It’s Q4 2016, and many of us are in the last quarter of our fiscal year. We’re assessing performance against targets, looking how to close gaps, and simultaneously planning for 2017. As executives and stakeholders in the success of our companies, we all want to achieve our goals, reward our teams, and personally benefit from that success. But what happens when we push too hard for revenue and sales—and how do we know what “too hard” means? Two recent personal experiences reminded me of how thin the line can be.

In September I visited New York City. Now, to be honest, I really hate shopping, but for some time I’d wanted to go on a shopping spree in this beautiful city. I stumbled into a retail store that carries my favorite high-end brand and spent an entire morning there. Two sales associates ended up working with me—but they provided very different experiences. One woman seemed younger and perhaps less experienced than her colleague. She was eager to please and extremely complimentary—in fact, too much so. No matter what I tried on, she said “That looks wonderful on you!” or “You look fabulous!” Sometimes I looked in the mirror and thought, “Nope, no way”. The other sales associate was much more honest, and would literally say “That just doesn’t work for you” or “That’s not a good fit”. Which one do you think I trusted? Which one did I want to buy from? Which one did I think was less concerned about her commission and more interested that I was happy with the experience and my purchases? You got it—the more honest one.

Very recently in preparation for a meeting I visited a wireless retail store. My goal was to experience the sales process. When I walked into the store, the sales associate was alone and was working with a couple who was trying to set up their phone. When he learned that I was thinking about buying a new phone, he immediately dropped his attention from the hapless couple and worked to sell me on a new plan. He did a pretty good job—until I asked him to show me a coverage map. I live in a rural part of Colorado and I wanted to know whether I would have good service. Otherwise any plan—no matter what the price—is worthless. The young man looked at the online coverage map and said “coverage is rated at best or good”. I leaned over his shoulder, and could clearly see that the area around my home was marked as spotty—perhaps good. This young sales associate fudged the truth to try to land the sale. I will not buy from this brand.

When we push our teams so hard for the sale that they undermine the customer experience, our brands suffer. A recent extreme cautionary tale is what happened at Wells Fargo, where associates opened accounts without customer consent. As we think about 2017, let’s remember that customers reward us with their loyalty and increased wallet share when we clearly communicate we care about them and want their business. It’s a virtuous cycle that we need to emphasize as we lead our teams.

For more information about that virtuous cycle, please link to our video with Forrester called “Show Me the Money.” It’s all about how our emphasis on customer experience leads to the ROI we want.


As Chief Strategy Officer, Cheryl aligns Market Force's strategic direction with our clients' strategic objectives. She oversees the North American client base, Analytics and Insights, Winnipeg Operations and Marketing. She has a Ph.D. in social psychology and broad business experience in both private and public companies.​

Tags: retail