competition

Demonstrate Value Before Turning Up The Volume

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Happy New Year - 2019
It’s that time of the year when everyone is planning for the new year, and the journey can be scary. As you already know, it’s wise to know in advance how to get where you want to go before you embark on any journey.

Jack Ma at World Economic Forum (video)

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"We really need to pay attention to people who are 30 years old, to the next 30 years and to companies that have less than 30 employees. What are you most looking forward to and most scared off in the next 30 years?" Watch the full interview here


A Taste of Paris in Dowtown Copenhagen

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Today, I had the opportunity to interview David Piffre about his journey from the outskirts of Champagne to Bisto de Paris in Copenhagen. David is remembered fondly for his legendary Patisserie on Oehlenschlægersgade in Vesterbro.

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule, David. You recently told me that you will be celebrating 31 years as a qualified chef on 1st July. Can you tell me a little about your education and where you have worked?
I was educated in a private cooking school in Champagne, where I learned classic technique, cutting, preparation, identification of the raw ingredients, the organisation of the French kitchen and discipline, all under the critical eye of professional French chefs and cooks. Usually, this education is 4 years but as I was already working in restaurants on weekends and during the holidays, I skipped the basic classes and managed to graduate in 2.5 years.

After graduation, I immediately left to work as a young cook in Luxembourg and then I moved to Amsterdam where I worked as a chef. Afterwards, I had to return to France for my Military Service and I was sent to Germany for 12 months, and I had nothing to do with the kitchen for this period. As I was a good soldier, I was rewarded by getting a job in the Ministry of Defense in Paris, which was a little boring so I only stayed for 6 months before moving to Lausanne. After Switzerland, I moved to Florida and then Barbados, where I met the wonderful creative author, Rosemary Parkinson, whom I helped with her book, "Culinaria - The Caribbean". In Barbados, the ingredients that I was vaguely familiar with were used in a completely different way from what I had been used to and here I learnt about variety and the magic of the Caribbean cuisine.

Author: Rosemary Parkinson

Author: Rosemary Parkinson

I know that you are from Champagne, but can you tell me about what it was like to grow up there?
Champagne is best known for the production of the sparkling white wine that bears the region’s name. EU law and the laws of most countries reserve the term "Champagne" exclusively for wines that come from this region located about 100 miles (160 km) east of Paris. I was used to having agricultural farmers all around me, and as my father was a builder he was offered the best meat and vegetables in exchange for helping the farmer with their building reparations, as bartering was the currency of choice. You have to remember this was before there were supermarkets in the suburbs or main cities!   

I know that you are the "main man" at the Bistro, so I know that you are here quite often, but what do you do for fun?
It all depends on the season, the time of the year. In the winter time, I do not do anything, it's my hibernation time, I just stay home and relax. Sometimes it's possible for me to travel to a sunny destination, and when I have this opportunity, I usually choose Asia as I have a lot of very good friends in Bangkok. During the spring/summer, I love to bicycle, a trip of 40 or 50km on my city bike, taking it easy, observing, is a wonderful way to spend my day off in the Copenhagen sunshine.

Who was your childhood hero?
Zorro was my idol. He was my idol, the black clothes, the horse, the mask - he was the man. I am still a big fan, today if I can see the series or the movie it still makes me happy and calms me down.

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What is the most exciting thing right now, it could b in your personal or professional life?
My new pizza truck project. My good friend died two and a half years ago and his widow is alone with 7-year-old twins, she cannot manage his food truck business, so she asked me if I would like to help her and of course, I said yes!

What are you most looking forward to in 2018?
I would be really pleased if I can get the empty room next to my apartment, I have been trying to get this additional room for 10 years now. And I hope that this is the year where I get the extra room from the building as I would like to build a new bathroom.

What was the best thing to happen to you in 2017?
There were many good things that happened last year, but I think that my best friend got married. I never ever expected her to get married, so it was a big surprise and am so extremely happy for her. The wedding reception was here at the Bistro de Paris and they had a great party, it was so much fun. The Bistro can be hired for private events, weddings, confirmations, christenings, birthday parties, etc., so please contact us if you are interested.

