Retail Restructuring & Rise of Entrepreneurship, with Sham Aziz

Retail Restructuring & Rise of Entrepreneurship, with Sham Aziz

Retail Restructuring & Rise of Entrepreneurship, with Sham Aziz

Episode 109

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Episode 109

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Sham Aziz is the founder of Thecxway, a customer service consultancy. In this episode, we dive into the beginnings of his brand, the benefits of consultancies & Sham’s 100 interviews. We also discuss the rise of redundancies, brands disappearing & how department shrinks can effect companies for years to come. How important is the in-store experience in retail? When should you buy online, and when should you not? Find out more in this episode!

Episode Summary



Recently, redundancies have been at an all time high, in this episode Sham talks to us about the effects of these turnovers & how the economic climate has changed since the last time we talked to him (find his previous episode here). He talks to us about retailers and the improvements they can make when going through the redundancy process, with the knock on effect of morale & output impact these decisions can make.


Building Your Own Brand

Sham dives into Thecxway, the business he created after his departure from a high-end retail brand. He discusses how proactive outreach has helped him land new roles & opportunities when creating his new business. How did he go about creating it? How many people did he interview? Watch the episode to find out…


He also talks about why you should invest in a consultant, helping your company become nimble & allowing you to pick off problem areas that give you solutions more effectively. Would you employ someone in-house? Or will you get external help?

“One of the benefits of a consultant is the market knowledge they have outside of your initial view… There’s also something in there around speed, capability & competency”

And of course, we had to include Sham’s formula for great customer service:

Resolution x Reputation x Retention = 🔥



To find out more about Sham, check out our full episode – available on all your favourite channels. Now including YouTube!


This article summarises podcast episode 109 “Retail Restructuring & Rise in Entrepreneurship” recorded by CX Insider.

Written by Octavian Iotu

Octavian: Welcome back to The CX Insider Podcast. On today’s episode, we have the return of a very special guest that goes all the way back to episode 74, Sham Aziz. Today he joins us as the founder of The CX Way, a customer service consultancy, speaking all about the journey of creating his own brand and the benefits of using a consultancy. We’ll also be talking about in-store experiences, retail redundancies and the outcomes surrounding restructuring. Enjoy the episode and if you do subscribe to our YouTube channel for more content. This episode has been brought to you by ACF technologies global leaders in customer experience management solutions. Now let’s get into the episode. Welcome back to the podcast. Last time you were here was in 2022. Can you tell us a bit about how you’ve developed and progressed 2022?

Sham: What a roller coaster! From then till today-

Adam: Do you like rollercoasters?

Sham: I’m sure I well, I used to when I was younger and then I’ve just found that as I’ve hit my 40s that, you know, my appetite for it is doesn’t match my physical capability for it.

Adam: That’s a very good response. Love that.

Sham: So if I maybe try and highlight a couple of things since then, and now we could dig into them 20, 22, 23 coming into 24, probably one of the biggest projects I ever did, rapidly bookended with a redundancy. And there’s lots of those going around at the moment and then started up my own company, probably in the way that only I could have done it. For those people that know me and for those that don’t, my LinkedIn is quite open book about who I am and what I do. And also, maybe the other thing that sort of stands out over the last two years is I took my son, who’s 11, to our first local football match. And so we’re Spurs supporters and I know that that might go down not so well.

Adam: That’s just lost us a lot.

Sham: Yes.

Adam: That’s it, we’re done.

Sham: That might not go down too well. The local team there, my local team is Cesena Town. Okay. And so we went there together father. And Sunday we went to our first football match and, um. Yeah, I think I’ve, you know, he’s he’s a bit of a troll. My son actually. Is he. Yeah. He was out shouting at the other team and so I kind of had to rein him in a little bit, but it was just a wonderful experience and another milestone. So, uh, that roller coaster has been both personally developing, but also professionally.

Adam: Actually, I’m a United fan, and we played you not that long ago, to be honest. You probably should have beaten us in the end. We were rubbish. The second half.

Sham: It was, uh, it was a tricky match. We actually watched that match together and he was frustrated after the first goal and he was like, all right, that’s it. We’re losing. I’m like, mate, come.

Adam: On, come on. We’re playing United. They can’t play.

Sham: We’re gonna happen.

Adam: A city fan, by the way.

Octavian: I’ll see.

Adam: This. Me and him regularly have arguments and I always bring up history because that’s all I’ve got to hold on to at the moment because we’re horrendous. But then obviously he’s got all the trophies and everything and we’re making it right now.

