Q&A: Consumer Expert and Retail Consultant Peter Cross
In an exclusive webinar this week, Consumer Expert and Retail Consultant Peter Cross will be calling for an industry-wide re-set to focus on staff empowerment. Here he talks to The Retail Bulletin about why retailers need to tune in.
Tell us about your background?
I’ve spent my career helping brands connect with consumers and employees, as well as predicting the future of retail. I was the Customer Experience Director at John Lewis and Waitrose, Global Director of Communications at L’Oréal and I worked with Mary Portas for ten years.
What is your new webinar about?
I’m working with Critizr to put together what will be a fun, provocative and optimistic session for our audience. It has been designed to inspire retailers to rethink how they serve their frontline staff first and foremost, so these staff can get on with the important business of serving customers. We’ll be looking at why better employee engagement should be at the top of every retailer’s list of priorities going into 2022, as well as giving some simple steps to take now to achieve this.
Who are your guests and why did you pick them?
We have some brilliant store managers joining the debate to give us a realistic view from the shop floor. And we’ll also have Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service. For anyone who hasn’t seen or heard Jo speaking at events in the past, don’t miss this opportunity! She is one of the people I respect most in retail, and I think guests are going to love her straight talking advice and brilliant insights.
Why is employee engagement such an important topic for you?
It’s something I have championed throughout my career and will continue to do so. Retail has never been an easy business to be in, but at the moment it’s going through its toughest miles. Of all the challenges and changes companies are facing, poor staff engagement is not the most wildly complicated or expensive thing to fix. But when you improve it, it makes a huge difference to every part of your business. I really do believe that staff are every brand’s secret weapon and they should be more centre stage when it comes to making decisions about how to build relationships with customers. Especially at a time when everything is becoming so digital. The interactions customers have with humans are more important than ever.
You’ve had a varied career in retail. What personal tips and advice will you be bringing to
My aim is always to demystify what are often seen as complicated topics for retailers. In a world of jargon, conflicting advice and opinion, I’ve always believed in keeping it simple and being as direct, positive and helpful as possible, which businesses always appreciate.
You are focusing on staff engagement and closing the gap between staff and HQ. What do you mean by this?
The customer must be at the centre of any brand, but we have to move employees in there with them. So that means believing in people and their potential, and switching the model away from ‘control and command’ to give them more power over their own decision making. Once we close that gap and give people working in stores real opportunities, they fly.
Q What do you think consumers are looking for at the moment from brands?
Despite the fact that so much has changed, and at such a frantic pace, what consumers want remains relatively straightforward. The key is identifying it, knowing that it might change dramatically depending on mood, purchase type or occasion and delivering it consistently in spades. Having a firm grip on the difference between a seamless transactional relationship and a deeper partnership with consumers and ensuring your brand or service knows and shares your customers values. I’m also a stickler and firm believer in the transformational power of the tiniest of details. Things will always go wrong, but the power of yes or even the power of sorry to turn things round is sometimes all it takes.
Finally, what are the main things that audiences will take away from this webinar?
We are four weeks away from Christmas. Many of the people who need to be engaged with this issue will still be working from home. So I hope we can beam a bit of positive energy into their home office and encourage them to think more deeply about why they need to build a more engaged and happy workforce. That will be our singular focus and if we can encourage people to smile and think again about how they can do this in their business, I’ll be happy.
Sponsored by Customer Interaction management specialists Critizr, ‘Mind The Gap: Why your store staff might have all the answers to your retail challenges’ takes place on Thursday 25th November at 3pm.