The voice of the customer


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Southlands3Over the weekend, my wife and I drove to Southlands mall in Aurora, Colorado to do a little shopping. Southlands is an outdoor mall with a four-block Main Street that is flanked on both sides by an array of retail stores and restaurants.

We expected the mall to be bustling as it was the weekend before Black Friday and the official start of the holiday shopping season. Since it was 32 degrees outside, I was secretly hoping to get a parking spot on Main Street directly in front of the stores rather than having to park in one of the back lots located on the opposite side of the storefronts.

As we pulled onto south end of Main Street at 11:30am, you can imagine our surprise to see a four-block stretch of vacant parking spaces lining both sides of the street. It became immediately clear as to why there were no parking spaces occupied: the entire four blocks of prime storefront parking had been cordoned off with rope and stanchions!

Perplexed, I drove to one of the outer lots before calling the mall’s management office to inquire about the parking situation. I reached a mall security officer who informed me that, “We blocked off the parking spaces along Main Street in preparation for tonight’s Holiday Hometown Parade at 6 o’clock.”

It’s widely known that the holiday shopping season accounts for up to 40 percent of retailers’ annual revenues. And this year in particular, retailers are devising creative ways to drive traffic early because there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas—and one less weekend!

Knowing this, why wouldn’t Southlands management schedule the parade in the morning, drawing spectators out early, and then end by noon—just in time for the mall restaurants to open for lunch? That way, parking is restricted to accommodate the parade for only two business hours rather than all day long. Morning holiday parades seem to work in New York City and Pasadena. Why not here in Aurora?

When my wife stopped into Chico’s to buy a gift certificate, the salesperson expressed frustration at the decision to cordon off storefront parking during mall hours on the Saturday before the official start of the holiday shopping season.

So, my wife and I were perplexed and the Chico’s salesperson felt frustrated. It makes me curious as to whose perspectives were being considered during the planning of the parade…

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos periodically leaves one seat open at a conference table and informs meeting attendees that the open seat serves as a physical reminder to take into account the perspective or “voice” of the customer. I wonder how this tactic might have influenced Southlands management’s decisions pertaining to parade logistics by considering the perspectives of their customers, whether retailers or mall guests?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Curtin
Steve Curtin is the author of Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary. He wrote the book to address the following observation: While employees consistently execute mandatory job functions for which they are paid, they inconsistently demonstrate voluntary customer service behaviors for which there is little or no additional cost to their employers. After a 20-year career with Marriott International, Steve now devotes his time to speaking, consulting, and writing on the topic of extraordinary customer service.


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