A focused aim of delivering unique customer service is responsible for the amazing success of Retail Prodigy Group, franchise partner for Nike in ANZ, leading to its winning the 2016 Customer Centricity Retailer of the Year Award.

Though the company is quite young – only five years old, it hit the ground running and is growing at a fast rate, essentially opening a store a month since launching. Now RPG boasts 58 stores in Australia and New Zealand (six in New Zealand) including some concessions within Myer. “We’ve been busy opening stores while at the same time trying to build a culture, a framework,” co-founder/CEO Stephen Younane told Inside Retail. It all starts with our culture and our values as a company; essentially you’ve got the founders of the business who are all aligned and have bought into the purpose which is about providing the ultimate customer experience; then it’s supported by our five core values which have a direct connection with our customers.”

RPG’s formula comprises a number of benchmarks that need to be attained and maintained, Younane explained. “Our customer experience is based on what we call the five essential services that is all around the way our customers are delivered a unique shopping experience.”

These services are: Connect; Run Analysis; Styling; Suggestive Selling; and Last Impressions.

The business mantra is to try to convert customers into fans, so they become promoters and supporters of the brand and then promote it to family and friends. This is measured and celebrated: “Every time we receive a compliment from a customer we treat that as ‘Fan Mail’, and we have a tally that’s shared with the organisation every week, on how we’re going with our fan mail, compared to our complaints,” Younane elaborated.  “I can honestly tell you that – in my whole career in retail – I’ve never been in a business where the compliments outweigh the complaints. We’re at a four-to-one ratio of our fan mail, or compliments, to complaints.”

Every piece of feedback – whether fan mail or a complaint, gets read by the leadership team to see how the business can learn from it while the customer receives a personal phone call to ensure the business understands their experience. For each piece of fan email, the team member receives a gift voucher as well as a message from the GM in appreciation.

Major recent initiatives launched to enhance customer connections include a customer feedback loop at the point of sale. This system captures feedback from customers within seconds of purchase. “It rotates through a series of questions providing an annotated result, per store, per day, so we can track the feedback of our customers’ experience looking at a lot of different dimensions, like their overall experience instore – from the service point of view, to the value, for example, and we keep tabs on that,” he elaborated. “That feedback we’re getting is gold… (and) quite granular in terms of data.”

And the value of retail awards? “Just submitting an application is a great learning experience in itself; it actually forces you to take time out to essentially document the journey that you’re on. it’s almost like writing your own case study. So regardless of whether you win or not, I think that [exercise] is positive.

“The positives of winning are that it enables you to tell your story, particularly to the employment community; and we’re striving hard to become an employer of choice.”

There’s a number of reasons Younane is happy to share what the businesses does: “If all retailers focused more on the customer experience, a couple of things are going to happen, and that is, first of all, we are going to develop future retailers and they’re going to be more aligned with understanding the importance of providing quality service at retail, which can only be good for the overall industry. Also, I think it continues to encourage customers to shop instore.”