NRF: The 8 C’s of Customer Service

Discussion
Jan 12, 2011

At a session Monday at the NRF convention, McMillan Doolittle unveiled
its “8
C’s Model of Customer Experience.” The principles include: Clarity, Convenience,
Choice, Communication, Cast, Control, Consistency and Connection.

“This starts
at the top by setting a few, clearly communicated priorities and creating an
environment that employees want to work in and puts serving the customer first,” said
Anne Brouwer, senior partner.

Ms. Brouwer, along with Mara Devitt, a partner
at the consultancy, then reviewed the eight principles and gave examples of
retailers representing each one.

Clarity: The right positioning for what the retailer stands for. Ms.
Brouwer cited Whole Foods’ “well defined and communicated positioning,” their “passionate” employees
and “lazer-like focus” on their target customer. She said, “They’ve
staked out a unique position and it’s one that’s hard to replicate, which helps
to ensure lasting value.”

Convenience: The right locations and channels. Ms. Brouwer cited Walgreen’s,
which seems “to be on every high traffic corner and always the location
with the best access.” The drug store chain is also available online, has
some 24-hour locations, and more recently added drive-through access to some
doors.

Choice: Having the right selections for their target customer. Anthropologie
and Crate & Barrel were mentioned as examples. Said Ms. Brouwer, “It’s
romancing products with powerful and emotional story telling.”

Communication: Leveraging all touchpoints to engage the consumer with
a particular emphasis on store design and layout across channels. Ms. Brouwer
cited Williams Sonoma’s “exquisitely choreographed presentations
and rigorously edited assortments.”  She added, “It’s great signage
at multiple levels and seamlessly integrating those messages with unique and
impactful store design.”

Cast: Having the “right” employees through smart hiring, training
and standards. Said Ms. Devitt, “The Container Store has done a great job
of delivering a stellar cast. They hire and develop brands zealots who live the
brand, the lifestyle and who love the product.”

Controls: Having a flexible, custom-oriented selling and service process.
Ms. Devitt noted that at Chipotle, a customer can have their meal made to order
in the store and see it being made. But they can also customize the order online,
pay online and pick it up at the store while avoiding the checkout line.

Consistency: Delivering the same experience and message across time,
locations, channels and media. Said Mr. Devitt, “J. Crew is our example here. This
requires exceptional precision and coordination across the various functions
within a retail organization to make sure all the customer experience elements
come together across all touchpoints day in and day out.”

Connection:  Involves extending the experience beyond the retail transaction
to develop a lasting relationship with the customer. Said Ms. Devitt, “Sephora
does a great job here. They use mobile apps, e-mails and social networks to keep
a dialogue going and to stay top of mind with their customers as their beauty-go-to
advisor.”

Do you see anything missing from McMillan Doolittle’s 8 C’s Model of Customer Experience? Which one may be excessive? Can you pick a favorite and a favorite retailer to represent it?

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16 Comments on "NRF: The 8 C’s of Customer Service"

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Kevin Graff
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

Great and thoughtful list. This should be made into a poster and placed in every retailer’s head office. And, in looking at the list the good news is that none of it is rocket-science. Not necessarily easy to execute, but the thinking and examples are out here for any retailer to replicate.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

I think that clarity is easy when you’re a Whole Foods but harder when you’re a generalized supermarket. Regardless, you need to find a way to do that and thematic retail activation ideas are key.

Also, there is a bit of an implication in these that the retailer controls the environment but with mobile apps, that is becoming less true.

This list feels a little locked into traditional thinking.

Roger Saunders
Guest
6 years 11 months ago
Superb job in compiling this list. And, with the consumers’ increasing mix of online/offline shopping, CONVENIENCE has a slight edge of the various ‘Cs’. Retailers need to continuously view the reasons “why” consumers switch stores. Each month, BIGresearch monitors this “why” for various retail formats (the American Express Customer Service Awards presented at the NRF Conference were based on BIGresearch Surveys of consumers in the monthly Consumer Intentions & Actions (CIA)). Leading reasons for switching stores are consistent across most retail category lines. They are largely covered in the authors 8 Cs…Prices, Location, Selection, Store Appearance, Quality, Return Policy, Poor Customer Service, Not having latest styles or equipment, poor quality, saw a competitor’s ad, salespeople not knowledgeable, etc. Much of customer service acceptance stems from expectations entering a store, and then the experience during the visit. Like it or not, the consumer’s expectations for high customer services are in order: Restaurants, Specialty Stores, Department Stores, Drug Stores, Grocery Stores, Internet, Membership Warehouse Clubs, Discount Stores. This doesn’t permit merchants further down the list to let… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

The trouble with all these kinds of lists is that you are limited to words starting with a certain letter. Makes for great PowerPoint but not necessarily a “Complete,” “Coherent,” or “Convincing” argument.

