All Sewn Up

All Sewn Up

I once met a man in a motorway service station just off the M25.  Not any man, but the CEO of a large clothes retailer.  I knew someone, who knew someone who knew him.  He owed a favour, and this was cashed in on meeting me.  It helped he had a real personal interest in disability and was intrigued to hear about this organisation promoting disability as a commercial opportunity.

I remember when we first met, he was pretty uncomfortable.  It certainly was not due to the anxiousness of trying to identify a stranger in a busy café as I had told him I was quite recognisable!  I suspect he was not used to meetings in motorway service stations over tepid cups of tea!

Once we started talking fashion the ‘being uncomfortable’ quickly shifted to me.  Fashion and I have never been close, so when he asked about my style I simply stared and blinked a lot. I mumbled about how difficult it was as all my clothes needed adapting, so following fashion would have been an additionally expensive hobby for me.  I failed to mention my characteristic flaw of not embracing change and preferring my tried and trusted clothes which I had worn perfectly well for years – complete with the odd small hole.  His eyes lit up and he became animated when discussing how his organisation could engage with local tailors to offer a bespoke adaptation service to those customers who bought clothes from his stores.  There wasn’t a market in bespoke clothes for people like me, but if he could offer discounted, high quality and speedy adaptions then it would encourage me to spend more.

I was reminded of this encounter not long ago when I went to my local tailor to pick up clothes he had recently adapted for me.  I hadn’t been for a pretty long time – no surprise there(!) – but during lockdown I had been encouraged (coerced) to go through my wardrobe and found in a bag five work shirts, four t-shirts and two pairs of jeans accumulated from previous birthday and Christmas presents.

I remember the very first time walking into the shop – 5 Star Stitches – asking the question and receiving a very nervous, ‘of course’.  But as a professional craftsman he took up the challenge with aplomb.  He told me years later that his biggest fear was sewing up the wrong arm hole. Although I provided him with one of my older shirts to use as a template, he was insistent in making me put on each shirt individually and pinning it exactly.  He would then cut, tack and I would then try on again before he finished off with precision.  Meticulous, and by far exceeded my expectations as hitherto my clothes had not looked anywhere near comfortable on me.

Last week I attended the most impactful training session ever on service delivery excellence which made me think of my tailor.  At the core of excellence is knowing a ‘satisfied’ customer is no way good enough.  Exceeding expectations has to be the new norm.  Purple is about to start implementing a seven-point plan with customer insight at its heart.  To achieve this involves aligning your staff and customers.  Being crystal clear on the purpose and what constitutes success.  Not just hitting targets but at pace and informed by ‘quirky’ customer insights likely provided through your frontline staff who will know what customers require to be better than just satisfied – what is required to go that extra mile every day.  We will introduce quarterly short videos for our key commissioners to complement written reports bringing the metrics to life, and at a push of a button being able to directly communicate with all their staff.  Adding value, exceeding expectations.  We can do more.  We need to do more to just keep up and remain differentiated.

The current lockdown restrictions make it difficult to show off style.  If you see me on a webinar over the next few weeks be sure to look closely as you might notice a new shirt!

Mike Adams
CEO, Purple
22 September2020

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