store, New Look, was the winner of the CXA Customer Centric Culture award in 2016 for their amazing implementation of a holistic and company-wide restructure towards better customer service.
As something quite new to the fashion and retail sector, customer centricity is an ever-growing decisive factor for customers where it’s starting to outweigh value centered marketing.
Thus New Look has caught the eye of many, including us, with their new initiative that helped them transform their company culture to be more customer-inclusive.
About the Initiative
This initiative was called ‘Service Basics’, and it was launched back in September 2015. The underlying tone behind the strategy was to transform the retailer’s customer experience and adapt it to the changing customer exceptions.
More and more people are willing to shop where they feel like they, as the customer, are at the heart of everything. Even if they have to pay a little more, the loyalty they feel towards a particular brand is one that can only be built with a customer centric approach to marketing.
New Look understood this well, and apart from only providing products which they themselves thought were important to customers, the new initiative also allowed them to take an additional step in the right direction by including the customer as the co-creator in the development of these practices.
Essentially this included extensive customer feedback that was collected and analysed with the help of InMoment, a customer experience management company.
The data received showed that New Look’s customer satisfaction scores have been steadily improving for some time, but that customer expectations were rising even faster.
As a result of these findings, New Look needed to implement something which could tackle these shifts in customer mentality while also working towards the top as a main competitor on the scene.
The Company identified three main areas that were hindering improvement most significantly which were New Look’s approach to refunds, staff attitudes and staff behaviors.
The first area regarding refunds was seen by customers as something that could be more flexible. New Look’s refund policy was generous, but, at the time, seen as restrictive by customers who fell outside of the parameters of the policy.
Improvements to staff were also needed as New Look staff, efficient as they were, lacked the personal and ‘human’ approach that the customers were now looking for.
This also carried over to the third area of improvement where customers gave feedback indicating that they weren’t feeling like the center of attention in the eyes of the staff, rather that the staff was busy doing other things and missing opportunities to engage with them further.
Social media was also another focal point for improvement as research showed that, as expectations increase, the tech literate generation is playing an ever so more important role in the sharing of their experiences with their peers, outside of the brand’s influence, thus further reinforcing the need for customer centricity.
New Look also understood that customers were increasingly comparing their offers with those of their competitors which also extended to retailers outside of the fashion sector, such as online and food retailers where greater service levels have already been established.
Clear Customer Insight
Because of these shifts, customer insight had to play a huge role in the development of the Service Basics initiative. Clear customer insight stood at the forefront of development which allowed New Look to get a holistic view of customer experiences as well as the exceptions explored above.
Since one of the main customer concerns was staff attitudes and interactions, New Look employed the initiative on all levels, including staff training and recruitment.
Instead of looking to recruit people with experience behind the till and in retail overall, their hiring platform now searches for people with preferable personal traits which make the individuals engaging and caring towards the customer.
Innovative and Creative Solutions
As the initiative was implemented on a company-wide level, the entire business was involved in improving the customer experience, from frontline staff all through to senior management.
The Chief Executive now shares monthly updates within the entire executive team on the business service and emails the company’s customer service manager with sample complaints in an effort to see how each is being resolved.
Regular meetings are also held throughout the year where heads of departments and region are required to attend and where all attendees are asked to give specific examples on how they will be improving their area of the business to make it more customer-centric.
These meetings are held by InMoment who manages New Look’s insight and feedback programme and who presents the latest feedback ensuring that all heads of department and attendees pursue developments with this feedback in mind.
Employee engagement also plays a crucial role in the upkeep of the initiative through the use of digital technology. New Look uses a private staff Twitter account to engage with employees and to encourage them to get involved.
The hash tag, #NewLookMakeMyDay also incentivises staff with instant rewards for great service across all five working days, and it’s a great example of how easily implemented ideas can drastically improve customer service through employee engagement.
The ‘Service Basics’ initiative was implemented and launched at New Look’s company-wide conference through a series of workshops back in September 2015. The format of this gathering allowed for high interaction with the audience through workshops that helped embed the key messages of the new initiative.
With over 750 delegates and high attendance overall, New Look was able to send the message across and inform people about the change taking place from a high platform.
In regards to staff, developments were made through an e-learning programme that helped educate staff on the practices of ‘Service Basics’ before they were implemented on the shop floor.
Furthermore, as the developments were company-wide, each layer of the organisation was introduced to the new concept from the very start, ensuring that any change made from that point forward was made with the customer developments in mind, helping the Brand quickly develop a reputation for customer-centricity.
As the main goal of the Service Basics initiative was to improve its customer service, making the customer a number one priority was the underlying mission driving all of these developments. By making this happen, New Look has achieved fantastic improvements in regards to its customer experience and overall service.
The company is now listening to customers at a rate higher than ever, with a jump of 42,000 reviews. Customers are also very satisfied with the changes as reflected in an 11% increase in New Look’s satisfaction metric, and a massive rise on the UK Customer Satisfaction Index by 56 places, with the business now placed 7th.
Furthermore, 80% of customers report being ‘very satisfied’ with 70% singling out a staff member for praise, showing clearly that the approach to employee engagement and the shift towards a customer-centric culture is creating a different and positive relationship with customers.
The changes also had an impact on New Look’s bottom line with the company reporting an increase in the number of items customers purchase, with customers reporting higher levels of satisfaction showing an increase of 0.28 in units per transaction.
The overhaul of the refund policy also helped the company demonstrate a ‘no quibble’ approach which helped win loyal customers over without a negative impact on the business as was first suspected with a more flexible refund policy.
New Look’s developments clearly show an understandable correlation between customer insight and customer satisfaction. It goes without saying that companies open to the voice of the customer outcompete in today’s environment, in most if not all industries and sectors.
Usually the factor that holds business back is the method of execution but as we’ve seen here, all it takes is an honest and holistic approach with the ability to listen and respond.
Company-wide implementation is also a crucial part of any development as it allows the business to focus heavily on developing one area at a time, in this case, customer centric attitudes.
It is also important to remember that these developments work in a similar fashion in nearly all sectors. The ever so increasing use of social media and the need for social marketing should not be viewed as a nuisance, but as an opportunity.
For many businesses and sectors of a more traditional kind, these developments have been viewed quite negatively as they call for an abrupt and serious overhaul of processes, however, when done right, they can help bring the customer closer and keep them loyal since these channels allow for better transparency and higher level of human contact.
Because of this, the methods of improvement described here can be implemented in many areas and sectors since they all operate on a few new and fundamentally collective marketing principles that ask for nothing more but honesty and a human touch.