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
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
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
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
" 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."