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Retailers should create more customer engagement roles

The specialist retail recruiter argues that firms must have buy in from board members if they want to drive improved customer engagement and increase profits. This follows on from research by KPMG and IPSOS that found that retailers need to wean consumers off discounts in order to improve margins.

Kate Barron, director of ReThink Retail, commented on the analysis, “It’s no coincidence that retailers with a customer engagement officer or chief customer officer in the C-Suite are generally outperforming those without. Consumers are considerably savvier and need to be fully engaged and almost in love with a brand if they are to accept price increases. This can only really happen if customer engagement is a priority and that absolutely must be driven from the top by someone in a role solely dedicated to this purpose. If every consumer touch point is providing an attractive and engaging experience that people can buy into, it’s likely that most of their customers will continue to shop there even if there are fewer discounts. Major firms like House of Fraser and even those outside of retail that have customer facing operations such as Severn Trent Water and Royal Mail have bought into this strategy and created a dedicated role and more organisations will need to follow their lead.

“However, professionals in these positions need to have a real understanding of the market and what customers are looking for and those skills aren’t necessarily easy to find. In the short term it’s likely that firms will have to look to other sectors such as energy and hospitality for talent while in the longer term they need to focus more on developing effective internal pipelines.”

Marc Cox, founder of The Company Spirit – an employee engagement consultancy which has a philosophy based around The Business Case for Love – concurs with the recruiter’s sentiment.

“Far too often we see customer engagement being delegated down the business, but it will never become a true priority for firms unless the idea is truly lived and believed in by the board. By having this, it’s considerably more likely for the rest of the organisation to become more customer-focused which can only benefit firms in the modern market.”

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