In your opinion, how can you create and deliver a deeper connection with your customers?
I am not sure we can make a better experience for our clients, when they arrive here they are greeted with eye contact and made to feel genuinely welcome. I am confident that the food we serve to eat and drink is the best value for money experience you can get in Copenhagen. It's fresh, it's home-made, there are no hidden agendas, so it pleases me when the clients say it was a nice evening and they can leave satisfied. Sometimes I even get a hug and I feel really good and this is what breeds confidence. We have recently started a Newsletter to keep our customers updated on the events and offers at the Bistro.

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With regards to Bistro de Paris, how can you continually evolve and grow?
Maybe opening at lunchtime?
When people are not used to going to restaurants on a regular basis, the Bistro is good value for the price and quality. It's simple food, but using the same raw ingredients as in the really expensive restaurants, the presentation may not be as fancy, but it is exactly the same products. 97% of our clients are very happy with the prices, DKK 300 for a 3-course meal and 2 glasses of wine is outstanding value for money.

Many people confuse a "Bistro" with "Gastro" restaurant, a Bisto is a place where you eat quickly, as they say in Danish a "spisested". It's simple, the menu is on a blackboard and we cross it off the menu when it is sold out, just like it is when you travel in France. The walls are painted yellow like a Bistro from the 1950's, 60's, the lamps, the pictures/posters on the wall gives an authentic feel to the place. Quality wines at reasonable prices

What's the most important thing I should know about you?
I am a really honest person that tries to treat people fairly, I do not play tricks or try to deceive. When I like someone I smile and on the other side, when I am in doubt about their intentions I try to leave the situation without creating a fuss.

Bistro de Paris · Vesterbrogade 19 · 1620 Copenhagen V · T: (+45) 33 33 82 22




 

An Elite Customer Journey: Q&A With Lisbeth Dalgaard

Dalgaard Supermarket logo

Dalgaard Supermarket logo

Retail and the consumer are evolving, so the smarter we can analyze the data, clues and insights, the better we will be at leaving customers feeling wanted, respected and appreciated at every stage of the interaction. Competition is fierce in the supermarket sector and today I am having a Q&A with Lisbeth Dalgaard from Dalgaard Supermarket (MENY) in Hørsholm, who is doing an exceptional job.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I started out studying French in Geneva and then I returned to Denmark with the intention to continue studying languages, but stopped rather quickly and took my education within the insurance business whilst working for an insurance company. After completing my Merkonom in Marketing, I moved into IT industry with IBM Denmark and studied HD whilst at IBM, and was also educated in Business Psychology. I am the Chairperson of DSK, Board & Executive committee member at Danish Chamber of Commerce, Board member KFI, Dansk Handelsblad (media) and Scanseason (seasonal merchandise), plus I also sit on a couple of advisory boards. On the personal front, I am married with 2 grown up sons and am really good at prioritizing my time between personal and professional activities.

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Was your father the founder of Dalgaard Supermarket?
Yes, my father began in Frederiksberg as a grocery store owner in 1954 and then in 1962, he started Dalgaard in Hørsholm, which was in those days a small shop of 80m2. We became Dalgaard Supermarket in 1971 with an 800m2 store and have grown exponentially since then.

My father and I

My father and I

When did you take over from your father?
I started in the supermarket around the year 2000. In the beginning, it was a bit of a trial - neither my father nor I was certain, but after 3 months, I was sure that this was the correct decision. Before I started I discussed with myself about what was going to be the major challenges, e.g. negotiations with the suppliers, but actually, it was the people. The personnel, as it was a completely different culture from what I was used to at IBM. Here when we reached a goal the mentality was not to get excited if the reward was an additional training course. I had to adapt the different culture very quickly otherwise, I would have been out of business very quickly.

At what stage did you become part of the MENY group?
MENY used to be called SuperBest, and we joined the SuperBest Group in 2008. I was on the SuperBest development team trying to develop what we now have as MENY, but at that time many of the group members were not ready. We were very close to introducing a new kind of SuperBest but the majority of the small supermarket owners were against the reform. There were about 25 supermarkets (ca. 70% of the group turnover) that were very keen to reform, but as we have one vote per supermarket, regardless of the size, and the small supermarkets were reluctant to change as they thought that a price-focused supermarket would be best. Already then, there was a trend that either you are very discount focused or very specialized, there was no future in the middle ground, but they wanted to be there. Democracy prevailed and we remained in the “middle segment” for 2 more years, on hindsight, this was for the best as it proved to the small supermarkets that it did not work, and they came back and insisted that we develop what is now MENY.

