The balancing act
Back in 2013 Richard Branson said, 'Business is simply making other people's lives better. If you have an idea where you think you can do this, then you have a business. Just try and make it work'.
These words are powerful motivational ones indeed, and as Branson knows, making it work requires a skilful balance of employee and customer satisfaction.
In the spotlight this week were the bosses of Sports Direct, roundly accused of operating their business like a Victorian workhouse. There's no doubt that their business idea is good, and would have certainly got the Dragons Den approval. A huge variety of incredibly cheap sports goods delivered to your door in jig time, all at the touch of a button, perhaps one hand on the TV remote control, the other on whichever mobile device we are using. Totally stress free and convenient, like all online offerings it is truly genius in our modern, busy, ‘always on’ lives.
The revelations about Sports Direct, including operating a culture of fear and favour, whilst taking advantage of temporary employees who have zero hours contracts, were unearthed by an undercover reporter from the Guardian. They coincide with Theresa May's backing for employee representatives on boards, one of a series of reparatory actions which Sports Direct has subsequently committed to in their response to the damaging allegations.
It is estimated that about 80 % of the UK population has made an online purchase recently; an astonishing statistic. We are clearly in a new era, perhaps a new norm, and there is no turning the clock back.
It seems however that this transformation in our shopping habits has in some cases outpaced a commensurate transformation in the workplace, to ensure that we have motivated, skilled and confident colleagues, to build a successful online sector which, at the end of the day is only going to get larger.
All too often self employed delivery drivers face the wrath of consumers who have stayed in for a delivery; they are unforgiving of traffic chaos, breakdowns or any other factors. As consumers we simply don't need to understand the processes behind our clicks. Interestingly the value of parcels being delivered can be so low that it scarcely justifies the effort; surely a broken process.
Like all emerging service sectors there will be maturity; and there are some shining beacons like John Lewis who seamlessly merge the old high street with a new online phenomenon. For others for whom the opportunity to ‘pile them high, sell them cheap’ may be too compelling or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Businesses operating in our competitive service sector world; (the UK is now 80% service sector) will only survive and thrive by paying attention to each of its stakeholders in equal measures, consumers, employees and shareholders.
Managing end to end customer experience from the click through to receipt and perhaps return or complaint resolution requires a vast set of skills and experience in managing a complex supply chain where contractors may not be on your payroll. Not to mention a commitment to treating everyone fairly.
CCA has many successful online retailers in our network and it is refreshing to see how they learn and share experience with other sectors including BPO, banking and public sector.
There has never been a greater need for sharing and learning to avoid the pitfalls of others mistakes. There has also never been a greater need for main boards to seriously challenge their understanding of HOW as well as what business is being delivered in their name, particularly if they choose to involve third parties. Ignorance is not an excuse.
Leadership in a digital age is the final topic in CCA's series of Industry Council Thought Leadership sessions for 2016 next week. There will be as ever a robust debate about the essentials of good leadership in our frenetic always on world.
The phrase 'creating a culture where colleagues can succeed' is perhaps a good place to start and I'm sure we will build on this to reach a new level of collaborative agreement. To access any of our benchmarking or research outputs please click here.