Jeff Hall

President, Second To None

In the course of a 25-year career helping brands deliver consistent, authentic and intentional customer experiences, Jeff brings an innovative approach to customer experience measurement and analytics across diverse industries. His firm, Second To None, is particularly adept at helping leading brands realize their customer experience potential by fusing brand lens insights (operational measures) with the customer lens (feedback and perception) in order to drive business performance. Jeff brings a deeply informed approach to measuring and optimizing customer-centric retail and restaurant experiences.

At Second To None, he leads an experienced group of customer experience strategists and analysts in working on the design and execution of mystery shopping, voice of customer and operations/sales compliance solutions for such clients as Patagonia, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, Bose, UnitedHealth Group, Target, Staples, Harris Teeter and Citibank. Jeff also leads the firm’s strategic initiatives, including client solutions offerings, product/technology development and consulting services.

Jeff has appeared on MSNBC’s Your Business and his comment have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Nation’s Restaurant News. The firm which he founded, Second To None, has appeared in BusinessWeek while being recognized three years running as one of Inc. Magazine’s fastest growing private companies. Jeff is also a speaker on customer experience issues and trends. He has served as president of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association and is a founding director of the International Mystery Shopping Alliance. He is also an avid runner, biker and golfer.

  • Posted on: 07/25/2016

    White lies, sales fibs and the customer experience

    It is unfortunate that in some retail settings, where sales associates are partially commissioned or bonused for performance and find themselves in a high-pressure environment, white lies and similar transgressions become a part of the culture, ingrained in the sales process. Allowing this behavior is the sign of a brand in decline. Consumers are not only much more savvy in sensing they're being misled, but much more apt to share and amplify their experiences with friends, family and across social media. Little white lies chip away at brand equity and consumer trust in a manner more magnified than ever. Once trust is compromised, recovery is nearly impossible.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2016

    What does it take to deliver on the promise of customer centricity?

    The ability to deliver on the promise of customer-centricity is dependent upon:
    1. The customer experience being designed from both the brand lens and the customer lens. Too often, brands design customer centricy only from an inside-out perspective. Understanding customer preferences and priorities must also inform CX design. What is important to you might not be a customer priority, and vice versa.
    2. Enabling and empowering front-line associates to deliver on your brand promise, and the customer-centric expectations it creates, in such a manner that the experience comes across as intentional, consistent and authentic.
    3. Creating brand/organizational insights as to how well you are achieving customer-centricity — by measuring performance, rewarding the right associate behaviors and focusing on continual improvement around the key drivers having the most significant impact on satisfaction, loyalty and revenue.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2016

    Barnes & Noble to sell beer & wine in new concept stores

    Barnes & Noble restaurants with a focus on beer and wine would seem to reflect a focus on the evening shopper. Does this align with the highest volumes of their customer traffic? If so, the concepts may prove to be a great way of encouraging customers to stay longer and spend more, while making the stores more interesting and experiential.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2016

    The independent retailer lives on

    In our Ann Arbor market, we have a very strong ecosystem of independent retailers. More than utilizing technology, these brands excel at relationship-building, recognizing and appreciating their customers, supporting the local community, staying visible on social media and offering unique in-store experiences. These are the qualities consumers crave — a personalized shopping or dining experience and interacting with genuine, authentic business owners.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2016

    Amazon Dash gets a smart button rival

    The button concept — simple, convenient and quick — is appealing, though in reality likely to be embraced by a very small segment of the market. Who truly wants to have several buttons stuck to their walls, inside cabinets, etc. all around their house? As others have made note, voice-activated ordering will likely emerge as the dominant winner in this tech race.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2016

    Will luxury shoppers buy electric cars at Nordstrom?

    This is a great PR win for both brands. Assuming this expands to more Nordstrom locations, Tesla is able to expand its footprint of showrooms at a relatively low cost, with many coming to new geographic markets where Tesla has no presence. Though it is unlikely a Nordstrom shopper will purchase in-store, the customer demographics are nicely aligned. It creates Tesla brand exposure and may drive more traffic to Nordstrom simply out of curiosity.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2016

    Will become the king of private label?

