customers and the moment of truth

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One of the parts of my gig that I enjoy has to do with on-campus recruiting.  I usually spend my time meeting with current graduate students and talking to them about what my role is like or how the hiring process works at Best Buy.  More often than not, students ask what it’s like to work for a retail brand.

For the most part, I’ve found that MBA programs spend a lot of time talking to their students about a variety of industries such as consumer packaged goods, financial services, consulting, etc., but retail brands don’t always get a lot of exposure.  (Now I will say that this is somewhat different for business schools located here in the Twin Cities because both Best Buy and Target are headquartered here in town.)

When I do get questions about working at a retailer, I talk about the quick speed at which we operate.  I talk about the ever changing competitive landscape.  And most importantly, I also talk about what I like to call the moment of truth.

One of things that I love about working at a retail brand is the proximity we have to the consumer.  Manufacturer brands may create the actual product that gets sold, but retail brands and their employees are the ones that are there for almost all facets of the shopping process especially when the decision is being made on what to buy.  This is what I mean when I say the moment of truth.

From a marketing perspective, I find this energizing.  When you work for a retailer, it means that you should have the closest view on what consumers are looking to do with a product; you should also have the closest view on what consumers want from a shopping experience.  At the same time that proximity can mean that retail brands are held to higher standard on being able to deliver a compelling experience.

In my day job, this can come to life in a variety of fashions such as in-store research shop-alongs with consumers or analyzing trends within our customer database or deploying new programs via our digital platforms.  Above and beyond these, one of things that I have found most rewarding has been actually going in to work in our stores themselves.

Every winter at my office there is a program called Holiday Helper where corporate employees can work shifts at local Best Buy stores.  Depending upon your interest and schedule, you can be a hearty soul that works during the mayhem of Black Friday, you can help pull sales across the finish line on Christmas Eve, or you can work anytime in between.  Personally I have worked a variety of different shifts as part of the Holiday Helper program including Black Friday.  I’ve helped grandmothers find video games and DVDs on their grandchildren’s wish lists.  I’ve up stocked and down stocked video games for all the different systems out there.  I’ve helped handout door busters on Black Friday morning.  And I’ve tried to help people navigate the sea of wireless routers.  And I have to tell you, at no time will you better understand the moment of truth than when you get your hands dirty and try to help a customer fulfill their holiday shopping list.

Different jobs at different companies resonate with people for different reasons.  But for me as a marketer who is passionate about brands and consumer behavior, I want to have access to as many consumer insights as possible to help with the challenges of my work.  And for now, I’m in a pretty good spot.  I’m not sure how many different industries out there are in as good a position to listen, learn and gather information on consumer marketing challenges as the one in which I work today.

(Photo courtesy of Creative Commons license: Jeremy Brooks.)

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2 thoughts on “customers and the moment of truth

  1. My favorite part: "at no time will you better understand the moment of truth than when you get your hands dirty…"Great words, Slim.

  2. Nice perspective. I’ve worked with you and the brand for a long time (until recently) and this might be the clearest articulation of someone describing the value in and of their work.

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