The Third Step for Managing Customer Relationship: Build Strong Relationships

Wang: After managing customer assets successfully, we still thought we could do more. Brainstorming came up with the current drive to build strong customer relationships through an interpersonal bond with customers. We categorise generation 1 and generation 2 stores. The Nanjing store is now a generation 3.5 store, and we are developing generation 4 stores. Generation 4 stores must have door-to-door + service + culture + recreation + social + a place for mother members while their children are engaged in various activities.

Interviewer Gu:It is interesting that you classify your stores by generation, like Web 2.3, 3.0, and 4.0.

Wang: Yes, constant generation update is another internet characteristic; we incorporate advanced technologies whenever we can. All these years, while my team and I have pondered current issues, I have also been considering the future.

Powerful Back-End Management: From Functional Responsibility to Customer and Process Responsibility

Interviewer Chen: What measures do you think are especially effective in motivating employees to build customer relationships passionately and diligently?

Wang: First, it is difficult to ‘transplant’ internet genes into a traditional enterprise: genes are inherited. But I knew we could change the culture. Culture is an atmosphere established when every employee works and behaves consistently within it. I hoped to change the traditional commodity-oriented culture to a customer-oriented one: whatever the circumstances, we focus on customers. Second, regardless of an employee’s function—HR, finance or purchasing—ultimately each employee is accountable for the customer results, not functional results alone. The transition was not as easy as it appeared. It was extremely difficult to change the culture. Employees tended to think that if they worked in the

HR department, they were responsible only for recruitment and training. If they worked in the finance department, their job was to control costs and manage budgets. They might say ‘Customer happiness is not my concern. Frontline staff manage customer satisfaction.’ Such traditional ideas are hard to change. We tell employees repeatedly that if we stick to past practices of working by function, we cannot survive. Losing customers means losing everything.

In addition to instilling these ideas, we broke down walls separating the different functions by weakening some functions and central positions and strengthening customer service functions. We consolidated the entire finance function and built a strong back-end and small front-end. Our ‘golden triangle’ concept means that two or three people serve one customer.

In another step, we combined the ‘virtual’ and the ‘actual.’ We consider the organisation to be an entity for studying and formulating policies, but in actual operations the virtual organisation takes the lead. For example, I am a virtual team leader; previously I was just a department head, but now even the general manager listens to me. This way more people take responsibility. Employees can now assume the functions performed by department heads and general managers in the past. As the many layers are removed, the organisation becomes flattened. Currently we have no layers for virtual functions; thus we have improved efficiency and added vitality by changing the organisational culture. We call this employee- driven change. Employee-driven rather than boss-driven, employees are automatically motivated.

Interviewer Chen:How long did it take for employees to completely accept the reform?

Wang: I set an example by practising what I advocated. If you do not take part but just order people to change, it won’t work. I stepped aside and let the sales-team leaders speak. When Kidswant started, store managers expected me to discuss everything with them. I felt that they should not continue to rely so heavily on me, so I told them that I would be absent and that Mr Xu, the store manager, would be chairing all the meetings when I was not there. I also told them that this was Mr Xu’s decision. People got nervous, as there were so many decisions to make.

But I was determined. One evening I told them that I would definitely not be available. They had to decide how to handle their problems and tell me about it the next day. I said ‘I don’t care how you decide, I just need results.’ They kept calling and asking what to do. They said ‘This is serious; you’d better come, Boss.’ I replied that I had important things to attend to, and asked them to stop calling me. Actually I was right there; I was circling the building in my car five or six times. I knew there was a chance that they might make a major mistake that would have a big impact on me and on the company. But I restrained myself from going upstairs.

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