5th Forum | 29 September 1999

Staff and customer focus in the retail trade

Starting point

Discount or service / low price or consulting are often the alternative strategy options in trade.

The discounting sales channels have captured considerable market share, and not just in the food sector. Companies with less aggressively priced and more service-oriented strategies have been having a hard time of it.

German companies and European/international companies that have been successful on the German market are increasingly demonstrating that it is not about discount vs. service or low prices vs. consulting, but rather about discount and service, low prices and consulting.

The ‘Employees in the retail trade: from cost factor to service provider’ project from Europrofession and the participating project partners demonstrated that combining low prices with consulting is not in itself a contradiction, and that instead targeted employee focus results boosts the customer focus of said employees regardless of the price level, in turn helping to significantly increase customer satisfaction.

Forum events and objectives

The Europrofession forum held in the Saarbrücken conference hall in 1999 as part of the city’s centenary celebrations served as a thematic conclusion to a series of events taking a detailed look at staff development and employee qualification in trade, providing participants with a wealth of suggestions and examples for implementing employee and customer focus in their companies and organisations. Next year the event will tackle a new topic area and also conceptually change somewhat, with trade continuing to serve as the main target group for activities.

From the expert arena, presentations on the topic of employee and customer focus in the retail trade were given by representatives of German and Austrian commercial companies, a representative of the consumer goods industry and a trade union representative – Prof. Dieter Zimmer led the panel discussion as a representative of academia. More than 70 participants from various hierarchical levels of regional and transregional commercial and service companies were present at the plenary session, ensuring engaging and constructive conversations during the panel discussion and workshops. The experts’ presentations focused on the various forms of employee and customer focus in practice, different staff development concepts, and last but not least, the changing value of staff development in companies.

Across four workshops in the afternoon, participants and speakers discussed the issue of staff development as a marketing tool – a formula for success in a changing competitive situation? With certain limitations on the industry side and on condition of careful differentiation by business type and company form, all four groups answered the question with a resounding yes: staff development is a marketing tool in an era of changing competitive situations!

The program overview