Anyone not living under a log this past week knows the situation with Radio Shack and their (hopefully now regrettable) decsion to inform their employees that they are no longer employeed via email. In this account in USA Today, it was reported that the they were eliminating 400 to 450 jobs (err, people, right?), mostly at headquarters, to cut expenses and “improve its long-term competitive position in the marketplace.” A new CEO a former Kmart executive, Julian Day, has been named as their as chief executive. Here are a few things to consider as they begin to rebuild…
Jobs are People
In a retail environment where the frontline is the brand, ‘people’ is the most impactful deciding factor for customers on how they feel about the brand, the experience and if they’ll stay or go. Yes, the jobs eliminated were the “corporate” jobs – but this process of elimination can have an effect that is likely rippling wildly through the organization. Especially in the largely transient retail workforce, you want the customer facing folks to feel that they are committed to, assisted and understood. This process of elimination signals the contrary. Having a competitive position in the marketplace is as much – maybe even more – about the customer experience than it is about the product. This CEO would be wise to make one of the first actions, a roadtrip through the stores listening intently to the frontline to understand how they feel, what they believe the brand is and what they need.
Beware the Customer Impact
All of our worst nightmare as employees has just come true. Human kindness and conversation has been replaced by emails. While Radio Shack’s action was internal to employees, as customers, we’re just one keystroke away from getting the same treatment. Yes, intellectually, we’ve read the articles and understoon there was a process – but that still doesn’t take away the bad taste in our mouths about how employees have been treated. This CEO would be wise to reach out to customers as well – especially their best customers if they are known to hear their feedback and mend fences as required. When I was at Lands’ End, one of the most important things we did was practice humility with customers and we kept an open dialogue with them and encouraged their feedback.
Align the Metrics, the Motivation and the Mechanics
I’ll get more on this in another post. But the big thing that has to happen here now is for Radio Shack to get its internal wiring straightened out. Corporations miss out with customers because there is an emormous game of ‘telephone’ going on in the messaging that begins at corporate and finally trickles down through the ranks. The metrics about what is important is defined individually down the silos, the mechanics of the silos working together toward a unified experience is more about silo power than silo togetherness, and the motivation to do the right things for customers falls third or fourth in line after quarterly sales goals, revenue targets (that rely on customers) and catering to the board and financial community. This CEO would be wise to give some serious thought and put some of that remaining corporate manpower behind arm-wrestling with these issues.