Do you have a clear set of customers in mind when making decisions?
Not really, if I were to put a label on our customers, it would be “that they are conscious food lovers and foodies.” In the 90’s you categorized customers in blue, yellow, green, whatever, based on gender, income, occupation, etc., nowadays you cannot do that! A good example is a single father who has his children one week and then the next week he is alone and has a date, the buying behaviour in these two weeks for the “single father” is completely different. You cannot judge that by the customer appearance as to their buying power or preferences, it is much more about situation awareness and that is how we train our staff to remain open-minded and curious over for the customers. We focus on quality and personal relationships, as we believe that it is much easier to sell to customers when we have created trust. We are also very particular when we choose the products we put on our shelves.

When focusing on the customer journey throughout your supermarket, how do you create an experience that taps into your customers’ emotions and behaviours?
As human beings, we like to be seen and welcomed and that is something that we have really been training. It is very important that all our employees meet the customers, look into their eyes, smile and welcome them into our supermarket. Subconsciously saying I have seen you and I am here for you, and this something we are training on a continuous basis. Also in the front section of the shop, where the customer is met by the staff in the Post Office, kiosk or bakery who see all of the customers as they enter our store and they can smooth the path for their colleagues further in the shop by just smiling and welcoming them as they begin their journey.

Dalgaard Supermarket is stocked with great products, which are displayed in a warm and welcoming way, your staff are knowledgeable and the real-life shopping experience is still where sales are made. How do you think the online experience will transform the supermarket business in the future? And how will you incorporate digital at Dalgaard Supermarket?
In a way, it already has, if you look at how nemlig.com has been struggling and are showing huge deficits in their balance sheets, year after year. And they have invested over 1 billion DKK into their business, in the beginning, it was because they wanted to master online food sales, but the value of the company today, as they see it themselves is big data. It is the behaviour of the customers because I think that it will take some years to crack the code, if ever, for how to make money on delivering goods to people because it is more expensive. As you have to factor in the cost of the employee selecting the products, which are usually the job of the customer in the shop, and now, you have to pay someone to do that. So it is very difficult to get a break even or profit under these economic conditions.

We at Dalgaard are also building big data but in a personal way. We know that this customer has just come home from a vacation and you ask how was the holiday? You know that this customer has just had a grandchild, how’s your grandson? And that is much more important to people today, as we are very much alone on a day to day basis in front of our PC’s. It’s easy to buy non-food products online, as it’s easy and convenient, but people need people (connectivity). We have customers coming to the store and all they want is a hug (metaphorically) and that is what they get here. We, in our line of business, should focus on the fact that we have a huge advantage in being with people. So we have to create an environment where they like to come, where they meet nice people, where they are excited and surprised, where they can be advised by professionals, where they can taste new products. So I think that we have a future even though there will be a huge competition from the online stores. Many of my customer’s say we buy beer, cleaning products, all the heavy stuff because we can get that delivered to our door, but I want to buy the food myself. I want to smell the tomatoes, I want to feel the avocados, I want to speak to the butcher about how I should prepare this kind of meat, etc.

We are planning to use the digital platforms as an opportunity to be more specific in addressing the customers that today we have “this and that” and “if you come between this time and that time it will be ready”. Order online, and we will start working with “Your Local” and “Too Good To Go” to conquer food waste. It’s also a way to get in touch with customers to let them know that we have ready to eat meals in our store. We are using Facebook a lot and also our website, where we generate a lot of traffic and that is monitored every month to see where the users are going, and recipes are always popular, the weekly offers and then our tasting and our events.

Clockwise: Cheese dept., fish dept., butchers and delicatessen.

Clockwise: Cheese dept., fish dept., butchers and delicatessen.

