A top business story this week was Next’s shares jump following its announcement that overall second-quarter sales rose 0.7%, beating expectations.
What was interesting for me wasn’t so much the fact that this sales increase was due to two key factors – one being a short spell of warm weather (please remind me what that looks like!) with the other factor being an increase in online and directory sales.
What I think is a key learning for all businesses was that the brand recognised one of the core reasons it had a drop in profits for the first time in 8 years in March of this year, was it had failed to stock enough of the right garments customers expected. Moves to streamline its buying process meant it had taken focus away from its core product range and became distracted by pushing stock its customers clearly didn’t want to buy.
The lesson here for brands is to remain focused on who you are, what you are selling and who you are selling it to. The voices of Abba singing, ‘Knowing me, knowing you’ have never seemed more relevant!
That’s not only true about the products you are selling but critically for us in customer service, it’s about understanding your customers, knowing what they expect from you and being able to deliver from a service perspective – particularly if online, automation and self-service keep on the trajectory they are.
One of the most common complaints we hear from consumers is that organisations have become faceless, robotic institutions with little flexibility to accommodate a frustrated population; who are in turn content to self serve, but occasionally and for some frequently, really need skilled and empathetic human handholding when situations demand. Keeping the connection with your customers, whether that’s in a face-to-face environment, talking to them on the phone or through the online services you offer (which they often prefer!) has never been more important to offer your business that competitive advantage.
So as we sit bang in the middle of ‘summer’, let’s hope we have the opportunity of another short spell of warm weather that might entice us to hit the High Street and keep connected with the brands we know and love.