Octavian: We’re making the.

Adam: History. We’ll edit you out. All right. Yeah. So 2022 was a roller coaster for both work and personal with some milestones. So you mentioned that you’d have to say on the organisation names or anything like that. But you mentioned you worked for a very large project and then it was kind of ended with redundancy. How long did that project take? Yeah. How much of your life was it consuming?

Sham: Yeah. It’s interesting. I think it’s kind of all I guess linked into wider macro micro economic climate. And as, as you guys know, there’s just multiple business restructures, brands, disappearing brands, emerging consolidation, redundancies, all of that good stuff. And so as part of the project I did for a large retailer in the UK, it was probably one of the best projects I’ve done. Uh, not just in terms of value, but pace trying to move quickly essentially shoring up with a partnership, another supplier after another one didn’t make it. And so very quickly finding out that I’m losing a partnership to finding another one and setting up and transitioning, it was a very interesting project, very good, uh, from a professional personal development perspective, delivered the hell out of it. High five from the COO, from the CEO, Saturday Night Fever playing in the background. Going down the corridor. I get to the end. Hr director calls me over and says, your role is at risk. And, uh, and I’m like, wait, what? Uh, wow. So, uh, you know, a little bit embellishment there, but you get the idea. And so it just goes to show you that nothing’s ever guaranteed in life. And it doesn’t matter how good you are and what you do and how you do it, in the end, some things are bigger than the person. And, uh, so, yeah, redundancy round.

Adam: And when was this? This was.

Sham: It last.

Adam: Year at the end of.

Sham: It. The end of last year. So October time heading into Christmas without a role.

Adam: Perfect timing.

Sham: That. Yeah. Just, uh, you almost think I could have made this up and. Look, I empathize also with those that had to make those decisions and carry out that process. It’s I don’t think anybody wins, and it’s not a nice process for either side of the table. You can’t help but I think… Or at least from my perspective, and there’s so many that have been through this redundancy process, you know, almost every other LinkedIn post now is about some sort of redundancy and how people feel. But yeah, a tiny little bit of me was like, oh my God, this is rejection. After doing such a great job for a number of years, quite well known within my industry at least. And uh, then just sort of thinking, ah, that’s uh, that’s it really now what? And so I think after I’d sort of licked my wounds for a little bit and, you know, came to the realisation that it’s not a personal decision, it’s business. Yeah. I thought, well, time for me to put my business hat on and go at it. And, you know, I had two goals in October by the end of the year that I would speak to 100 different people, and I just plot that number out of the sky. Part of it was go after it and see what happens. And the second goal was to try and get a role before Christmas. So 100 people, one job that they were sort of my odds that I went after. So I hit the phones and when I say hit the phones, it’s not in the traditional cold calling sense. I started with my network, which, you know, I’ve built up over the last ten years on LinkedIn and also in person. I got in contact with people that I know. And we just spoke. I didn’t hit the phones and, you know, start selling, not pitching. It wasn’t like that. It was it was a hey, how days are gone.

Adam: To be honest.

Sham: Yeah. There’s still, you know, some of the, the younger crew are, you know, learning that way. But it was just a hey, how are you doing? It’s been a while. Here’s what’s happened. Here’s situation I’m in. Is there anything you need any help with? Are there any roles that you know of that you could put me on to? And so it was a case of not just saying to people, could you find me a role, but have you noticed any roles that I haven’t just because of the way the algorithm works? When you say.

Adam: Roles, were you looking at that time for a full time role, or a piece of work or a project, or what kind of thing, you know, what’s your thought process there? Because obviously we can have listeners and you’re right, every other post or if you go for your LinkedIn feed and mine’s probably quite similar to yours, we’re both quite broad and there is posts and I think when you lose your role, there’s obviously a temptation to go and find another role, almost like panic. Yeah. And be like, I’ve got bills to pay, family to feed, get another job, or you can get your entrepreneurial hat on and think, you know what? I can do this. Where were you? What was your thought process? Were you Mr. Entrepreneur? Were you Mr. Panic? I need to get money in or a bit of both? Or was that.

