Transforming Business Results From the Inside-Out with Kirsten Riechelmann
In February 2022, hundreds of leaders from service businesses across the world gathered together online to take part in the Global Frontline Experience Summit, an event we are delighted to sponsor and host again after its hugely successful first run in 2020. It was a phenomenal event with a contagious heaping of inspiration, excitement and possibility for anyone working in the customer experience and frontline service space.
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No matter the town or country, there will always be a home improvement store somewhere, each with its own personality. If you’re from New Zealand (lucky you), you’re probably familiar with Mitre 10 and their famous sandpit ad, which became a generation-defining, TV moment (worth a watch). But sometimes a store can either hit the nail on the head or miss the mark completely when it comes to customer service. However Mitre 10, the leading home improvement brand in New Zealand, has shown how the frontline drives change, progress and success. Kirsten Riechelmann, Head of People Experience at Mitre 10 New Zealand, is here to give a minitalk on how letting the frontline lead drives company success, and how Mitre 10’s learnings can apply to your service business.
“With You All the Way” — Getting the Team Together
Around eighteen months ago, Mitre 10 had a new brand launch called “With you all the way”. The initiative was about Mitre 10’s long-standing relationship with consumers and delivering excellent customer service. Part of their consumer promise was supporting customers from the beginning of a project to its completion (and the celebratory BBQ afterwards!). In the past, Mitre 10 had put many training solutions in place but Kirsten pointed out that, “given the very nature of cooperative business structure, it hadn’t seemed to consistently stick everywhere”. So, getting a team of around 7000 behind a campaign meant Mitre 10 “needed to do something different”.
Not a “Once-and-done” Solution
Traditionally, any training program is seen as the role of HR. But for this ‘all-team movement’ to be successful, that needed to change. Once all departments were onboard from marketing to operations, Kirsten said “we knew it couldn’t be a once-and-done solution”. For the initiative to stick, there needed to be a cultural shift in the company, which would take time and long-term investment. This major shift included acknowledging and implementing values and concepts such as:
Kirsten emphasized that it needed to feel like each individual store could own and drive the program in a way they saw fit. The branding program provided a foundation on which each store could build their own identity while reinforcing the message that they are “With you all the way”. Kirsten reiterated this by saying “although we appear as one big company, we are 60 odd individual businesses, driving for individual success”.
Historically, stores didn’t really share what they were doing with each other. So, the program also wanted to create touchpoint opportunities with the support office team and each other. This meant stores could share knowledge and help each other improve.
Working with Them, Not for Them
One of the biggest shifts was when stores were treated as active members of the business. Kirsten said, “We moved to a place where we worked with the stores on a solution rather than creating something for them”. Each store had ownership in creating their own solutions and progress with support offices as a helping hand as part of the brand promise “With you all the way”.
Mitre 10’s Four Fundamental Principles
To achieve the concepts above, Mitre 10 needed to change their approach to work. So, they came up with four fundamental principles:
Insight to action
Kirsten says, “everything we built was grounded in insight from our customers”. From their likes and dislikes, insight from customers drove customer-facing interactions and “not just what someone, normally a manager, thought was the best thing to do”. Those insights aimed to spark curiosity and drive a culture of continuous improvement.
Freedom in Framework
In the past, Mitre 10 had created initiatives that assumed all stores started from the same place and had the same goals. But having a flexible framework allowed stores to make objectives related to them, whether that was improving the checkout experience or when materials were delivered. Kirsten said, “as long as we were all striving to improve areas of the customer experience, we knew we’d start to live up to that brand promise”.
Co-creation and Iteration
This meant working collaboratively with the frontline. So, feedback was gathered from the frontline on new concepts. Instead of assuming what was needed, Miter 10 got the frontline to say what they needed. Stores were also asked to create content for the program because the frontline teams are “closer to the action”.
Fit the Brand
Mitre 10 has a real Kiwi, down-to-earth brand, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The aim was to make the customer experience fun and memorable. Early on, a decision was made to work with local comedians to roleplay what the brand message should and shouldn’t look like, which became a massive hit.
The Programme of Work
Mitre 10 had many supplementary programs that created more frontline and customer engagement. From CX roadshows to a video series with local comedians, all points of contact were truly covered. One of the most notable initiatives was the customer tool, Your Say, which enabled better NPS reporting and real-time customer insight. Most notably, however, were the new customer experience standards, written by stores, not support offices. This was the most important step forward and created “joint accountability” for everyone involved.
The Results — Did They Move the Needle?
The numbers sure do tell a story of progress. Since the program launched, over 500 store leaders are more engaged, there’s a 2 point increase in CX confidence and 2000 employees are enrolled in online courses. But what was most telling is that there had been 1800 QR scans to pull content, showing that the Mitre 10 workforce is more engaged and curious than ever before. Externally, there was a 1.8 point increase in Mitre 10’s NPS score and a 10% increase in brand love. This has changed how Mitre 10 has approached other initiatives. A true collaborative approach that shows how empathy and curiosity can create long-lasting results and a work environment that is truly “with you all the way”.
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