I can see that you have collaborations with Post Nord, Emmerys and Peter Beier. How often are you hosting in-store events?
We have weekly events/tastings every Thursday, Friday and Saturday plus we have spontaneous tastings throughout the week, and we also have a lot of partners coming in to present, mainly new products. So long as we like it, we are not afraid to give a new producer or agent a chance to present their products in-store. They need to commit to making the introduction of the product in-store for 3 to 4 months because then we are sure that it will be a success both for them and ourselves. If we introduce a product via an introduction price, we will probably sell the product the first time, but we do not know whether they will come back to buy the product again. If they buy after they have tasted the product at full price, this is a proper test, and then we know that they will probably come back, so this is how we introduce new products via tastings.

Then we have special events, typically around wine - where we invite winemakers to DK and then we have a partnership with some of the local restaurants e.g. some in Rungsted Harbour, Kokkedal Slot, Søhuset in Scion (DTU) and then we have a dinner where the chef will incorporate a menu that compliments the wine. We have had flower arrangement courses with our florist and we have also had a cheese and wine travel (5 evenings), where we started out with cheese & wine from Italy, and then from Spain, then to UK, DK and finally the Nordics.

Left: Tasting evening                                    Right: Tasting with Jakob de Neergaard

Left: Tasting evening                                    Right: Tasting with Jakob de Neergaard

At what stage do you share your vision for the future with your staff?
When we are ready! Many of the new ideas we work on together, e.g. launching of new products. When we started out with the “Free Off range” (e.g. lactose-free, gluten-free, etc.) we had to make sure that we understood the concept before we went out to the customers. So we do a lot of training ahead and when we think that we are ready we launch. This one of the things that I learnt whilst at IBM that you have to test things beforehand before you go out to the clients. Then again I am very open to inputs, and my employees are always free to come and have an open and frank conversation.

Are you the go-to person or is it middle managers who the shop floor would approach?
I am on the shop floor mainly on Fridays and Saturdays, but all my employees are aware that I am also a resource of 2 hands and 2 feet, so if they need my help, they just call for it - my door is always open, so just come.

What measurement tools do you use to ensure that your staff act consistently with the stated values?
We don’t have any specific measurement tools, but we use our staff Facebook group, where we nominate each other or just praise - “I have a colleague and he/she did this or that and it was very good”. And we use some of this feedback directly and then once a month we have a morning meeting with the leader group where we speak about the nominees and we acknowledge the best one with a reward. The most important is the peer to peer recognition!

Educated staff members

Educated staff members

Do you have a training program to support your employees? And how do you obtain feedback from them?
We are very open to employees wishes for education, so if an employee comes to me and says they would like to improve their skills in a specific area, I will try to see if we can find a course, person or something that can train that particular skill set. We are planning to have more IT training over the next couple of months. We have had the management group on trips to London together with ZBC (Zealand Business College), as they have access to managers in some of the top retailers in London and we can learn from all types of retail. We are currently planning another trip for September, as it’s important to see something that you haven’t seen before and because of the volume of customers in London, the retailers have to make their ideas work. And these best practices I share with a handful of colleagues who I debate ideas with as they are facing similar successes and difficulties.

What systems do you have in place to measure, reward and reinforce desired behaviours?
When we recognise a member of the team who is doing a really good job of welcoming, smiling and acknowledging the customer, we praise the behaviour in front of their colleagues. And we encourage this member of the staff to take responsibility for spreading the goodwill amongst the team.

What methods do you use in order to connect your employees to the Dalgaard Supermarket vision and mission?
We use our employee Facebook group and we have weekly management meetings, and then the managers have departmental meetings, so we have many opportunities to review and control that we are on track. There are always GOALS, not necessarily economic goals and we visit them every 2 months to see if we are doing the right things or have we decided to grow in an area where the customers are not ready and if so, we stop using the resources there and change direction.

Every week there are special offers available to all MENY customers in Denmark, so there is someone making the decision of what should be discounted this week in Dalgaard Supermarket?
We follow the MENY lead and do not spend a lot of resources on it. We also make our own weekly special offers in our local newspaper, which is much more focused on our customers' wants and needs. Facebook followers are also presented with offers. There is no real contradiction between MENY and Dalgaard Supermarket, our tagline is “The Meal Starts Here” and MENY’s tagline is “We Care For Food”.