Sham: All of it? All of the above? I think I started off with the view that I’ve got some equity with regards to my CV and the roles that I’ve done, and so good job titles and brands behind me. So let’s go after interviews, let’s try and get another role. And I did do that. And then through that process of just talking to various people within my network, as I was saying to them. On the roles that you’re aware of, are there brands that you’re aware of that have a challenge that I could help solve? A couple of them came back and said no. And then one of them said to me, ah, but there is this project that I need doing if you’re not up to anything, did you want to put that up for me? And then I was like, yeah, I could do that. And that kind of started to escalate because I started to get my second one and my third one and my fourth one. Now, whilst they weren’t necessarily roles and for some of those projects, you know, just a couple of hours, but my thoughts were I need to speak to 100 people. And so I kept working through the numbers and I kept doing these little, little projects and through going to various breakfast meetings, lunches, coffees, I mean, I drink hot chocolate and that kind of stuff.

Sham: Not necessarily a coffee. Otherwise I’d probably be climbing the walls with how many times I sat down and spoke to somebody. But one of the questions I asked each person I spoke to that I knew was, is there anybody you think I could speak to that you know that I don’t. And that helped me sort of extend my network. But. In a warm way because people are putting me in touch with people they knew and they were introducing me first. This is Shyam. Here’s what he does. He’s in the market. Could you have a chat with him? And through that, that then led me to my first. I don’t want to call it a bigger win, but it led me to a role. And so I was able to pick up a part time contract and suddenly just sort of changed my outlook. And, uh, that was in October, and I managed to pick up the contract in November. So I hadn’t necessarily.

Adam: Not bad. That’s really good. That’s 100 people thing. That’s a good. Yeah.

Sham: Yeah. So that was kind of the goal. Now one of the challenges I got, and it was me that challenged myself in a weird sort of Fight Club mode where I was talking to myself was by just going after 100 people and not necessarily being targeted. Am I just being a busy fool? But the other part of me just thought that there’s an opportunity here that I might not know exists because I’m filtering up front. Yeah. And rather than do that, I just thought, I’m just going to get busy. And, you know, the closest analogy I have to it is when I started to pick up running as a hobby, my first goal was I’m just going to put my trainers on and I’m just going to leave the house and then I’ll run as far or as long as I can. Yeah, not necessarily having a goal in mind. And so I took that running philosophy into this 100 people that I’m going to talk to. And I didn’t discriminate if you like or over filter. And very quickly I ended up winning a handful of projects, which then led on to a handful of contracts. And I was able to go through Christmas with a role, I think that helped to settle the minds of my family. But also, I guess it was the universe or however you want to put it, telling me that with every closed door there’s another one, and if there isn’t, you can. Yeah.

Adam: If you yeah. If you envisage opportunities and you put yourself out there, they will come. If you sat and you felt sorry for yourself and was like, I failed, then no one’s going to speak to you, are they? Because you’re not making that effort. You’re not making those opportunities. Sounds like you had a good attitude. And you’ve and you’ve now as we sit here now, you’ve obviously started up your own organisation. Yeah. And that’s called The CX way.

Sham: Yeah. I say I started up my own organisation. It sounds really quite clever and it probably didn’t happen as smoothly as I’m making it sound. It was in response to the project where I was getting. I needed a vehicle to be able to deliver. Those projects probably didn’t make sense that, you know, I was emailing people from my Hotmail address and I have one of the oh come on. Yeah, yeah, I had one of.

Adam: The first Hotmail address you ever made. That’s always an embarrassing one.

Sham: Yeah, exactly.

Adam: One of those email addresses.

Sham: skater boy 98. Yeah, exactly. You know, that wasn’t my email address, but there was this element of I needed to, I guess, get an email address going at least, and a brand going, something that not in the traditional sense and brand, but something that people could associate with me, that could also talk to the industry that I was trying to attract. And so being a customer service specialist, a specialist thought, right, I need to set up a vehicle, a company, I need a name, I need an email address. And they were sort of my three goals for that week. So I kind of went after it in the same approach as I did with the 100 people thing. I hit Squarespace and uh, got their domain name generator up. Yeah, I used an AI tool online. I typed in customer service, customer experience, and I just kept playing around with it. I had my phone with me and I was whatsapping a couple of really close, trusted friends, different names at the same time, getting their feedback, typing away feedback, typing away, break for lunch, go for a run, come back a bit more, and then by the afternoon I narrowed it down to two. And then I got to the way and there was a little bit in the back of my mind that this kind of flows. And so I thought, that’s not going to be available. So I went to Squarespace, typed it in, available immediately. 995 if you buy today, hell yes.

Adam: Click done and have the renewal next year, it’ll be £60.

Sham: I’m sure it will. So I find that out. And then Squarespace have a deal with Google. And so I was able to set up Gmail through that, get the email address going. So yeah, by the end of the day, I had a domain, an email, a company name, and that was, I guess, a tick box exercise and all of these.

