Editor's View July 2018

Are You Listening?


In 2017, the PBS tv channel aired a reality series called “Victorian Slum House,” in which a group of current-day British citizens role-played characters from the poorest class levels as they would have lived in Victorian London, from the clothing they wore and rooms they lived in, to their occupations, food they prepared and dealings with merchants and employers.
Tidbits of actual history dispensed during the shows included details on politicians’ efforts to eliminate the slums by building respectable multi-housing units accompanied by another building in which the poor could rent work space to ply their trades. In fact, it was a strict rule of the housing development that no work be done in the apartments—that any goods created for sale or services provided needed to be executed in the building that contained rental workspaces.
The whole plan looked great on paper. But when it came time to open the buildings to the poor, few could take advantage of the accommodations. The reality was that creating goods for sale or providing services from their living quarters barely provided enough money on which the families could live. There was no way they could afford to pay for the housing and rent a work space, too.
All the expense to build the new housing did little in the end to eliminate slums. If only the politicians and planners had talked to the poor to find out how they lived and what their problems were, the outcome might have been very different.
A study conducted by the Luxury Institute that involved interviews with top in-store sales associates reveals shortcomings in retail areas that are costing luxury brands big money. (See the “Industry Views” column next door for details.)
Turns out most of the problems in training, marketing and customer relations could be identified and resolved—resulting in 20 to 30 percent more potential sales revenue—if only top management would listen to what their sales staffs have to say.
Milton Pedraza, ceo of the Luxury Institute, writes, “The Luxury Institute has documented a performance-numbing lack of communication between top-tier luxury brand headquarters and their front-line associates. The consequences continue to be a significant loss of sales, high employee turnover, poor morale, and most importantly, severed or damaged client relationships. At a time when many of the business models of luxury and retail are being disrupted, brands can ill-afford to ignore the voices of their top sales associates.”
The inability or resistance of management to cull information from its workers that would help to make processes better is nothing new and is not confined to luxury levels of retail. Lack of input from worker bees in all types of businesses goes back long before Victorian times.
But whether it’s prompted by ignorance, ego, fear or insecurity, lack of communication between workers and upper management can be costly. To make your business better, perhaps it’s time for some rethinking and in-house research that focuses communication between levels of workers toward problem-solving and goal achieving.
The focus in retail is often on consumer customers—what they think and want. But if you were asked, “Are you listening?” when it comes to your own employees, what would your answer be? How much better would your company morale and bottom lines be if their input were incorporated into your plans for the future?