Boomerang effect will bring satisfied customers back

Problem Solver

Feargal Quinn

Feargal Quinn

Q I am struggling to keep the customers in my business loyal and from what I can see they shop with my competitors on an increasingly frequent basis.

A For decades I have talked about the boomerang principle. It was a symbol that we used all the time in Superquinn to illustrate our philosophy on customers. If you throw the boomerang correctly, it will come back to you. If you treat customers well and constantly excel in their eyes, they will also come back to you.

Nothing about this philosophy has changed in today's environment. I do accept that value caused shopping patterns to change when we first entered the recession and customers who were in the habit of doing all of their shopping in one outlet, suddenly found themselves doing it in three or four. However, there are lots of different case studies I can point to where the boomerang principle is busy at work.

First of all, you have to look at how good your customer experience is, in terms of product and service. Sometimes you have to dig deep when looking at these things and giving something a superficial thumb's up is simply not sufficient.

Are your customers being 'wowed' every single time they shop with you, or are there opportunities for improvement? Have you got the widest selection and are you the fastest- moving at getting new products onto the shelf? Is the shopping trip an experience for the consumer? Is your customer service world-class?

I suspect there is more going on than promiscuous customers and there could be a weakness in some parts of your model. I know you won't want to hear that but I would certainly push you to do a complete review of the business and enlist the help of outsiders who will have a neutral opinion to critique every single part.

Q I am 18. Would you advise someone to pursue a career in retail management in today's environment?

A The retail sector will always need dynamic and progressive managers. That has been the landscape for the last 50 years and will remain so for the next50.

The only difference is, the role of these managers evolve and change over time. There are many untruths at the moment about the future of the retail sector and scaremongering that there won't be any shops in 10 years' time. Of course there will be, and of course there will be credible careers for young, smart college leavers.

I would certainly encourage you to further your education before you step full-time into a retail management role. You could possibly consider working part-time, where you could become a duty manager or supervisor relatively quickly, and combine this with academic learning.

After that, a lot will be down to you. Some individuals thrive on dealing with the public and the buzz that surrounds retailing. Others find it challenging or the hours don't suit. The image of a retail management career has changed in recent years to become one that is now seen as a credible career choice. You will also find that the career development prospects and educational supports that are now built into the majority of large retailers will help you develop your own skill sets at a faster rate.

Go and talk to some young managers who are currently working in the retail sector and seek feedback from them. Most people would be happy to share their experiences with you if they know you are considering a similar career.

Many of my ex-managers in Superquinn now head up successful businesses either on behalf of others, or their own. The retail sector will instil in you a sense of entrepreneurship, leadership and drive. These are skills that can be used in a multiplicity of ways in the future, so even if you decide to change direction your time will not have gone to waste.

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