Time for J.C. Penney to Restore Trust
Mike Ullman has returned to J.C. Penney in hopes to quickly reverse the company's momentum. Investor bravado and boardroom drama feed news cycles, but do nothing for business results. The fastest and most effective path to turning around results is through restoring trust with the three key groups that can help him immediately: customers, employees and external stakeholders.
Think of each group as a long-time, powerful friend who has pulled back nervously, confused by some of your recent erratic behavior. You've built years of good will with them, however, and they're willing to step up if you give them good reasons why.
J.C. Penney's customers are confused and hesitant. Everything they loved about shopping with the retailer has changed, including the brands, designers and thrill of finding a good deal. Here are some steps J.C. Penney can take to win them back:
- Rekindle the love. Ullman must communicate directly to customers using all available media, assuring them this is the J.C. Penney they've always known and relied upon. Sincerely thank customers for their business and encourage them to shop with J.C. Penney in the future. Remind them that they're the core reason J.C. Penney is in business. Ask customers for their feedback and staff a team that can earnestly respond to each comment. Back this with strong customer service — in-store, online, on the phone — matching Ullman's rhetoric with actions.
- Pat them on the back. Remind customers how smart they've been in recognizing and taking advantage of the value J.C. Penney offers. Work to bring back these shopping experiences — i.e., the ones that built customers’ fanatical loyalty — in an even bigger and better way.
- Reward loyalty. Recognize and reward long-time customers in extraordinary ways for their unwavering support. Reinforce their old shopping habits. Target them with special incentives to return to stores, now.
Caught in the middle, employees are operating without a vision and articulated success path. Thanks to acrimonious fighting in the C-suite, they're confused and worried. They're keeping their heads down and trying to weather the storm without losing their jobs. They're not thinking about how they can rebuild the J.C. Penney business. Here are a few ways how: