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

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

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

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

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

However, this time he fully demonstrated the concept of “Random Acts of Excellence and Mayhem” to perfection. This visit was different. I went to the mall with my wife because she was looking for a “mother of the bride” dress for our daughter’s upcoming wedding. While she was out shopping, I chose to wander around the mall, as it is a very “fancy” mall that caters to a very different class of customer. These were not the usual stores you find 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 which I had never heard of before. I always know I’m in the wrong place when you walk past stores where there are 20 bags filling an entire store and guards at the front door of the store to greet you. These stores obviously have a high price for their products.

But as I was wandering around looking for a coffee shop to grab an Americano while waiting for my wife to finish shopping (or searching), I saw a sign for a Starbucks. Interestingly, it was located on the top floor of a Macy’s store…a strange place from my perspective. So I took the escalator three flights to the top and had my coffee.

Since I was at Macy’s, I thought I’d take a look at the only thing I’ve bought from them in the last few years…Tommy Bahama clothes. They are one of the stores that carry his products and often have sales on some of his clothes. I love the quality and fit of Tommy Bahama, so I usually check them out when I’m in a Macy’s store. As I was going down the escalator, I saw a couple of employees (rare find) stocking a rack, so I went up and asked if they could direct me to the men’s section, specifically the Tommy Bahama section. One of the two ladies in particular was very nice and seemed very willing to help me. She explained that in this particular mall, Macy’s actually had 3 stores…a women’s store, a men’s store, and a home goods store. All I could think about was how much merchandise it would have to be for them to inventory it. She told me that the men’s store was not in this store and that it was a little further down the mall.

This is where the “unusual for Macy’s” event occurred. She offered to drive me to the men’s store and told me to follow her so he could show me where the store was located. That?!? A Macy’s employee actually wanting to help me in any 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 that my questions bothered her at all. As we approached the store, I told her that she could drive the rest of the way and thanked her for taking the time to help me. She said it wasn’t a problem and she was happy to oblige.

I was in shock… where was I? Was she dreaming her or did this just happen? This was definitely a “Random Act of Excellence”. Something that was very much outside the norm of what she had experienced at Macy’s in the past, which was usually a “constant act of chaos.” This was an “exceptional customer experience” and one I wouldn’t forget… after all, I’m taking the time to share it with you.

But herein lies the problem with “Random Acts of Excellence”. He raised the bar for me… showed me that a Macy’s employee could deliver a totally amazing customer experience. I was able to experience a wonderful customer experience from a company that I have always known to provide a “sub-par” 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 amazing experience one day and tomorrow I have a “substandard act of chaos”. This creates “customer confusion” which ultimately leads to customer “churn” and the customer choosing other options.

While you may think this is great someone stood up and acted differently, it actually works against the organization. It creates uncertainty and confusion in the client’s mind because now he doesn’t know what to expect. This is customer anxiety. While the alternative is consistently delivering a mediocre experience, at least the customer knows what to expect and doesn’t expect anything different. And if his next experience is poor, he 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 going out of their way to provide an exceptional experience that doesn’t fit the normal experience that most other employees provide. If the norm is to provide a more mediocre or average customer experience, then you are creating customer confusion that ultimately leads to customer churn. 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 to have one or two employees acting this way, it’s actually working against your business as you’re creating uncertainty and confusion within your customer. The obvious (and absolutely best) solution would be to create detailed customer journey maps of an amazing experience and have everyone deliver an exceptional experience. Unfortunately, this doesn’t “just happen” because you simply tell your employees to be friendlier and go the extra mile…it never works. They might 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 much easier to provide an average or mediocre experience than it is to raise the bar and provide an exceptional experience. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it and we all know it’s not…just go to a Macy’s store and you’ll see mediocrity in person. To raise the bar like Zappos or Southwest Air or Disneyland, or the Ritz Carlton, or a host of other companies, it takes significant commitment from the person in charge and a relentless quest to make it happen.

When an organization commits to doing this day in and day out, this is one of the elements that helps them to be CUSTOMER OBSESSED.

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

It becomes WHO THEY ARE, not WHAT THEY DO.

I had a glimpse of an exceptional experience at Macy’s… I wish it was one 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 of my shopping dollars while getting my loyalty. And most importantly, THEY WOULD GET ME TO TALK ABOUT THEM AND DO THEIR MARKETING FOR THEM. One can only dream…

Are you a Macy’s or are you a Zappos? There is no middle ground from my perspective… either you are exceptional or you are average. Try it yourself and see how you treat your customers EVERY DAY. Here’s a big question that every leader in your organization should ponder and discuss: “Why are you offering an experience to your customers that you personally wouldn’t 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 call and we can talk more. The most important part is to understand that this is happening before you do anything about it. Once you understand what is happening, you can determine how best to eliminate Acts of Chaos and leverage Acts of Excellence to be more consistent and frequent. I’m always happy to chat and hope to set you on the right path to becoming able to “WATCH”.

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