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See why your business may look more like Macy’s than you think

One thing that frustrates us all is uncertainty and unpredictability. Even when we want a new adventure and discover something new, we are still waiting to know what will happen next. It’s just the way most of us are built.

When we are exposed to uncertainty on a regular basis, our anxiety increases, our stress increases, and we look for some way to prevent this from continuing. If you think of this in terms of your customers, this is not good. If your customers are presented with uncertainties and confusion on a regular basis, they too become anxious, frustrated, and eventually leave to find a place that won’t cause this to happen.

I call this “Random Acts of Excellence and Chaos.” It’s where your customer experience is unpredictable day-to-day, person-to-person, so it makes your customers anxious … and eventually leave.

I was traveling to Southern California recently and had the “opportunity” to go to Macy’s in Costa Mesa CA, near Newport Beach. I generally fear going to Macy’s for a variety of reasons, many of which I’m sure some of you have experienced. One of them is that there is no one around to help you if you need guidance, so it is like shopping online, only you are in a store. After wandering around for a bit, you find what you’re looking for, decide if you like it (no questions asked), and then try to find a payment line to pay for it. Sounds familiar?

However, this time he fully demonstrated the concept of “Random Acts of Excellence and Chaos” to perfection. This visit was different. I went to the mall with my wife as she was looking for a “mother of the bride” dress for our daughters’ upcoming wedding. While she was shopping, I chose to stroll through the mall, as it is a very “fancy” mall that caters to a very different class of customer. These weren’t the usual stores found in a typical mall … this mall had stores like Bloomingdales, Sax Fifth Avenue, Dior, and every other high-end luxury store you can think of … most of the which I’ve never heard of before. I always know that I am in the wrong place when you pass stores where there are 20 wallets filling an entire store and guards in front of the store door to greet you. These stores obviously have a high price for their products.

But while I was wandering around looking for a coffee shop to buy an American while I was waiting for my wife to finish shopping (or look at it), I saw a sign for a Starbucks. Interestingly, it was located on the top floor of the Macy’s store … an odd location from my perspective. So I took the escalator three floors to the top and had my coffee.

Ever since I was at Macy’s, I thought I’d take a look at the one thing I’ve bought from them in the last few years … Tommy Bahama clothes. They are one of the stores that sell their products and often have discounts on some of their clothes. I love the quality and fit of Tommy Bahama, so I usually check them out if I’m in a Macy’s store. As I was going down the escalator, I saw a couple of employees (rare find) storing a shelf, so I went upstairs and asked if they could direct me to the men’s section, specifically the Tommy Bahama section. One of the two women in particular was very kind and seemed very willing to help me. He explained that in this particular mall, Macy’s actually had 3 stores … a women’s, men’s, and household goods store. All he could think about was how much merchandise it had to be for them to have in inventory. He told me that the men’s store was not in this store and that it was a little further down from the mall.

This is where the “unusual for Macy’s” event occurred. She offered to take me to the men’s store and told me to follow her so she could show me where the store was located. That?!? A Macy’s employee who really wants to help me in some way … this was totally unexpected from my past experiences. This was definitely a “random act of excellence”. I followed her around the mall and she told me all about the different stores, the layout of the mall, why they did things this way and she gave me a lot of information during our walk. She was incredibly friendly throughout our walk, not feeling like my questions were bothering her at all. As we approached the store, I told him he could drive the rest of the way and thanked him for taking the time to help me. She said it wasn’t a problem and she was happy to do it.

I eat in shock … Where was I? Was he dreaming or did this just happen? This was definitely a “random act of excellence”. Something that was very out of the norm from what I have experienced at Macy’s in the past, which was generally a “constant act of chaos.” This was an “exceptional customer experience” and one that I will not forget … after all, I am taking the time to share it with you.

But herein lies the problem of “random acts of excellence.” She raised the bar for me … she showed me that a Macy’s employee could actually deliver a totally amazing customer experience. I was able to experience a wonderful customer experience from a company that I have always known to offer a “sub-standard” customer experience. I’m confused … is this really a “random act” or is it a new way of doing business?

Unfortunately, this is the problem with “random acts of excellence” … they are inconsistent. I received this incredible experience this day and tomorrow I have a “sub-standard act of chaos.” This creates “customer confusion” which ultimately leads to customer “churn” and the customer to choose other options.

While you might think this is cool, someone stood up and acted differently, it actually works against the organization. It creates uncertainty and confusion in the customer’s mind because now they don’t know what to expect. This is the customer’s anxiety. While the alternative is to consistently deliver a mediocre experience, at least the customer knows what to expect and isn’t expecting anything different. And if your next experience is lacking, it lights up even more than in the past … because now I’ve seen a “random act of excellence.”

This is a good time to do an analysis of your own company. Are you performing “random acts of excellence” or “random acts of chaos” today? This is very common in most organizations … there is probably someone trying their best to provide an exceptional experience that does not fit the normal experience that most other employees provide. If the norm is to offer a more mediocre or average customer experience, then you are creating customer confusion that ultimately leads to the customer leaving. What is happening in your own organization? Now is a good time to do some analysis to see for yourself and make any necessary course corrections.

While you may think it’s great for one or two employees to act this way, it actually works against your company as you are creating uncertainty and confusion within your customer. The obvious (and absolutely best) solution would be to create detailed customer experience maps of an amazing experience and have everyone deliver an exceptional experience. Unfortunately, this doesn’t “just happen” because you just tell your employees to be friendlier and go the extra mile … it never works. They may try to do it for a day or two, but then settle back into their old (and comfortable) average ways of treating the customer.

Hopefully, you can see why it’s so much easier to deliver a mediocre or average experience than it is to raise the bar for an exceptional experience. If it weren’t difficult, everyone would do it and we all know this is not the case … just go to a Macy’s store and you will see mediocrity in person. To raise the bar like a Zappos or Southwest Air or Disneyland, or the Ritz Carlton, or a host of other companies, it takes a significant commitment from the higher person and a relentless pursuit to make it happen.

When an organization commits to doing this day after day, this is one of the elements that helps them to be OBSESSED BY THE CUSTOMER.

Customer-obsessed organizations focus on delivering this “exceptional experience” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, not haphazardly. It is embedded in your culture, your strategy, your vision, your mission, and of course your values. It runs through their blood … or as I call it, it is the DNA of the organization.

It becomes WHO THEY ARE NOT WHAT THEY DO.

I got a glimpse of an exceptional experience at Macy’s … I just wish it was one that I could count on each and every time. If I could always count on this exceptional experience, I would definitely spend more time (and money) inside Macy’s stores. They would get more dollars from my purchases while earning my loyalty. And most importantly, I WOULD TELL ME ABOUT THEM AND MAKE YOUR MARKETING FOR THEM. One can only dream …
Are you Macy’s or are you Zappos? There is no middle ground from my perspective … either you are exceptional or you are average. Try it for yourself and see how you treat your customers EVERY DAY. Here’s a great question that every leader in your organization should ponder and discuss: “Why are you offering an experience to your customers that you, personally, would not accept as a consumer?” Something to think about …
If you really want to see what it takes to eliminate “Random Acts of Excellence and Chaos” give me a shout out and we can talk more. The most important part is understanding that this is happening before you do anything about it. Once you understand what is happening, you can determine the best way to eliminate Acts of Chaos and leverage Acts of Excellence to make them more consistent and frequent. I am always happy to chat and hope to put you on the right path to becoming “REMARK” capable.

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