Note To Circuit City’s Board Of Directors

Since my previous post talks about customer service and my next post will talk about customer loyalty, I felt compelled to squeeze in something about Circuit City. The retailer just announced that both its CMO and president of small stores are leaving — just a few months after the retailer’s exec VP of multi-channel sales also left the company. In the midst of this turnover, I have a few thoughts for the Circuit City board of directors as they retool their efforts.

To being with, let’s look at how customers rate Circuit City. Here are some findings from my research which shows Circuit City’s rankings:

It’s clear that Circuit City has it’s work cut out for itself when it comes to Customer Experience. I think it makes sense to repeat advice that I gave to JP Morgan Chase in “Chase Can’t Advertise Its Way To Customer Friendliness:” You can’t advertise yourself out of this problem

So here’s a suggestion for the Circuit City leadership team: Transform your latest marketing slogan, “Simplicity guaranteed,” from a tag-line into an operational blueprint. How? By following the second principle of Experience-Based Differentiation:

Reinforce brands with every interaction, not just communications. Traditional brand messaging is losing its power to influence consumers — that’s why branding efforts need to expand beyond marketing communications to help define how customers should be treated. To master EBD, firms must articulate their brand attributes to both customers and employees, clearly describing how the firm wants to be viewed. That’s just the first step, because companies must go on to translate brand attributes into requirements for how they’ll interact with customers.

The bottom line: Circuit City should stop guaranteeing simplicity and start delivering it.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

2 Responses to Note To Circuit City’s Board Of Directors

  1. Doug Meacham says:

    Bruce, Couldn’t agree more and wrote about the Simplicity campaign here:

    I worked for Circuit City for many years in IT management and strategy roles. Two years ago this month, I was part of a cross-functional team of middle level directors that delivered a differentiating longterm strategic architecture for transforming the customer and associate experience at Circuit City. The vision was developed by the team with coaching from Gary Hamel’s consulting group, Strategos. The plan was presented to and enthusiastically approved by the board and was to be put into effect in the fall of 2006, and that’s pretty much where it ended. Instead of investing the resources necessary to truly articulate the new brand attributes to the 40,000 associates, the concepts were boiled down to four simple phrases and a one page graphic which was presented with much fanfare as being “our northstar”. The internal marketing and inspiring words from CEO Phil Schoonover about focusing on the experience faded out 6 months after the board approved the plan. Since then Mr. Schoonover has been ineffective at getting his revolving door management team to engage with the vision even though he continues to talk to the media about the company’s “turnaround”. Moreover, the the Board of Directors, who enthusiastically signed on to the plan, have not made it a priority for the leadership team.

    Your advice to the leadership is exactly what my strategy team prescribed. Sadly, no one is listening.

  2. Bruce Temkin says:

    Doug: Thanks for the inside insight. Transforming the customer experience at a large retailer like Circuit City is really hard work. My advice to exec teams: If you’re not committed to the full ride, don’t even start the journey.

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