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Innovation: Value-based Customer Service is not Lip Service

Anita Roddick died this week, leaving a tremendous legacy — the creation and establishment of a small brand that reshaped cosmetic retailing, firstly in the UK and then globally. She anticipated the values of her customers, super served them and never wavered. Her success followed naturally.

Anita Roddick died this week, leaving a tremendous legacy — the creation and establishment of a small brand that reshaped cosmetic retailing, firstly in the UK and then globally. She anticipated the values of her customers, super served them and never wavered. Her success followed naturally.

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The Body Shop grew from one store to 1,980 serving over 77 million customers in 50 different markets, 25 languages and 12 time zones. In the process, the stores offered fun, novelty and excitement. The business became an example of responsible and ethical trading and, through Ms. Roddick, gained and developed a voice.

The message was heard not only in the beauty columns and glossy magazines but all the way to the major business and financial institutions around the world after the company went public in 1984. Ms. Roddick believed in the power to do good and communicated that commitment in The Body Shop’s mission statement, “To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change.”

She had the reputation of a fearless and challenging businesswoman who believed in putting forth solutions. One of the vehicles for those conversations on environmental concerns is The Body Shop Community Trade initiatives, which made fair or community trade relationships more mainstream with 42 projects in 26 countries and aiming to develop more.

“How can I bring values into an industry that is certainly not values-laden?” That is the question she posed in her biography. She inspired many to do something. Her business transparency in the sourcing of the products’ ingredients was a smart move and her insight as to corporations needing to open their doors to consumer power voluntarily were both ahead of the times.

Maybe that belief came from being an entrepreneur at heart. Dame Roddick, as she was called, talked about how that is something you cannot teach – how do you teach to be an outsider and “march to a different drumbeat”? However, there are certain qualities common to entrepreneurs; among them is the ability to be a great storyteller.

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The Body Shop has been defining the customer experience by telling a different story – one of vision, responsibility, and care. By doing that, they have turned an idea into reality; people and customers come first. Here’s to the hope that The New Academy of Business, a masters degree course at Bath University, which she helped launch in 1997 with the aim of reforming business education for the new century will contribute to carrying on those ideals.

Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA • www.conversationagent.com