Meny v/ Købmand Dalgaard - Kongevejs Centret 6, 2970 Hørsholm

Meny v/ Købmand Dalgaard - Kongevejs Centret 6, 2970 Hørsholm

Does the MENY HQ have systems in place to measure how you deliver on these promises or is that left to the individual supermarket?
Dalgaard Supermarket is run independently, but twice a year MENY run NPS Scorecard and of course, they look at all of the results, but we get our own results and we act on them.

What are you doing to help all your employees to understand their role in delivering on these promises?
When we started out I spoke a lot about the MENY values and Dalgaard Supermarket values and how they actually supported each other. As before we started the MENY brand there were not any corporate values as such, the MENY brand values were good and we could use them.

Many thanks Lisbeth for taking the time for this interview, I am truly grateful. I can conclude that at Dalgaard Supermarket decisions are made through the customers' eyes and this ensures that they have the customers’ best interest in mind. Lisbeth Dalgaard appears to be an empathic leader and she is able to tell the right story and consistently match that story to the way Dalgaard Supermarket delivers the shopping experience. Making every customer visit count is amazing and significantly enhances loyalty, bringing customers together with a sense of community which is also socially powerful. For sure, there are lots of supermarkets that are run by Excel spreadsheet management teams with no thought about the customer, where the owners are just doing the bare minimum to follow the brand manual and only compete on price. Dalgaard Supermarket is by far the best supermarket I have seen in Denmark and hopefully one of many elite examples of business excellence within the supermarket sector.



What Do You Know About Social Selling? Q&A with Tim Hughes

Image: Alex Low

Image: Alex Low

Marketing guru, Seth Godin once said, “Build it, and they will come only works in the movies. Social Media is a ‘build it, nurture it, engage them, and they may come and stay.’" This week’s Q+A is with Tim Hughes, who is universally recognised as one of the world’s leading pioneers and exponents of Social Selling and he is currently ranked Number 1 as the most influential social selling person in the world. Tim was responsible for a large-scale sales transformation within Oracle which resulted in excess of $100m in sales uplift, and he is currently leading the sales transformation programmes at Avaya, Thomson Reuters and Pitney Bowes and is the co-founder and CEO of Digital Leadership Associates.


1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?

Currently, the internet and social media are the biggest factors in the area where we work. In September 2017, We Are Social and Hootsuite research figures showed that 51%, 3.8 Billion of the world's population are on the internet and 41% of the world's population, 3.1 Billion is on social media. I think for all of us, whenever we want to purchase some goods or services regardless if it’s a small value or a $200 Million outsourcing deal, we start the search online and we do this without help from any supplier. In fact, we do this in salesperson avoidance mode. CEB, now Gartner research shows that in fact, most people are 57% of the way through the buying process before they make contact with a supplier. What we are finding is that most prospective customers are using the people’s online presence to in fact deselect, not select a vendor. This buyers market and dysfunction in the buying process are problems for companies of all size, in all markets.

My business partner, Adam Gray and I spotted this when we started Digital Leadership Associates (DLA) 13 months ago and we have created workshops, programs and a methodology to help companies support a move to use social media internally and externally. This is at a strategic level (Board/C-Level), as well as a departmental level, for example, Sales, Human Resources (HR), Procurement, Supply Chain etc. Our “poster child” for this is our globally acclaimed, social selling program. This enables salespeople (in fact all employees) to understand this buyer dysfunction and the tools and processes to support this.
 

2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?

I started this journey 5 years ago when I managed a sales transformation project at Oracle Corporation, where we transformed salespeople from “on-premises” sales to one of “SaaS” to meet the change in the market. This involved, teaching salespeople to throw away PowerPoint and use whiteboards, how to story-tell as well how to use social selling. During this project, I started blogging about social selling, then I got a book deal, and my book (On Amazon) “Social Selling - Techniques to Influencer Buyers and Changemakers” went into the Bestseller List during pre-sale. 13 months ago, my business partner and I left Oracle to set up Digital Leadership Associates (DLA) www.social-experts.net and we haven’t looked back. We love the fact that we are making a massive transformational change to our clients, not just in terms of return on investment (ROI) but in the way companies go-to-market and react to the buyer dysfunction made in answer 1.

