If there is one thing Hongkongers love, it’s shopping. Regardless of age, gender or interest, there is a certain magic in walking into a store full of merchandise that excite us, feeling a product in our hands and then making the ultimate decision to bring it home. To a customer this is a natural and very simple process. But standing from the other side – the retailer side – I know that creating a great customer experience, one that ends with a successful purchase, is not nearly so simple.
I joined Jebsen in December 2014 as Assistant Shop Manager for J SELECT in Sha Tin, after a 6-year stint at a recognised Hong Kong retailer. I came already armed with a sense of what good in-store customer service looks like – everything from anticipating the needs of customers to being attentive and helpful. I thoroughly enjoyed this kind of work. I found myself ready for a long-term retail career with a high-potential brand, and it was at this time that the J SELECT opportunity presented itself.
J SELECT was an ideal place for me to practice and build on my strategic retail management skills. On top of my core tasks of setting store targets, keeping visual merchandise on-brand and coaching a team of three, I challenged myself to dig deep into the details of retail. I watched every customer carefully. I observed their shopping preferences and behaviours, vicariously experiencing their journey through the store, from trying out the products to completing the purchase. I noticed how even the smallest details can affect the desire to buy: are the displays clean and spotless? Are the demo products always working and charged, ready for our staff to offer up for a quick trial? Is every staff on the floor equipped to give knowledgeable answers, offer advice and meet customer needs? As they say, “a confused mind always says no.” If the store experience isn’t 100% easy and pleasurable, a customer is much less likely to say “yes” to buying. Picking up on what others may not notice became my habit, and from this I gained important frontline retail insights that would become my guiding principles as a retail manager.
Thanks to this cumulation of experience and the company’s thoughtful guidance, I was promoted to Area Manager in 2016 and to my current position as Retail Manager in 2018. Today, I’m responsible for the operation, sales and expansion strategy for all six J SELECT stores in Hong Kong. My direct reports have grown from three to more than 30.
Though I’m not on the floor as much these days, details have not become any less important. In fact, I still spent a large part of my work week talking to shop managers in detail about what is happening in the stores, and explore improvement plans. Stories about frontline realities give me visibility into trends, issues and customer preferences, all of it vital information I use to guide my future development plans, decision-making and influence higher-level strategies. These frequent conversations also give our frontline staff a chance to voice their ideas, a process that builds team solidarity, loyalty and job satisfaction in the long term.
Speaking of satisfaction, my proudest career moment came in 2018 when J SELECT won the Hong Kong Retail Management Association Service Retailer of the Year Award in the Electronic and Electrical Appliances Category, a significant milestone in J SELECT’s history. This important recognition fills me with pride and gratitude, especially when I think about the effort of every single J SELECT team member over the past years. What thrills me even more is knowing that I helped build up a winning service culture among the J SELECT network. So long as the team always keeps their eyes on the details – still my favourite directive to my teams – I am confident that this culture will be sustainable in the long term.