The problem - opportunity. My job as retail manager for a department chain is to ensure increased sales through our stores. However, during recent months sales have been consistently falling, whilst others stores are increasing sales. It has been indicated that this is due to customer dissatisfaction. My problem is to identify what is causing the dissatisfaction and then introduce a remedial process.
Operational definition. To enable detailed research into the problem outlined, it is necessary to understand the various aspects of the problem, which is achieved by developing concepts (Cooper and Schindler 2004, p.37), This will limit the number of variables that need to be evaluated (Polonsky NS Waller 2005, p.156). In this case, the constructs will consist of the following:
Retail Outlets. We know that in order to achieve sales we need the following:
Quality. We are aware that in order to compete in the market place we need to have addressed certain quality aspects, which includes:
Customer. The most volatile aspect of the business is the customer. We need to understand:
Resolution of the problem. Resolution cannot be achieved until the above steps have been researched, but may include addressing problems in the following areas:
It is felt that by taking these steps it will help to understand the changes in customer behavior that has resulted in the reduced sales (Bryman and Bell 2003, p.17). Furthermore, as can be seen from the above, each of the constructs are implicitly linked with the following (Bryman and Bell 2003, p.132).
Thus the research necessary to address the current business problem can be defined within the following hypothesis. Is the reduction in sales being caused by a lack of product quality or price competitiveness, difficulties within our customer service department or as a result of changing customer behavior?
Why are other retailers more competitive than us? How do our products and customer service compare with others within our industry? Why do customers prefer to shop elsewhere?
In this respect we will need to research the operations of our competitors to evaluate the areas of their businesses that are more effective and efficient than our own and, at the same time undertake research into the customer’s demands and expectations, the latter of which could be conducted by a detailed survey being carried out.
How can we deal with the negative aspects that are currently affecting our business?
The business should be able to develop a range of strategies that will enable it to address the issues, whether these are related to the product, quality of service or customer changes.
What action can we take to improve our position within the market place? What measures can be introduced to improve customer visits and loyalty? Do we have the resources to efficiently implement these actions?
At this stage of the process it should be possible for the business to identify where changes to the current processes are required and the levels of resources that are needed to successfully implement the changes. The desired resource position, both in terms of tangible and intangible resources, will then be compared with those currently available to the business.
From the results of the research, which is the best course of action that can be recommended to the management?
With the research completed, a recommended plan of action for the business will be presented, which will identify the areas of strategy that need to be improved, the logical stages of the change process, including timescale and appropriateness, and provide an expectation of results.
It is felt that undertaking the research into the current retail business problems in the format described within this paper will provide the business with a clear change process strategy, which should lead to a successful reversal of the businesses current fortunes. If effectively introduced and managed, this process will result in an increasing level of revenue in the stores.
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