A Partnership of Exceptional Quality

Case Study: ABa and Luxury Retail
(October 2019)

Now in our fifth year of partnership, we have worked closely with our client to design, manage and evolve a mystery shopping (MS) programme that has both depth and breadth across their service offer. We have built a MS programme that not only provides a regular drumbeat of customer experience (CX) insight across both their Retail and Hospitality divisions, but also supports the successful delivery of exceptional service through frontline colleague engagement and training.


Building the foundation

Our relationship began in 2015, with the design and implementation of a bespoke mystery shopping programme that centred on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the customer experience. Here, we focused on the assessment of store standards, sales interactions and the purchase process. Our client wanted to embed a core framework and lay the foundations for the customer experience, as well as better understand how well colleagues were delivering against this set of service standards.

 

Working hand in hand

In 2017, our client completed an internal review of the customer journey and repositioned what ‘exceptional service’ looked like for their guests. This framework was then knitted together with the brand’s overriding service principles and company values.

Throughout the year, we worked together closely to rebuild the Retail MS programme, aligning the questionnaire with their new service cycle, ensuring this same language, tone and objectives were mirrored in our remodelled ‘Exceptional Service Programme’(ESP). A key objective for the programme refresh was to ensure synergy between what was being communicated to frontline colleagues (i.e. what exceptional service looks like) and the evaluation of the CX itself, as well (of course) as striving for excellence and continuous improvement.

“In everything that ABa has worked with us to achieve, they’ve embodied not only an understanding and commitment to exceptional service, but also a spirit of collaboration and partnership. We are delighted with the creation and development of our ESP and the integral place this now holds in our everyday operations. This programme is an invaluable tool positively embraced by our colleagues, a tool that helps us to continuously raise the bar in what ‘good looks like’ and achieve our overriding goal to always exceed our customers’ expectations.” (Director of Retail)

 

Extending programme reach

Following the successful launch of the Retail ESP in 2018, we then started work with the Hospitality division. Following in the footsteps of our Retail journey, we built a bespoke programme that measures the customer experience against Hospitality’s core service cycle.

By utilising the framework of the Retail ESP, but tailoring the content to the different service environment, we were able to launch a customised programme for Hospitality and at the same time ensure both operational divisions work towards the same shared service principles and values.

The latest stage in the extension of the ESP is to design and implement a programme to cover our client’s Customer Services division, evaluating the quality of the CX via telephone, email and social media.

 

Adding depth

Our relationship with our client does not remain static, neither does their relationship with their customer base. Over the last year, we have refined the Retail ESP (to reflect process change on the shop floor) and built ‘Specialist ESP’ questionnaires for a range of specific departments.

These specialist questionnaires reflect the level of service quality expected in flagship areas and mirrors the attention to detail our client expects every colleague to offer every customer. The ESP is more than just a third-party measure of service, we work together to build individual reference manuals of what exceptional looks like in each area of our client’s retail offer, ensuring all colleagues understand what they should strive to deliver.

 

Supporting success

The most successful MS programmes drive cultural change. This cultural shift can only happen when frontline colleagues are engaged with the programme and are supported by the right tools. We work in close partnership with our client to drive colleague engagement, and we do this through ‘in-store knowledge enhancement days’ and colleague feedback sessions, as well as regular presentations at management meetings and off-site events. Most recently, we have worked together to build bespoke colleague training modules with each module linking directly to the relevant step of the service cycle that sits within the ESP.

 

An exceptional partnership

Now in its second year, we can see the influence the ESP is having. Colleagues have positively embraced both ESP and the complementary training modules that work hand in hand to drive improvement in service standards. Customers are enjoying a better customer experience – we see this through the upward trend of ESP performance and the insight gleaned from our client’s Voice of Customer programme. The ESP is viewed and valued as an extension of everyday business - not an external measure, but a measure that is at the heart of driving exceptional service quality.