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India is a vast country more than five million retail outlets spread over almost 5,700 towns and around six lakh villages. For many years the country’s retail sector was catered to by individual retail outlets owned separately and managed distinctively. Very few retail chains existed which were managed professionally. In the last few years professional retailing has come of age. This is an industry which has now has started attracting better investment and talent.

A few years ago, a job in the retailing sector was looked down upon. Very few MBAs would even think of making a career in the area of professional retailing. Today, things have changed, primarily because of the expectations of Indian consumers rising and some sectors of industry responding quickly and heartily.

There are two types of Customer Service Standards: internal and external.

Some of the elements defining and raining the expectations of Indian consumers are overseas travel, exposure to television as well as experiencing pressures from kids and teenagers in the family. The entire approach is to enjoy shopping in comfortable surroundings and have a pleasant experience.

This requires a process of setting standards so as to meet or exceed the standards. This is what I mean by my Process-Oriented Customer Service Prescription.

In the first case in Mumbai, a set of three cinema houses were converted into upscale shopping centers. The brand developed a few years ago was Shoppers’

To ensure that this actually happens, internal Customer Service standards would first have to be set up. Thus, the pick-up time would be designated and there would be a cut-off time for the package to reach the hub. Similarly, there’s a time for the package to reach the airport, get loaded on the aircraft and then get off-loaded at the destination airport. From there it has to reach the destination hub on time. All these are internal Customer Service standards.

One of the positives was to develop systems and processes whether in the form of car parking processes, computerization or customer service systems

Today, Shoppers’ Stop attracts store traffic from far and wide. It has broken the myth of MBAs not wanting to go into a retailing career. A number of young, smart MBAs manage the affairs very competently.

Shoppers’ Stop has been made a happening place. Consumers have an emotional attachment to the brand and consider it to be their kind of place.

A well thought-out system of promotions as well as frequent buyer programmes branded as the “First Citizen’s Club” ensures greater involvement of consumers and increases repeat purchases. They

Shoppers’ Stop has since rolled out to other cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore with good results and could be soon one of the sound and professional retailing brands in the country.

The next case study is a specialised book and leisure store called Crossword. This is a brand that has developed a chain of owned as well as franchised stores across the country in major towns like Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Pune and even at powai. It is a very focused store which is able to cater to the needs of the customers interested in books and CD/ DVD’s. It is known for its wide variety and has been able to succeed primarily due to the interesting merchandise, regular newsletters and reviews as well as promotions with famous authors. Some of the world’s best authors are invited for book signing sessions at the store which increases store traffic and keeps interest of hardcore book lovers alive.

Due to the increasing computer culture, the CD/DVD’s section is growing fast and the brand is responding quickly to cater to this urgent demand.

In both cases, the new realities of the marketplace are being respected in the area of professional retailing. The key reasons for success are the stress on customer service, process and systems. In professional retailing the element of the utmost importance is located followed by purchase expertise, inventory control, tight security systems as well as proper selection and training of bright young people.

Professional retailing is bound to grow tremendously provided the right marketing strategy is adopted. India could go through a revolution in professional retailing in the next few years.

The author is Brand Guru Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director of the successful Samsika Marketing Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. Tel: 022 28597700/7701 Fax: 28597699 E-mail:jkapoor@samsika.com

Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved with Jagdeep Kapoor, Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
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