Adam: You’ve never done anything like that before?

Sham: Never. First time. Okay. And with a lot of these things, if I didn’t know how to do it, I would Google how to or I would go on YouTube and say how to. So how to get my own website, how to start get my own email address, that kind of thing. And then I would just try and give it a go. And uh, these sort of little, little, little milestones were reassurances for me that, okay, I’m making progress here. Yeah. By by the beginning of the day, from to the end of the day, I’ve got an email address, I’ve got a company name, I’ve got a website. And it becomes real. It became tangible. And I could say to people. I’ve started up my own business and I then set up a LinkedIn page for it. I then started to build the Squarespace site for it and even that as a process. You know, I was daunted by the idea of building my own website and Squarespace. You know, the marketing is really good and it’s like, hey, have your own site. And then I was like, oh my God, I don’t make it look decent or at least reflect me and my what I was gonna say.

Adam: Because you’ve obviously come from working for large organisations that have got quite literally millions of pounds worth of marketing budget. They’ve got design teams and we know what it’s like, don’t we? If we even want to get a brochure to develop, it goes between like several meetings and all of a sudden you’re nothing. But your skill set might not be creative and editing JPEGs to the right size and making, you know. So it’s interesting to hear about how those tools were.

Sham: I had two sort of thought processes right at the beginning. Part of it was, this is not my skill set. Should I outsource this? Should I go with an artwork or a freelancer and tell them what I need and just get that to come back? But also being a startup with £0 investment in my mind, I also felt that it was an opportunity to upskill a little bit in a couple of basic things that would also keep me busy and give me some development, and so if it got too complicated, I’d go get some help. And like logos, for example, or if it was something that I could watch a YouTube video on and then recreate it myself, I did that. And so day one looked at the website, looked at the template, thought, oh my God, I don’t know where to start. Changed my approach. Back to the running analogy. When I first started running, I would just run 4 or 5 minutes a day and then slowly build that up. And so I thought, I’m going to spend ten minutes every night doing one thing on the website, and by the end of the week, I had a website.

Sham: And so it was just again, I got to the end of the week and I felt like I had accomplished something. I had a new skill, I had a functioning website that I could show people. And so very quickly these little, little milestones were reassuring to me, made me feel like I could still achieve stuff. And after that sort of redundancy piece in the back of my mind, you know, that that rejection I’m going to call it, to have this reassurance was quite nice. And so I kind of thought, okay, next, what’s next? I’ve got the website, got the name, got an email address, I’m talking to people. And then winning my first big client, my first proper contract, multiple month contract, that that was just me sort of saying to myself, boy, done good. You know, it’s, uh, again, it wasn’t personal, and I know it wasn’t personal, but it just it was it was a nice, universal reassurance that I’m still here.

Adam: Now. You’ve got to have the little wins and measurable wins, particularly when you have a redundancy bit of news and also when you’re starting cold, which you kind of are. You can’t just expect to pick up the phone and suddenly close a contract with one of the biggest retailers in the UK, and that’s it. You’re done. I mean, that could happen potentially, but you’ve got to you do the right thing measuring these little wins, keeping yourself, getting yourself in the positive mindset. Obviously you’re now you’ve won. You won quite a bit, a few bits of business, but you’ve won your largest contract. And I suppose for our listeners, I know your background. I know you’ve come from you’ve been on a previous episode on insider, but now that you are a consultant or consultancy, what would you say is the benefit of someone using a consultancy or someone of your skill set rather than, say, employing someone in-house? You know, what are the benefits of using something like that? And you’ve mentioned it, and I’m sure our listeners know this as well, that certain industries we mentioned retail going for a tough time, and certainly KCS departments are possibly shrinking. I’d also like you a bit of feedback on that. And obviously, you know, is that a short term thing? Is it a long term thing. Is it a short sighted thing. But yeah, sorry. There’s lots of questions there in one go. Yeah.

Sham: No worries. And we’ll try and pick them off as we can. As long as you agree to remind me on the bits that I’m missing. Of course. Yeah, yeah, I’ll tell you. You’ve got to.

Adam: Do that because I will forget.