If you were not, in fact, alphabetically impaired you could add a good number of things to this list including (but not limited to): value; values; lifestyle alignment, and authenticity of offering.

Perhaps the real message here is that artifice is entertaining, but retailing is rarely so nice and neat that it can be tied up in a “Convenient” package and wrapped in a “Cute” and “Comfortable” bow.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
6 years 11 months ago

Nothing wrong with traditional thinking as long as there is proper execution of all these elements. I know it sounds a little like Business 101. But I’m always surprised by the number of companies who need the primer.

The issue is getting them beyond the “poster” and actually find ways to accomplish these eight goals. That’s where the creativity and flexibility come into play.

Mike Boguszewski
Guest
Mike Boguszewski
6 years 11 months ago

Connection–aren’t the others really the methods by which you get and stay connected to your customer? It’s all about connection–the other “c”s can be adapted, trimmed, changed, expanded, strengthened, etc., but it’s all in an attempt to get that connection.

Doug Pruden
Guest
Doug Pruden
6 years 11 months ago

The speaker understands the reality (it’s all about the TOTAL “Customer Experience”), but the headline takes a dated and limited view and incorrectly suggests it’s just about “Customer Service.” Absolutely, customer service and hiring the right staff is very important. But as Anne Brouwer points out, so is being in the right location, with good parking, with a variety of product, etc.

Additionally, as some retailers have learned the hard way, it’s about what customers see, touch and even smell in the stores, and the personal communications and advertising messages that reaches them. The perceived value that’s delivered and the decision to return again and buy more is a product of every touchpoint and experiential component of their interaction with the brand–which goes much beyond “customer service” alone.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

The eight “C’s” are well thought-out and entertaining. Another example of why NRF is so important.

Marge Laney
Guest
6 years 11 months ago
This is a great list, but I can’t think of one chain brick and mortar retailer that gets it all right on a consistent basis. But, I’m not going to focus on consistency as I think the biggest challenge is cast and connection. It’s relatively easy for the chain retailer to get the other 6 of the 8 C’s right through the use of technology, but getting the people, training, and connecting with customers in a meaningful way right takes more than a mobile app or a twitter account. Having just returned from the NRF Expo myself (well actually I am stuck in NYC because of the “snowstorm,” but that’s another story) technology whose goal is to encourage and enhance personal customer service in the brick & mortar store was nearly non-existent on the show floor. Which begs the question, when you need to deploy a great cast and connect with the customer who makes the effort to visit your stores, is technology the answer? For the most part, I think not. The Container Store… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
6 years 11 months ago

As with any collection of principles or attributes all of which are contrived to begin with the same letter, there are strengths and weaknesses in this one. My fave is Proper Preparation Prevents P— Poor Performance. Cute but not rising to the level of a proper mnemonic. As a poster in retailers’ head offices, the “8 Cs of Customer Service” will provide a great way to hide a hole in a wall before it joins the company’s mission statement document in a file drawer. Good for an NRF presentation, though. The earth has only seven seas, while McMillan Doolittle has “unveiled” eight Cs.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
6 years 11 months ago

Coming up with a set of principles that define a quality customer experience is a daunting project, so I applaud M&D for taking on the task. Like others, however, I think that using the device of the “8 C’s” rather than illuminating tends to cloud some of the key elements of customer experience.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

If you monitored what shoppers did instead of what they said (and the punditry talks about,) speed, or the time it takes to shop there, would be THE dominant characteristic. Nobody wants to admit it, but time is at least as important as money in shopping, and both play a role in the third shopping currency, angst.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting The Container Store corporate office in the Dallas area you would understand clearly why cast is so important. Ms. Devitt is right on the mark with her selection. The Container Store philosophy begins with who they hire and where that hire is placed and trained. It is a process taking months to complete. Google it and see for yourself. Better yet, go to Dallas and learn first hand from the source.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
6 years 11 months ago

No retailer can excel at all 8 C’s, as Ryan Mathews pointed out in “The Myth of Excellence.” Better to excel at one or at most two, be better than average in a couple, and be at industry standards in the rest. A few of my personal choices for “Best of C’s”:
Clarity – Publix
Convenience – Walgreens/McDonald’s
Choice – Target
Cast – Apple
Controls – Verizon Stores
Consistency – Staples
Connection – Amazon

George Whalin
Guest
George Whalin
6 years 11 months ago

As Kevin Graff stated in his post, none of this is rocket science. There isn’t much about delivering a great experience and customer service that any retailer couldn’t do if they actually focused on this aspect of their business. Unfortunately, great customer service continues to be a low priority for some retailers.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
6 years 11 months ago

I would add another–Channels.

It is still true that if a customer walks into 95% of the stores in America and discovers that the desired size or color isn’t there, she’s supposed to leave without spending that money. She isn’t allowed to tender her money and have the product shipped to her home. This is arguably retail’s most urgent challenge.

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