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Where do my results go...? A real life success story!

Have you ever wondered why large organisations invest so much time and money in mystery shopping programs? Have you ever questioned how the results of your reports really affect an organisation's operations? Michele Hamdorf from Australian retailer Myer Grace Bros, the world's 10th largest, explains how they use mystery shopping from a clients perspective and explains why your results really do matter! This article appeared in the November 2003 edition of GAPbuster's quarterly newsletter, Service Edge.

Myer Grace Brothers - A Mystery Shopping Success Story!

Myer Grace Bros took their national customer satisfaction score from 62 to 76 in twelve months, the quickest turnaround GAPbuster founder Phil Prosser had ever seen. Not bad for a retail giant that many commentators believed was on its knees. We asked General Manager Michele Hamdorf how, once again, Myer Grace Bros is making customer service its competitive edge.

By 2001, Myer Grace Bros (MGB) had traded off customer satisfaction and brand positioning for a series of short-term gains that were unsustainable in the long term, Michele explains.

Whilst customer feedback told management customers expected high service, in fact, they received limited or self-service in intensified product stores. In 2000, complaint to compliment ratios ran at 7 to 1. What's more, feedback reflected inconsistency between service and presentation standards between stores.

Michele explains, "We had moved away from our heritage as an emporium department store and, in terms of service, became everything they hated." Customers voted with their voices and feet, and declared they weren't coming back.

" The first step was to sit down and look at ourselves through our customers' eyes. Though we had plenty of customer feedback data, we didn't really know what to do with it. Because it didn't value the customer, we didn't value the feedback."

With GAPbuster, MGB sat down and set out minimum standards of service and presentation and identified what could be measured. From there it was a case of prioritizing the rebuilding steps. Feedback indicated that, most importantly, customers wanted to be acknowledged and offered service quickly.

MGB and GAPbuster developed a persistent and intensive program to measure 77 dimensions of service across all departments. Each service dimension was weighted according to preferences expressed in customer feedback.

The company emphasized getting the leadership and attitude right from the start. Hamdorf restructured stores' operations to include customer service and selling managers on each floor. Best practice experts set an example for all sales staff, ensuring service, merchandising and presentation standards were met "in every store, every day, every time."

The program was reinforced by remuneration incentives for merchandise, customer service and selling managers. "We used GAPbusting not as a stick, but as motivation to really achieve best practice," says Michele. "For managers to receive bonuses, the whole
store has to get there. We also feel that it helps the whole team self-manage. It's not
pitting one department against another. It's about all of us working together to lift to the
benchmark consistently, every day every time."

For an organisation the size and geographic spread of Myer Grace Bros, moving 23,000 staff (29,000 around the Christmas peak) in the same direction is a challenge. To address a serious issue, MGB deployed fun characters.

Immaculately presented, and equipped with name badges and cheesy smiles, Heads Up Harry and Henrietta encouraged staff to practice "heads up aerobics." Instead of "duckbumming," where heads were bowed as staff folded stock, the exercises had staff holding heads up high, smiling and making eye contact with everyone within a three-metre radius. Three metre rulers were placed at staff entry doors, and Hamdorf reinforced the message with Henry and Henrietta's cheerful, catchy lingo in store visits all over Australia.

As she explains, "It's important the journey for MGB is not just about reinventing or rebuilding services: it's a fundamental shift for our staff in being customercentric, rather than stockcentric." In 18 months, MGB staff managed to double their national score for acknowledging customers within a three metre radius - addressing precisely the issue customer feedback had identified.

Hamdorf has been amazed by the impact the heads up campaign has had on shop floor morale. "Along with customers, staff acknowledge each other cheerfully, and it's a far more positive environment," explains Michele. "The culture change is the fundamental difference between being in an upward or downward spiral - we're really appreciative of the role GAPbuster has played in achieving this."

Service compliment to complaints are now running at 3:1 - a reversal of the situation 2 years ago. The company has now achieved a national score of 76 per cent. Top stores are scoring around 80 and 90 per cent. Michele no longer looks for best practice outside the company.

" Outstanding results are being achieved within the brand today - and best performing stores are not necessarily the smaller stores or the bigger stores or the stores that have the most staff. GAPbuster results highlight those stores with great attitude and great leadership." MGB's next step is to raise the level of their lowest-performing stores and push the boundaries of best practices across the organisation.

Now MGB's challenge is consistency. Not only is Michele's vision to have MGB eclipsing their own standards to become "the best retailer we can be," she's adamant that all 64 stores get there. "Does it matter what we do at Bairnsdale (one of Australia's smallest stores)? Yes, it does. We all know you can lose a customer in a minute but it takes a long time to get them back in this industry. It's critical that we not let them down again."

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