Sham: Yeah. So I guess, why would you use a consultancy? There’s something in there around speed and there’s something in there around capability, competency. And so if we take the analogy of a mortgage broker, if you went to go and renew your mortgage and you went to pick a bank and I’m just going to go there, I like the deal and I’m just going to take it. Well, I guess you don’t know is what you don’t know about other deals that are out there and whether they were more suitable to begin with. And one of the benefits of a consultant is they have that market knowledge outside of your initial view and what’s in front of you. And they can say, well, have you considered this? So most consultants, those that are worth their bread, they’ll have case studies that they can sort of pull together. And with all of those different case studies in mind, then you get more options. There’s a couple of memes online somewhere on LinkedIn where there’s an engineer that walks into a room and it’s a large machine, and multiple engineers had tried to fix it that were already there. But this engineer, with like a thousand years experience, walks in, has a little fool around, gets out of.

Sham: On on taps it in the corner and suddenly it fixes the problem and they’re like, oh, it just took you two minutes. We’re going to pay you for the two minutes. And actually what goes into that two minutes is all of the years before the experience to know where to go with what tool and to tap it. And and I think that’s where I would sort of call the parallels with a good consultant that could come in and help you figure that out. And one of the sort of the, the newer words out on the market is fractional and the beauty of fractional within today’s current economic climate and, you know, macroeconomics and budgets and sign off amounts, you can fractionally get somebody to come in who’s a specialist, pick off a problem area, tidy it up for you, give you a solution and then leave. And so it enables you to become more nimble, solve a focused problem quickly. And in some cases it gives you an opportunity to test and try that consultant out too. And if you like the output and the results, you can then say, well, here’s here’s another problem and here’s another one.

Adam: And one of you could you as a consultant and other consultants also help identify the problem? Yeah. Does that make sense? Like, you know, you may have a business that you believe is successful, but you might I don’t know, you might be getting bad feedback from consumers or something. Could they speak to a consultant and go, you’ve got to help us. We don’t know what we’re failing at, but we’re definitely failing at something.

Sham: Yeah, it’s quite interesting. I think there’s also this piece around your industry. What industry are you targeting? Who are your customers that you’re going after? So let’s just take the example of the sneakers slash trainer space. If that’s your specialism, that’s what you’re great at. That’s probably what you and your team should focus on like be the best at that. And then if you’ve got a problem and you’re not sure about how to solve it, let the consultant come in and be the best at that part to identify your problem, help you with it, give you some solutions, and or at least just tell you what the problem is, because sometimes the problem is nuanced and what you think might be the problem is, and it’s masquerading as something else. And so I think that’s where as a specialist, as you are in your industry, the consultant that comes in should ideally be the same in what they know to look for, uh, very quickly. Within the customer service industry, there are a handful of metrics, KPIs, service levels that are specific to customer service. And so you could learn those quite easily. You could figure those out over time and you could understand what that is. You might even have a view on what good looks like. You might Google it. You might speak to 1 or 2 other businesses. A great consultant would just tell you immediately, what’s the great SLA? What’s a great KPI? Okay, what’s a vanity KPI, one that you want to avoid? Uh, what does good look like? They can just tell you that. And so if you imagine spending days, weeks, months googling stuff or just having somebody walk up to you and just give you the answer, then you can get on with what it is you want to do. And so I think there’s that piece around, do you want to be everything to everyone, or do you want to focus on what you want to focus on? And then if you keep that in mind, could a consultant come and help you?

Octavian: Going back to redundancies, what are some improvements retail companies can make when undergoing restructuring, and are there any consequences to this?

Sham: I think potentially room for improvement would be that what I’m seeing is that most retailers go to that quite quickly as a playbook. How do we cut costs? That’s like the first question, and part of me just wonders whether that’s the easy tool to reach for, because the consequences of cutting costs are far reaching. It’s not just as simple as we need to remove X cost, and so we’ll just do a restructure and remove some people. Sometimes you have people that you weren’t expecting to leave who then want to leave. And the knock on effect in terms of morale and culture for those left behind and picking up somebody else’s work because you’re in a team of ten and suddenly the new team is four people. Yeah. So how do they deliver the output? And of course, every exit would say, well, we won’t do the same output. You know, we’ll we’ll recut it and do things differently. But the reality on the ground isn’t that simple. You don’t suddenly from 100% of the work start to deliver 40 because there’s four of you. No, no, no it’s not. You know, the maths are not directly correlated. And so the consequences of cutting and restructuring, I think, are quite far reaching.