While we are doing projects in the UK, we have a number of global companies who want to transform using social media, both globally and at a local level. Global consistency, but with localisation. Having created a unique set of intellectual property rights (IP), we are now in the process of signing up global resellers. Our first one is in North America, but we are currently looking for partners in all countries. This is a huge opportunity as all the buyers are on the internet and social media, this fundamentally changes the way every company markets and sells in the global marketplace.

Getty Images

Getty Images

3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?

We set ourselves up to win, by providing a change methodology to the client that has a proven track record. We also understand that each company is different, so we research the new client and understand their business and markets, which enables us to fine-tune our methodology to their unique requirements. Built into the methodology are the measures and Governance so we can track “as is”, work out the milestones and set targets for “to be”.


4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?

Storytelling is always powerful as we show our audience a metaphor that they can all relate to, "by putting yourself in the shoes of your client or prospective customer". It is great for taking a complex idea and turning it into something that people can understand.


5. Based on a prism of what’s working and what’s not from the customers’ perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers’ needs?

We have decided to focus totally on social media as an organisation. Unlike the traditional full spectrum marketing agency that does websites, search engine optimisation (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising, PR and are a jack of all trades. While we know about these subjects, it’s not what we focus on, and this is our strength as our methodology allows us to align with our customer's needs and business issues.


6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement? 

Trust is central to the way Marketing and Sales work today. Who do you turn to when you want to buy something? Your friends, your family and your network! The problem is that every supplier says they are the best, so much so that most corporate marketing today is just lost as noise. The fact of the matter is that nobody cares about your company and it’s products. There is an old saying that “people buy people” and they do. Which is why it is critical that you enable your salespeople and your employees to be the “experts” that people turn to when buying. In the past, we often spoke to people who said, “I wished I had spoken to you last week, as we have just purchased something”, social media enables you to build trust so that you increase your chances of that serendipity moment.


7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?

We talk about the issues we are seeing in the market in the blogs we post http://www.social-experts.net/blog/ we have now posted some 100 blogs. These all take a business issue and then how we can solve it. Focusing on people, process and strategy rather than tools. We hope this creates a vision for our clients that they can see we can make an impact and enable them to get more leads and meetings than with the tools they used in the past, e.g. email marketing, advertising or cold calling.


8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?

We think that external consultants are ideally placed to help a business, but then again we are biased. We often see, well-meaning people, trying to help people with social media, but it not really moving the needle. For example, we often hear about a person that found a Hubspot article on social selling and think that by working through it they become a social seller, or by reading my book is enough to become a social seller. If I get a book on judo and worked through it, I would get a good idea, but if I went into a judo fight I would lose. Here at Digital Leadership Associates (DLA), we help our clients understand buyer dysfunction and help them use social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc) as proactive methods to enable them to get leads and meetings. It’s worth saying that as an organisation we make no cold outbound, in fact, all our business comes from inbound. The opportunity to write this article came from inbound, this is what we teach our clients. There are a lot of people out there searching on social media and we help them find you and engage with you and they will only do that if you “appear” on social media as a trustworthy person.


9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask? 

You say in your question that engagement is a problem, is it? The world has changed, engagement is a problem because most sales today are started via cold outreach. You are just another supplier and nobody trusts you. The great thing about social media and social selling is that people find you, if they trust you, then they will contact you. It is then about empowering people to buy, closing is dead, it’s all about empowering!


10. If your boss asks – “What extra value will this service bring?” How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?

If a boss asks about “what the value will this bring” we will show the current return on investment (ROI) our clients are getting. We totally understand this question as most consultants work similarly on ERP or CRM projects - let’s take what we have and make it more efficient. This is great and you can, of course, run projects like this, as it assumes you spend to save and what you save is profit. Our social selling and methodology are different, as while we will get you efficiency savings, this is all about creating incremental (new) revenues for our clients.


Thanks Tim for taking time to answer my questionnaire, I am humbled and extremely grateful for your engagement.

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Do You Treat People With Respect? Q+A with Martin Johnston from Crafted Society

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John H. Johnson said: "There is no defence against an excellence that meets a pressing public need." This week's Q&A is with Martin Johnston whose new brand, Crafted Society has been built around the ethos of "keeping the crafts alive". Crafted Society is a luxury brand for the new generation of socially conscious consumers, exquisitely fusing craftsmanship with positive social impact, and they also donate 5% of their net revenue to Italian non-profit organisations.
 