    A robust private label strategy signals Amazon's continued maturation in dominating so much of e-commerce. Household items and staples will be met with the lowest degree of resistance. Over time, food could do well, provided they get it right with quality. Costco, Publix, CVSHealth and the like have the advantage of consumer trust around private label, at least for now.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2016

    CVS follows Target, offering curbside service

    This is a fantastic move on behalf of CVS and underscores a clear commitment to convenience as a brand differentiator. From a service design perspective, it illustrates the power of "outside-in" thinking ... creating a customer experience from the needs and perspective of customers first, then creating a seamless solution.

  • Posted on: 04/11/2016

    Kohl’s backs off in-store cafes

    Cafes and eateries make sense for retailers, so long as they fit with context and brand position. The context of a Kohl's shopping experience and the expectations/needs of their core shopper differs than that of a Nordstrom, Target or Restoration Hardware customer. The experiment and decision by Kohl's to pull back on the cafe concept is a smart reflection of the company better understanding its core shopper.

  • Posted on: 04/06/2016

    Will Kroger get Lucky with its latest investment?

    "Being the natural grocer for the 99 percent" indicates why this is a great alignment — between a savvy large-scale operator and smaller aspirational brand performing well in its respective markets. Lucky's entered the Ann Arbor market recently (in a former Kroger) and is holding its own against two local Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's. The Lucky's store environment is attractive and experiential, while the price points are more affordable. The investment gives Kroger access to a proven natural/organics banner with plenty of opportunity for growth.

  • Posted on: 04/05/2016

    How can retailers make better use of employee advocacy?

    In order for social media employee advocacy to have a meaningful, positive impact, brands should first ensure they've arrived at sustainable employee engagement — engagement around their mission, values, brand story, etc. This first element is achieved when employees feel as though they are important, valued and a key part of business success.

    When a brand is encouraging social media advocacy through their employees and engagement is absent, it comes across as disingenuous and as if the employees are simply being leveraged as a conduit for marketing and brand awareness — a tactic everyone sees for what it is.

  • Posted on: 04/04/2016

    Apple opens next-generation stores

    I consider this next generation retail design as less "fixing something that isn't broken" and more "highly intentional, methodical refinement." Apple is taking iterative steps to ensure every element of the space is focused on the product and encouraging shopper engagement. An underlying imperative is of course having knowledgeable, consultative team members who are both empathetic listeners and adept at resolving customer needs.

  • Posted on: 01/04/2016

    BrainTrust Predictions 2016: Amazon’s momentum

    All signs point to Amazon continuing to gain momentum and market share in 2016. Continued international expansion, building out same-day delivery to more markets and growth among its 35+ separately-branded companies (think Zappos and AmazonFresh) make Amazon a global juggernaut. I'm personally interested in how the Echo device platform continues to be refined as a tool for making the consumer/Amazon relationship even more seamless.

  • Posted on: 12/08/2015

    Will Nordstrom lead retail into the age of mass customization?

    This is a terrific move on Nordstrom's part and will elevate the already very good shoe buying experience in their stores or online. As they've done with Hautelook and Trunk Club, the company is taking a leadership position around innovation and continually looking for ways to enhance the customer experience in a way that is true to their brand promise.

  • Posted on: 10/06/2015

    Do retailers need help managing their online reviews?

    A company/brand's word-of-mouth reputation, via review sites and social media, can be one of its most important assets, or a significant consumer detractor. A company's approach in how they react to reviews can be very telling.

    Those most successful in influencing reviews over time are adept in their awareness of where their customers are posting reviews, then engage with reviewers in a responsive, positive manner addressing concerns, issues and problems in a way that seeks resolution. Responsiveness and empathy can take a negative review and soften it in a way that creates consumer respect.

    Inviting promoters/advocates to post positive reviews is becoming a common element of voice of customer surveys and can be an effective tool for offsetting the influence of negative reviews. The key is to also be addressing the negatives in a timely and genuine way.

    Ultimately, a brand's online reputation is a reliable barometer of how an organization treats its customers and employees. A retailer committed to being in business for the right reasons, who are genuinely customer-centric and live their values every day will find their online reputation takes care of itself.

Contact Jeff