Sham: And of course, I would say that because I was on the receiving end of it, but it then sort of follows that if you look at their journeys after they’ve made these redundancies and restructures, do those businesses survive? Do they go on to flourish again? Some of them, no. And some of them, yes. And so I guess the jury’s out. But if I had to sort of repoint it and say, what else would I look at in a playbook before I get to that stage of restructuring? Would. Be to go back to your your value proposition as a retailer, what is it you’re trying to do? And really ask yourself that question. Are you trying to be everybody to everyone or everything to everyone? And I would say, you know, Maslow’s hierarchy, go back to your hygiene, go back to your basics, do less, but do it better. Do it really well. Give people a reason to pick you over somebody else. There are some products that multiple different retailers will stock. So why should somebody come to you instead of somebody else? Is that because you have an experiential wrapper around it so that somebody comes to you not just to buy the product, but to experience something and then buy the product? Or could you execute operationally in a way that nobody else does? So what I mean by that is basics.

Sham: Get the delivery there on time, stock availability, easy payments, easy returns. These things just sound like common sense. But you’ll be surprised. And I’m sure on the receiving end of how all of these things can go wrong. Even today in 2024, there are payment issues, returns issues, delivery issues. And and so there’s a there’s a point there I think around could you differentiate through an experiential wrapper. Is there something about you that should make somebody come to you? If you’re finding that a bit difficult to do, let’s say, I don’t know, you’re a SaaS provider in the AI space, it’s quite hard to stand out. And so, you know, it’s going to be less about the experiential wrapper around it. But is there a quick way that you could, operationally within your business, demonstrate a thorough approach that gets somebody live really quickly? So, you know, easy integrations go live quick, fast returns so you can see the output of it. And so I think these do you.

Adam: Think so just interrupt on that. So things like ROI you mentioned about SaaS, it’s a huge space and there’s a huge amount of organisations and it’s probably quite saturated in some markets. But you know, ultimately the organisation that I work for, we offer a SaaS based solution. And one of the things that we try and focus on is ultimately defining the ROI to the organisation. So if we were to say, speaking to retail, from what you’ve just said, it sounds very evident that retailers have to evolve. They have to adapt. They have to make redundancies. Do you would you believe that not just for our SaaS solution, for any SaaS solution, presenting things like the ROI is imperative? Is that something you would definitely recommend?

Sham: Yeah, I think that goes back to the operational point that I was making earlier about doing less better. There are a handful of things that just lend themselves really well to SaaS solutions. And so, you know, if you’re just sort of doing repetitive tasks at an hourly rate, which also probably isn’t very fulfilling for a human to do, then those things. Could you achieve better through a SaaS solution? Take AI as an example. Could you automate emails? Where’s my order? Let’s automate that. Let’s not have somebody get 50 of those emails. And for the 50th one, they’re then tracking another order. That kind of stuff. Automate it, get rid of it, eliminate it, solve the journey further upstream so that a customer doesn’t have to even contact you for tracking. There’s ways to take all of that noise out, which then you’re not paying to service that noise. But also from a customer retention perspective, NPS satisfaction that customer is getting better journey. And so it’s kind of pays itself off. And I think that’s where SaaS businesses have done really well to build ROI calculators where they can help you quickly understand. And so I think with most businesses you’ll have a view, a feeling, a gut instinct around whether a SaaS provider is able to deliver value to you. What you have to be careful of, in my view, is what do you do after that? So whether that’s with your team or people who are no longer doing these things for you because you’ve put a SaaS solution in, how can you retarget, refocus, or give them better enhancing tasks, roles, capabilities, jobs? How can they provide more customer value? How do we re-orientate what people do in conjunction with taking out easy things that SaaS could replace?

Adam: Yeah, this is a bit of a random question, but a lot of the things that you’ve just said, and if I’m wrong, obviously step in. They sound to me that the things that you can implement based on a service level for like online and e-commerce and returns and distribution, what about in-store, can you use technology, anything that you as a consultant would recommend people look at to improve the in-store experience? Because, you know, there’s been some another huge few large retailers disappear brands since the last time we spoke. House of Fraser have been, well, they’re in real trouble. Uh, who else has gone? Wilco’s disappeared. And I love the fact that you just said about. Look at your value proposition. You know, Wilco’s. What was their value proposition? Originally, it was things for extremely good value. But then they started doing DIY hardware, and then they started doing food. And then it was like, okay, they’re like Woolworth’s. Many years ago, I was like, what the hell are you? Actually, what are you. Yeah. And obviously they failed in terms of in-store. What what kind of things would you recommend on that? Yeah, it’s a really good question.

