‘Constructing Happy’ In The Retail Workplace

‘Constructing Happy’ In The Retail Workplace

[For Employees & Customers]

A great workplace culture. Delivering best in company results. Creating a customer experience that drives brand loyalty and growth. None of it is easy. It takes a lot of time, tears, martini’s, and hard work. But I can say this…it is significantly easier to invest the time and energy into building excellence through guidance, communication, and support – than it is to maintain a “good enough” team, deliver mediocre levels of service, and constantly excuse why you can’t maintain consistent numbers or levels of performance.

I read yesterday that another retailer, PacSun, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Creating a great workplace and a great place to shop – a store, district, and region that delivers such a great experience that can turn customers AND employees into enthusiastic brand advocates is more important now than ever.  We can no longer hope to wow our customers with bland service and a deeply discounted brand proposition. We have to be more – we have to be better.

Three Components Of “Constructing Happy”

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 7.20.57 AM

I once read that constructing happiness is made up of three things:

  • Anticipation
  • Experience
  • Memory

Anticipation: Anticipation is so powerful that being excited about a big event, like going on your dream vacation, can give you as much joy as actually completing it.

Experience: According to Randall Stone, director of experience innovation at Lippincott – “The experience itself is really important, but an experience is never perfect, and you don’t weigh an experience by adding it up over time. It’s not like you add four and five and get a score that equals happiness. You actually remember the high moment and the end moment.”

Memory: Creating a unique experience at the end of the interactions is profoundly important to the experience and the memory, take for example food service experiences – a Cornell study found that waiters who gave mints [candy] at the end of the meal received 3% higher tips, while those who presented the mints with just a bit more effort by asking the question “would anyone like mints at the end of their meal?” received 14% higher tips.

In a previous article I referenced a new hire’s first day of work in a new job, with new coworkers, in a new location. At the end of that first day – that new hire is going to give you and your organization a grade:

  • They will tell their family and friends if their coworkers were nice, considerate, helpful, stand-offish.
  • They will talk about the office and if they thought it was inspiring, eerily quiet because people don’t interact, bustling, fun, or bland.
  • How was their work space? Was it conducive to innovation, personalized, was everything ready for them?
  • Did you make them do two hours of grueling, mind-numbing paperwork? Or did you give them something exciting to work on, look forward to?

With 22% of employees leaving a new role within the first 45 days – these first few days will shape their impression of your organization and long-term experience they are likely to have with your company. Just consider, for a moment, the experience you currently provide your new hires – what grade, do you suppose, are they giving you? Your new hire will be anticipating that first day it at least two weeks out – then excited that you took the time to deliver an amazing inaugural experience for them – which they will then share with their friends and family that night.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 7.04.28 AM

You can see how important it is to thoughtfully construct happiness for your new hire and your existing employees. Happiness doesn’t come naturally – we have to create moments and experiences that surprise and delight our employees throughout their days and weeks – not just at the beginning of the relationships, but consistently throughout. This will allow them to feel empowered to create those same moments to enhance and enchant the customer experience.

Employees Need To Be Empowered To Make People Happy

[Surprise & Delight]

A million years ago I worked at Disneyland, there was an amazing service policy called “TGS” which stands for – Total Guest Satisfaction. That policy empowered every single employee to support the guest experience. For example – one day, walking behind some guests coming off of the Indiana Jones attraction, I heard someone mention that they lost their baseball cap on the ride – so I stepped in and asked them to follow me to the nearest shop and told them pick any hat they wanted. The guest did, I cut the tag off, told them to have an amazing day and logged the hat on the nearest TGS form “backstage”. Every single ‘cast member’, hourly or salaried, had the power to do things like that without question to make the experience excellent and remarkable. It gave everyone the power to create a moment that was the high-point of the guest’s experience at the park.

In most retail organizations – there is so much red tape, ambiguous policy, and bureaucracy that people are worried and uncertain about how they can bring surprise and delight to their customer experience so what we settle for is delivering an experience that, at best, is bland, uninspired, and completely forgettable. And it’s not about giving the customers ‘things’…I recently had an amazing experience at Trader Joe’s with two of their “mates”. They were incredibly engaging, hilarious, and genuninly kind. It was such an unique and enjoyable shopping experience, when I got home, after I’d unbagged the groceries and recollected the experience, I sent in a compliment via their website. It’s about the experience, the end result, the memory. I can think of perhaps three retailers [two of them luxury] that have accomplished that in my retail opinion, consistently.

Human Nature & The Human Brain

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 7.01.18 AM

According to Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, a member of U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center’s advisory board, and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative, which can make us feel stressed and unhappy even though there are a lot of positive things in our lives. True, life can be hard, and legitimately terrible sometimes. Hanson’s book [grounded in research on learning and brain structure] doesn’t suggest that we avoid dwelling on negative experiences altogether—that would be impossible. Instead, he advocates training our brains to appreciate positive experiences when we do have them, by taking the time to focus on them and install them in the brain.

The brain today has what scientists call a negativity bias. Like Velcro for the bad, Teflon for the good. For example, negative information about someone is more memorable than positive information, which is why negative ads dominate politics. In relationships, studies show that a good, strong relationship needs at least a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. [Source: The Atlantic] Interesting, huh?

Happy Customers Spend More

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 6.56.28 AM

7 out of 10 consumers will spend more money with good customer experience customers

In the world of the customer and the effect of employee happiness, one study found that 92% of consumers reported that an employee’s perceived happiness had a direct impact on their customer experience with the brand. Another study by The Annual American Express Global Customer Service Barometer found that 7 out of 10 consumers will spend more money with a company that provides top quality customer experience. [Source: Customer Gauge].
  • Only 37% of brands received good or excellent customer experience index scores in 2012. Whereas, 64% of brands got a rating of “OK,” “poor,” or “very poor” from their customers. [Source: Forrester Research]
  • As many as 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience. [Source: RightNow]
  • Up to 60% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience. [Source: Desk]
  • Average annual value of each customer relationship lost to a competitor or abandoned – $289. [Source: Genesys Report]

While transactional businesses primarily care about return frequency and spend per visit, subscription-oriented industries focus on retention, cross-sell, and upsell. We used multiple regression to account for factors that might drive these outcomes other than customer experience — for instance, the fact that exercise enthusiasts might simply enjoy their gym membership more regardless of experience — and estimate how much of the behavioral differences were due to past customer experience. After doing so, it soon became clear: customer experience is a major driver of future revenue. What we found: after controlling for other factors that drive repeat purchases in the transaction-based business (for example, how often the customer needs the type of goods and services that the company sells), customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience. [Source: Peter Kriss, via HBR]

So, when we look at how we deliver customer experience in the retail industry we need to specifically focus on our brand promise and identifying if it offers the positive components of:

  • Anticipation
  • Experience
  • Memory

And if it does not we have reshape and reinvent our brand image, our talent understanding, our policies, and our mindset to ensure we are meeting the needs of our internal and external customers consistently.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

View all posts by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *