This article was first published on Shelflife Magazine. Gillian Hamill reports on key insights from ‘The Norwegian Retail Innovation Summit’, organised by the Norwegian Embassy in conjunction with Maze.

The event featured the following high-calibre speakers:

    • Henning Eriksen, Møbelringen CEO: A dynamic leader driving remarkable success in Norway’s furniture retail.
    • Stine Solheim, Fargerike managing director: Transformed a paint retail chain into a retail powerhouse.
    • Pär Linder, retail director at Gina Tricot: Achieved a 170% NPS increase in the fashion retail industry.
    • Milan Hladil, Albert’s operations director: 19+ years of retail expertise in the Czech Republic’s largest grocery chain.
    • Mark Rice and Tomas Pinås, Maze innovators: Empowering frontline staff to double and triple retail revenues globally.

”Maze: Enabling retailers to build a continuous improvement culture at the frontline”

Tomas Pinås, VP Global Sales

Following a charming introduction by Norwegian ambassador Mari Skåre, Maze’s Tomas Pinås likewise warmly welcomed guests to the summit. Pinås’ focus throughout his introduction was centered on enabling frontline retail staff to achieve tangible goals to improve customer service; consequently, improving the retailer’s reputation, and crucially, driving sales.

In essence, Maze offers an AI driven training app with feedback from real customers encouraging retail staff to take responsibility for their daily training. Instead of delivering a lengthy explanation of how Maze’s solution works, the company made the sage decision to invite retailers from across Europe who were able to recount their own first-hand experiences of how Maze had worked for their businesses and the difference it made to their bottom line.

Norwegian ambassador Mari Skåre alongside Tomas Pinås, VP Global Sales, Maze

Retailers are facing “an ongoing battle for customer experience,” Pinås said. “A battle of converting as many visitors as possible to drive as much revenue and fulfil the customer’s needs every day. “I’m not going to pitch you anything about Maze, I’m just going to set the scene. And then I’m going to let our customers who we have brought here from all over Europe, talk about how they are actually working to win that customer experience every day.”

He highlighted that “continuous improvement” is essential; “moving the responsibility from the headquarters to the frontline sales staff who are in the battle every day. For those who are facing the customer every day; give them the power to actually take action and control their own behaviour and their own stores.”

Pinås qualified that he was not referring to the sales campaign and pricing, “but the things that frontline staff can actually take control of”, to deliver exceptional results. Since its foundation in 2005, Maze now works with over 100 retailers across the world to provide them with training solutions.

Pinås reinforced that Maze’s success in partnership with retailers lies in allowing management to: “See your frontline store staff, reinforce them, give them credibility when they are doing something positive towards the customer and give them regular appraisals.”

The impact of Maze, he continued is to “increase their energy every day, make them a whole lot happier and allow them to master their job. They get feedback from customers and colleagues instantly every day, telling them what they can specifically improve upon and how they can improve”. His concluding question was one that will fully resonate with our readers: “How can we actually measure this?” Pinås is able to point to examples of retailers increasing revenues by tens of millions within the first year of operating in partnership with Maze. “The UK-based business Specsavers started running the solution globally and tripled their business,” he adds. “I’m not standing here, taking credit for all of this but Maze is a very, very important tool to help businesses during their growth journey, and in building their continuous improvement culture at the frontline.”

Retailers share their experiences and results with Maze

With retailers travelling from all over Europe to share their experiences of working with Maze, it was fantastic to hear their first- hand accounts of the difference that Maze made to their businesses. A continuous finding reported throughout all the presentations was the extent to which receiving regular, detailed feedback from customers motivated frontline staff to ensure they delivered a first-class experience. They felt empowered because the feedback showed the extent to which they were valued by customers and that their contributions could have a significant impact on the company’s reputation. In short, they felt ‘seen’. HQ also benefitted with real insight on how the business was performing on a store-by-store basis.

Henning Eriksen, CEO, Møbelringen Milan Hladil, operations and strategy director, Albert

Stine Solheim, who is the managing director of Fargerike, the number one home and interior decorating company in Norway, with 94 stores across the country, shared her account of why the business decided to partner with Maze and the positive results that decision has delivered to date.

“We spend so many millions on marketing every day, every month and we wanted to know, does it really work, is this the best way to develop our concept and to communicate with our customers?” Customer service has always been a mainstay of the business and is a key reason why customers choose Fargerike. Indeed, with 96 stores and 1.6 billion in turnover, Fargerike has consistently achieved top customer satisfaction scores for five years. However, with continuous improvement in mind, Solheim was seeking a way to receive regular customer feedback, in order to know that customers are happy with the group’s marketing and that they are fully satisfied across all of Fargerike’s stores.

Pär Linder, retail director, Gina Tricot and Stine Solheim, managing director, Fargerike

A journey of improvement and engagement

She was delighted to discover that Maze had the capability to deliver exactly this type of detailed feedback.“We started in April, and we now have half a year of experience. It’s not [a long time] but it’s starting to give us some really good results. We now send out questionnaires to all our loyalty members after they have visited us. We get really great feedback.” She explained that as well as praise for the group, customers also took the time to deliver insightful constructive feedback. “I found that really impressive because it shows they really care about our brand,” she said. “Why would you dedicate so much of your time giving feedback to a retailer? It’s because they actually really care; it’s not about criticising us, but it’s really helping us to become better in the areas that they find a little bit confusing or that we could maybe improve, and that’s so positive.” Store managers and their employees read the customers’ comments every day, enabling them to track their progress in terms of customer satisfaction. It’s really engaging for staff to see how they’re performing on a day-to-day basis.

“We’ve decided not to give the feedback on an employee level yet, because we have stores which may only have say, four or five employees, so we’ve decided to develop our team spirit about giving the best customer service continuously rather than giving it on an individual level yet,” she added. “By creating this team spirit, the team can develop better and better results.”