Sham: So in-store I guess one of the differences between in-store and online is that the customer is there, or in theory, they’re there that you want them to be there. So with that in mind, what could you do differently to enhance that experience? And give you a very quick example of large department stores that used to have coffee shops or restaurants within them. So those would open and close at the same time as those stores. And in order to get to them, you’d have to go into the stores first and find your way there. That model got flipped on its head more recently, where they open and close, when it’s right for them to open and close, and you can actually get to them directly from the street without having to go through a store. Okay. And so they stand up on their own because the idea is that, oh, we’ll get somebody to come in and walk through the store, walk past products before they get to the coffee place or to the restaurant. And so we’ll get them to shop and then they can eat. But actually there’s a flip reversal on that that says if somebody is coming to eat after that, they might then go through the store as something to do. Or if they have a reservation, they’ve made it a bit early, they might go and have a little mooch round and see what’s going on. So it’s that flip reverse of, you know, don’t do an Ikea and put make them walk through everything together. You get all that.

Adam: Way to get your.

Sham: Meatballs at the end. Yeah. To get to your meatballs at the end. So yeah. And by the way Ikea very successful. So yeah. Yeah. No, no. Absolutely.

Adam: But no you’re right. There are other stores like Dunelm have coffee shops in them. The range have coffee shops in them, Primark have coffee shops in them. But I was just as you’re saying that I was thinking yeah Primark. Now they’re like normally coasters or like you can access them directly from the high street or from the. Yeah. Yeah. So like that.

Sham: Is separating it in that example. And I think why this has happened and it’s all just, you know, speculation on my part. But the business case originally would have been, hey, we’re going to put this here and there’s going to be additional footfall and you’re going to get additional sales from it. But if you sort of detach it from the idea that a coffee shop has to then help you sell product, but you put it with the customer in mind that a customer who is here to shop or may come to shop might also like to have a coffee. Then you’re putting the customer first in a different way that doesn’t rely on your product having to be sold and as a happy coincidence or consequence, you then see your product and or experience take place. So, you know, department stores that have cinemas on site or. Yeah, amazing idea. You know, like if you go to like the malls in Dubai, you can do indoor skydiving and you could buy something. So there’s, you know, lots of different things that, uh, give. So you, you.

Adam: Think experiences are key. There are big thing depends on if it’s a you know, if it’s a transactional thing. I bought a coffee earlier. Sure. Obviously I want the coffee shop to be clean, but ultimately I want my coffee. I want in and out. I’ve got to get on a train. But you mentioned about a cinema being in a retail store. That’s obviously true with experience. Do you think experience is a big, big way of helping footfall and retaining customers or indeed.

Sham: Yeah, I think there’s absolutely a market around experience where whether you do that on your own or whether you do it with your family or whoever, you’re doing it with friends, experiences, you know, bind people together and give them something from what it is they’re doing, whether that’s, uh, something to do with their life or whether it’s to pass some time or whatever it is, time just moves in one direction. Right. And so how do you get through that time in the most pleasant way that you can? And, uh, I’m making it sound.

Adam: Shopping with the kids on a Saturday. Yeah, yeah. The most pleasant way you can actually. Random question, but do you still go? Obviously we will go food shopping because we have to. Do you still go shopping on a Saturday or a Sunday? Does that ever happen or are you do you do more online shopping? I mean, because what’s your opinion on that? Because to me, the whole generation thing of if you were going shopping, I don’t know, you’re like Octavian. That seems to be a dying trend. Yeah. You know, going to the local big town or city like a bluewater shopping centre and spending seven, eight hours there? Yeah, that seems to be reduced to me, but maybe I’m wrong. What’s your opinion on that? Do you still do that?

Sham: Yeah, I do a little bit. I guess it depends on where we’re trying to go with it. I think, you know, the, the big weekly shop, which mostly was, uh, around, you know, the grocery shop. And so you’d go once a week, do a big grocery shop, and then you’d go to the smaller expresses throughout the week to just top up certain things. And then the rise of other players into that market. You know, your Aldi’s and Lidl’s of the world came along to go. Buy my meat products. So halal meat specifically. I’ll go to the Turkish butcher. And so, you know, that’s a weekly occurrence. I’ll go buy my meat. That’s probably more of.

Adam: An experience than going to Aldi.

Sham: Yeah, because it’s precisely what I want. And the butcher’s there and the butcher, and he knows you. He knows me and he can cut the meat how I want it and prep it in the right way. And I can get some advice. And I know some retailers offer that, but it’s a slightly different experience.

Adam: What about non grocery products? I don’t know, let’s say I want to buy a new TV. Your son wanted a PS5 for Christmas. I don’t know if he did, but let’s say he did. Would you just order that online? Would you go into a, you know, electronic retailer and experience it? What was your kind of go to be?