1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?

There are several for example sustainability, transparency modus operandi, a shift towards luxury online selling, the Italian economy, Brexit, etc. We are an online-only brand, selling B2C to increase brand awareness that maintains fair prices by cutting out the retailer mark-up.
 

2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?

Our business model was ambitious when we set it up, and we had no clue if it would work. But we are continually pleasantly surprised when not only new customers join our mission, but also when customers return a second, third and fourth time. This proves that our quality goods are value-for-money especially when comparing to the high street retail, and this is a real competitive advantage for us.

I honestly think "doing better" comes with time and organic growth! Every single penny we make has been reinvested into the business. Ideally, we would love to have multiple ambassadors/sales reps in every country putting on parties, going to football clubs, going to customers every single day to bring the physical/personal aspect of our brand which is more difficult to achieve when you are a digital-based business.



3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?

Our first thought always is to find the best in class. This usually comes with a hefty price tag, but you cannot put a price on quality which is a major component of our DNA. Putting ourselves in the consumer's shoes so to speak, means that we must understand that there is a huge amount of choice, and our products need to be better in all aspects. We have 30 years of industry experience which helps a lot too.


4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?

It's critical - but what is more critical than the art of storytelling, is telling TRUE stories and not fabrications as at one point it will catch up with you. In our luxury industry, the "Made in Italy" label has seen much better days. To the average person on the street, it still resonates and conjures up thoughts of best quality, artisans, exclusivity, craftsmanship, high price, sustainable, luxury……. but many of the leading luxury brands have been manipulating the consumer as to what exactly is MADE in Italy. For many luxury houses, "Made in Italy" today means only to attach a label, or add a component as the majority of the manufacturing process is done in a country with far cheaper labour costs. This is what is putting the pressure on the master artisans to survive, as those craftsmen and women who own the knowledge, skills and traditions are in real danger of becoming extinct. This is because the big luxury brands are publicly traded, meaning that every single quarter they are expected to grow top line sales and bottom line profits. Our brand purpose started because of the non-transparency of the leading brands in the industry, as they are the root cause of the threat to craftsmanship. We tell honest, compelling stories of REAL people who really exist and this endears us to our fans and customers, and even more so once they have one of our products in their hands.

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5. Based on a prism of what's working and what's not from the customers' perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers' needs?

Not applicable right now!


6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement?

Its massive - brands who don't see that will not last - but what constituted trust 10-20 years ago is not what will win the consumer over today. AS we have morphed into an age of EVERYONE's media (as opposed to social media) people like animals are quick to sniff out bullsh*t. Back in the days, you could create an advert which would portray your brand as everything you as the principal wanted to project. Today, as technology has provided access to more and more facts, advertising or monologue brand messaging is almost dead - the consumer is looking for brands to have a dialogue with. It's a complete paradigm shift. But the more trust in terms of giving and receiving as a brand is embraced, the more customer loyalty will prevail. The same goes for employees - the more an employee feels a real cog in the big wheel the more they will commit to driving - the skill is in enabling this.


7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?

We take our customers on a virtual journey to the rolling hills of Marche in central Italy to meet our master craftsmen and women, choose the finest materials Italy has to offer, cut them, sew them, finish them. We have customers whom we custom make size 49 shoes with - you can only do that working with a small family run businesses who wish to help and support your customer's focused mission. We support the artisans by platforming them - so it's a true partnership and win-win. This is what we are driven to convey to the customers - this experience so that customers can truly appreciate WHY we have support not just craftsmanship but THE PEOPLE behind the crafts.


8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?

Honestly - yes. They have no emotional ties to the employees, products or strategies and can look at things with a fresh perspective.


9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask?

Nothing! My wife and business partner, Lise Bonnet and I are the decision makers.


10. If your boss asks – "What extra value will this service bring?" How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?

We would always approach it from a growth perspective - growth in sales, growth in loyalty, growth in repeat business, growth in opinions on new categories, etc. Brands which will survive will have to accept that the common norm moving forward will be to engage with their customers and continue developing trustworthy experiences to maintain engagement.


Many thanks, Martin and good luck on the journey.
For a full overview of the brand's offering, please visit:
www.craftedsociety.com

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