Debenhams’ Edinburgh store was refurbished in 2008 with an overhaul of stock, smart new store design, fresh fittings and updated merchandising systems. But staff in the branch were struggling to reflect the re-invigorated Debenhams brand. Sales figures were not taking off as hoped, and head office realised that its frontline people needed investment just as much as the physical store environment.
Susan Reid, sales director for the north region for Debenhams says she chose The Extra Mile Partnership following a recommendation from a colleague who had seen Stalkie and his team in action elsewhere. “We were looking for a means of lifting morale in the store, and raising motivation levels so that staff had genuine belief in themselves, and greater passion for the business,” she says. “The feeling was that if the team was given a lift, injected with a new lease of life, they would do a better job of engaging with customers and delivering the type of customer service local shoppers expected of this newly-revamped department store.”
The Extra Mile Partnership researched how the store was performing – looking at KPIs, revenue, average transaction values – and carried out a survey to benchmark colleague attitudes to their job and the company. We also took undertook a Net Promoter Score survey, gauging how customers felt about the store and the service they were getting. It was agreed to effect a turnaround across the balanced scorecard of KPI’s in a set timeframe, by implementing our unique system of engagement seminars, in-store ‘inspirer days’ and one-to-one coaching sessions for key management personnel.
Change was kick-started when a team of 12 department managers and supervisors embarked on a life-changing three-day engagement course in Birmingham, led by Stalkie. Steven Gibson, deputy store manager says the experience took individuals out of their comfort zone, made them examine their attitudes to work and life in general, and begin to take on a completely different, incredibly positive, mindset. “The seminars really had an impact. They gave us a major injection of enthusiasm and a can-do attitude,” says Gibson.
“The course had a profound impact on how we now approach our day. It gave us renewed confidence, and instilled in us values for working effectively as a team, communicating better, feeling energised in everything we do, and becoming better managers.”
The team then returned to the store and immediately began the task of educating colleagues in these values. Gibson says this was a challenge but that with the help of representatives from The Extra Mile Partnership, virtually the whole team of around 200 store employees bought into the ideas for improved engagement and performance, formed on the three-day engagement course. “Within a week people were showing commitment to the values we were passing on,” says Gibson. “The early morning ‘energisers’- short exercises first thing that get everyone fired up for the day – very quickly became an accepted and enjoyable ritual. The ethos of saying ‘hello’ to customers and having conversations with them at the tills was adopted and delivered results. Simple things like that began making a difference and people’s attitudes across the store began to change significantly.”
Stalkie and his colleagues regularly visited the store for inspirer days to drill in the new values, and continue building levels of motivation across the store. Meanwhile a dedicated Extra Mile Partnership coach carried out one-to-one coaching with managers, ringing them regularly for updates and visiting to work on core issues. “The management team focused a lot on the importance of having challenging conversations,” says Gibson. “If you are more open and honest and talk about problems rather than letting them fester, you can all perform better. Individual coaching also helped us reach the objectives we’d originally set out, and ensured set standards were maintained.”
“At every stage of the Edinburgh store programme we measured progress as it was happening,” says Chris Humphreys of The Extra Mile Partnership. “This means we were keeping track of ‘hard’ financial indicators as well as plotting progress in ‘softer’ issues – staff engagement scores and Net Promoter Scores.”
The hard indicators speak for themselves. Despite the tough retail climate during the period of engagement, the store performed extremely well when compared with other stores in the region. For each of the final five weeks of the financial year the store was first in the region across the balanced scorecard of KPI measures, having been in 18th place for the year-to-date, when The Extra Mile Partnership was first engaged.
Company measures of 13, 4 and 1 week trends showed a marked improvement on the earlier part of the year, with 3.2%, 14.5% and 38% growth on the previous year achieved respectively. Average transaction value was up 3.6% compared to the previous year, with 13, 4 and 1 week trends showed 6%, 10.5% and 11.4% year-on-year growth respectively.
Regarding softer measures, the two mystery shop scores following engagement were 97.8% and 96% which included the highest score the store had received and compared well to the year-to-date average of 86%. This improvement in customer experience was backed up by the massive improvement in the store’s Net Promoter Score which moved from -38% to +4% in the four-month period. Customer account take-up, the company’s key to building shopper loyalty is now 13% up against budget and 12% up on the previous year.
Store manager Karen Smibert says: “It hasn’t been easy but we’ve learned together and it’s making a difference. We’re not going back to the way it was before.” Deputy manager, Steven Gibson feels that, six months on, the values have stuck, and that although some elements and ideas introduced by The Paul Stalker Effect are not regularly used now, the core themes of acknowledging customers, talking to each other, rewarding and recognising achievements, and having fun in the workplace haven’t diminished over time. “The challenge is maintaining the feel-good factor and becoming self-sufficient, but we’ve found that reminding each other what we agreed to do helps, and people do want to maintain the positive, can-do ethos at store level.”
“The programme clearly raised staff engagement levels and boosted our reputation amongst shoppers,” says Reid. “The management team certainly felt really uplifted in their jobs, enjoying coming to work, which is a fantastic achievement. After all, you need motivated managers to motivate their teams,” says Susan Reid. “The Extra Mile Partnership understands that if you love what you do, you will give more and achieve more. From this you can personally benefit from that enthusiasm and sense of fulfilment.”