Sham: Yeah, that’s a really great question. So let’s take both of those examples. Right. So it’s Xbox rather than PS4.

Adam: Xbox as well I don’t know why I said PlayStation. Are you PlayStation.

Sham: Yeah it’s all good.

Adam: I’m Xbox too. Yeah, yeah. Go on.

Sham: Uh, not to start any wars, so he wanted an Xbox. Of course he did. And there was the idea of pricing on Xbox research on which one? Because there’s two different models at the moment. So the S and the X. And so all of that research took place online. And yes, I could have quickly just bought it online. And there’ll be a retailer somewhere that has £5 off, £10 off or some sort of deal and has quick delivery and great reputation at doing that. But then there was also the opportunity that I did all my research online. But now as a family, we can go have a day of get the Xbox experience. You remember a meal, do something together, kill off a few hours as well, but make memories together also. And so I sort of mix it up. There are some things that I’ll quickly buy online and, you know, Amazon, you know, very quick and easy.

Adam: Of course, next day it’s delivered because you needed it then. Yeah yeah, yeah.

Sham: Versus oh, this is something that could wait for all three of us as a family to do together at the same time. And so yeah, it just depends on what it is and what time it is.

Adam: I love that I think some of that magic is lost. In fact, the magic is lost when you just buy something online and it just turns up in the Amazon box with the tape on it. And obviously your son will remember that because I think every man and girl remembers their first proper games console. I’ve still got mine. I’ve kept it. I refuse to sell it or get rid of it. It’s in the loft. But that’s an experience. Oh yeah, I remember I got my Xbox. Which one did you get in?

Sham: So the S is what we got. Makes sense. And, uh, he loves it. He’s all over it. He decided one day that he needed the axe, and I asked him why, and he couldn’t tell me. And so I’d realised that consumerism has gotten to him, and whatever he’s watching has told him that she was the YouTube shorts. Of what? So, uh. But, you know, he moved on from that pretty quickly.

Adam: Well, what’s his go to game?

Sham: His go to game. He’s sort of flicking him between FC 24 and Fortnite. So yeah FC 24. After the World Cup in Qatar, he sort of went football crazy. And so since then you’ve got the next couple of iterations and at the moment he’s playing FC 24. Okay.

Adam: So you’ve had a bit of an adventurous 2023. You’ve had, in my opinion, a very productive and proactive live final Q4 of 2023. And I think hats off to you and fair play. Kudos for doing that and getting that business in. What do you think 2024 has entailed for you?

Sham: Yeah, it’s a really, really good question. Part of I guess what happened is that you realise you can’t necessarily control the uncontrollables. And so with that sort of renewed realisation, 24 is going to happen the way that it was going to happen, regardless of what I think will or won’t and what I think I can or can’t do. So for me it’s about being prepared and positioning. And so the way to do that is to make sure that my knowledge is on point. And speaking to the next hundred people that I need to speak to. Okay. And just be prepared and position myself in a way that when that next opportunity comes, I’m ready to service it and just deliver the hell out of it. Love it, love.

Octavian: It, it’s good.

Adam: Yeah, it is good.

Sham: Yeah. Do it this way.

Adam: Yeah. Love that.

Octavian: And that concludes the end of the episode. Thank you to everyone for listening. I’ve been Octavian and I hope you’ve enjoyed the conversation. Let us know what you think by carrying on the conversation on LinkedIn. This episode has been brought to you by ACF technologies global leaders in customer experience management solutions.

Sham: You guys normally do, like, uh, there’s like a thumbnail or a screenshot. Yeah. It’s usually three people sitting on the sofa, like, can we do it differently? Could the three of us stand up in a boy band pose? So, you know, like where you stand like that and you look down, okay.

Adam: What, like a fist pump or something?

Sham: No, no. You know.

Adam: Um. I know what you mean. Yeah. All right, come on.

Sham: You know these ones where you do this? Because I’m.

Adam: Because I’m all right. Yeah, we can do that. Yeah. Yeah, we can do that.

Adam: Oh no no no no no. The boy band pose.

Adam: To be fair, we can pull this off. Yeah yeah yeah.

Sham: Yeah. Even if it’s from the knees up.

Adam: No, I know what you mean. This is okay, you know? Like this?

Sham: Yeah. So you just do that. Do that little play on, like Backstreet Boys. But Shyam is.

Adam: Back. Sham is back.

Octavian: Oh, Sham is back.

Yeah. You guys. Are. Right. I can get you some interesting someone in that way. So you’re looking forward to that.