A well known supermarket chain had been trailing the other big supermarkets and was struggling to compete on the same terms as giants such as Asda and Tesco. The company needed to radically alter its strategy and compete on its own terms. The company chose one of its stores near Tower Bridge in East London for a major refit and to pioneer their new fresh food format. It combined the creative elements of fresh food catering in a retail environment with tasty offerings such as hot noodles, pasta made to order, sandwiches and fresh pizza.
To ensure the success of the concept, store staff needed the skills and confidence to throw pizzas, juggle fruit, toss the noodles and wow the customers; they wanted "retail-tainment". Quite simply they had to bring the theatre of the store to life.
Maynard Leigh Associates was commissioned to help with the culture change. Our mission was to free the staff from the operational restrictions and personal inhibitions constraining their behaviour within a traditional British supermarket. We set out to help people be bold, different and have the confidence to shine as individuals. The overall aim was for staff not to take their personality off when they put their uniform on. The supermarket decided to use our STAR Service programme, which is a two-day workshop normally delivered to small groups of 12 people. It combines a series of energising activities with learning to:
We tailored STAR service programme to the store's particular needs. Training included team building and coaching for the twenty-five members of the store management team, a one-day STAR workshop for thirty members of the team, and five-hour STAR workshops for the remaining 120 staff in groups of eight. There were also dress rehearsals with coaching, and feedback on dry runs for the team.
The managers' commitment to the training showed in their support at all training events. If they were prepared to "shake out", sing and occasionally make fools of themselves in the spirit of fun and enjoyment, then so could everyone else.
The national store training manager sums up the impact as "fantastic and way beyond our expectations." External customer measures from independent market research agency Simpson Carpenter reported customer satisfaction in the store rose dramatically from 44% to 90% in six months. The average score for similar stores in East London was 54%. Sales went from strength to strength increasing 50%.
Yet these macro figures hide the reality behind the store's transformation. Cultural change needs to be viewed from the micro end of the telescope, where people's actual behaviour occurs. When developers succeed in affecting these they really do start to make a difference. For example, particular difficulties arose during the delivery of the programme. Amongst the challenges were language and cultural barriers reflecting the ethnic diversity of the store and local community. These were handled carefully and in an informed way. Habib, who was to work on the fresh pizza, was very reserved during the early stages of the programme and found it hard to participate. For him, a typical branding exercise would have surely landed with a dull thud. With one-to-one coaching and encouragement, Habib became one of the most flamboyant members of the team.
In a senior managers words, "The programme triggered a significant cultural shift. It generated a genuine team spirit, a common language and shared understanding of service expectations. There has been singing and dancing in the aisles, promotional chants, bell ringing to draw attention to pizza tossing, Italian opera singing and much more; all spontaneous fun generated by individuals who had previously behaved in a traditional restrained manner."
Maynard Leigh were then asked to train a dedicated team of twenty STAR trainers to take the "spirit” into other refit stores such as Wimbledon, Woking, Fulham and so on.
"We continue to work in partnership with Maynard Leigh Associates using their skilled trainers to train and coach our team of trainers," says training manager Sue. "This ensures the underlying principles of the programme are maintained and the energetic and spontaneous nature of the delivery is sustained with conviction."