Case Studies

#14 Company Reference
Benicarlo & La Rapita, Spain, 2017-2020
Retail and tourism-related businesses, marketplace
37 Establishments
Until 2016, the syncplexity methodology (Expansive Emotional Influence) had been used in corporates and SMEs in different countries and business sectors but never in retail. The return of Josep Alzamora (creator of the methodology) to Spain at the end of 2012 made it possible to raise awareness of the methodology’s potential in environments severely hit by the 2008 financial crisis (see case study #13). In a context of deep economic depression for the retail trade, several local institutions decided to apply the model proposed by syncplexity. First, it was the city council of Benicarló (Mr. Alzamora's place of residence), followed by the Estacio Nautica Rapita (Rapita Marine Station, dedicated to promoting the tourism of La Rapita city). Thus, 2017 saw the start of the first syncplexity project dedicated to improving the competitiveness of the retail trade in the city of Benicarló.

First step: Understanding the actors
Although the Expansive Emotional Influence (EEI) methodology has been extensively and intensively tested, retail has specific idiosyncrasies and dynamics that need to be understood in order to guarantee the results expected from the model.

Among all peculiarities, we may highlight the following:

  • § Poor culture of making decisions based on data.
  • § Need for resources they can’t afford.
  • § Lack of models of reference.

  • The above list must go on and on. However, something profoundly impacts many retail businesses in a way that is not perceived as severe, especially when it comes to family-owned businesses; we refer to family-work conciliation. It is quite common to find businesses that struggle to attend to their day-to-day business and family duties. Apart from a direct consequence, such as emotional exhaustion, the lack of time to develop tasks with a more strategic profile (such as advanced training courses) jeopardizes their ability to compete in the medium to long term. In the particular case of tourism, one more circumstance can be highlighted. That is the effect caused by the " yearly waves of abundance." Every year, during the tourist season, waves of customers arrive in regions with a special geographic attraction, bringing prosperity to local businesses, even though they make little effort to improve the service they provide to visitors eager for relaxation and fun. One of the direct consequences of this phenomenon is the difficulty in making the owners of these businesses see that, to transform them in the direction in which society is evolving, they must make an effort to change. Suddenly, an unforeseen crisis erupts, and they realize they have neglected to take care of potential customers locally and in the surrounding regions.

    Second step: Adapting the implementation protocols
    Insider knowledge of retail dynamics leads to the conclusion that the implementation of the EEI methodology has to be adapted in several aspects, such as:

  • § Simplicity
  • § Specific tools

  • Simplicity—Broaden and elevate the business’ owners vision requires a profound revision of the Prestige Behavioral Matrix (PBM.) The personal change necessary for both the broad listening process and the influencing capacity that the model requires must be simplified in its content and deployment so that it is understandable to a wide range of sensibilities. Besides the revision of the PBM, it is necessary to simplify the implementation process.

    Specific tools—Most, if not all, SMEs have ERP systems that allow them to handle the necessary information management in a more or less solvent way. However, retail stores have POS (Point of Sale) systems that do little more than provide the obligatory sales receipt. Consequently, managing information that is critical to the viability of the business becomes a priority. In this process of adaptation to the new systems, we start from the premise that it is necessary to take advantage of the data sources already installed -where possible-so that the management of further information does not involve unbearable efforts.

    Third step: Facing the critical issue
    Once the protocols and tools needed to implement the Expansive Emotional Influence (EEI) methodology in retail have been adapted, it is time to address the most critical issue, such as the lack of substantiveness. In most cases, a store buys a product, stores and displays it, and sells it to customers. The problem is that customers' perception of the added value of this dynamic is inversely proportional to the development of online commerce (e-commerce.) Therefore, generating greater competitiveness in businesses is based on knowing the expectations of customers (not only their needs) and transforming them into highly appreciated services. The question is, can retail do that? How?

    Positivity, the great barrier
    Assuming that the difference between needs and expectations is understood, the next step is to enter the domain of proper emotional management since this is where customer expectations reside. In that sense, the first step is generating positive thinking and action, which is the commencement of building customer confidence. Beyond that point, expectations are at reach.

    The problem is that, although our rational thinking leads us to believe that we are positive people, the truth is that our habitual behavior as individuals is mainly negative. We envy, covet, hate, get angry for anything, and so forth; an endless etcetera of constant, daily attitudes, all of them of negative emotional polarity. However, this aspect of positive polarity is decisive since all the emotional qualities we need (e.g., trust, creativity) are of positive emotional sign. However, besides being essential, it is very difficult to achieve, since it implies changing most of individual habits.

    In any case, this has been the most decisive change for all the stores and small businesses that have adopted the approach proposed by syncplexity.

    Underperformed listening
    Once the need to consistently generate positive thoughts and habits has been understood, we can move on to the next stage: listening. People have a potent mechanism that allows them to know other person's expectations: the ability to listen. The problem is that most people do not know the whole process of listening and, moreover, cannot use it well even if they know it. But, although we try to look at this situation from a generous and constructive point of view, assuming that individuals can make an effort to understand and apply the whole process of listening, they will have a series of barriers that will prevent them from reaching the process’s full potential—understanding other’s expectations—.

    #1 Barrier—The first barrier to fully performing the listening process is to understand that it is precisely that, a process. As such, every step must be carried out properly so the process may deliver the outcome it is intended for.

    #2 Barrier—In its broadest sense, the listening process can facilitate the knowledge of a person’s expectations. However, such a high result requires equivalent effort. The first of these efforts consists of becoming aware that we are in an emotional environment since both the outcome (expectations) and the different steps of the process are emotional in nature. Accordingly, it will be necessary for the person who is managing the process to know and respect the principles of emotional management.
    One of the fundamentals of emotional management is that it is based on perceptual dynamics, not rational ones. Consequently, the person we interact with will respond to what they perceive and not what they hear; in other words, they will react to what we are but not to what we say. In this sense, the first thing the interlocutor from whom we want to know their expectations (customer) must perceive is trust. Therefore, the first behaviors to be adopted by the person who wishes to know the expectations of another are those that generate this perception of trust. From here on, assuming that we know what these trust-building behaviors are and that we are willing to adopt them, each step of the process will have specific requirements but also of an emotional nature. They will also imply a need to modify, to change, our behaviors.

    Lack of creativity
    In a society where everything related to the emotional area is massively explained and put into practice from a rational perspective, it requires an extraordinary effort to understand that we can no longer continue saying "trust me" but must generate a perception of trust. Having overcome this phase, which requires practically two years of hard work, the businesses participating in the competitiveness program face another difficulty: the lack of creativity, which is essential to convert the expectations gathered into substantiveness (appreciated features able to satisfy expectations.)
    The work of converting customer expectations into features deeply appreciated by them will require, similar to the listening process, qualities that will only be possible through specific personal habits, such as developing the capacity for abstraction.
    Beyond the skills related to the conversion of expectations into substantive benefits for customers, others are also fundamental, such as the ones required to give the offer of each business a unique character.
    Consumers are immersed in a sea of "commercialism," but this is not what they want. None of their expectations (or meta-expectations) have anything to do with a commercial attitude, which they find most of the time. Meeting expectations requires businesses run with the passion that serves to develop vocations. Otherwise, it is impossible to generate the perception of happiness and affective attraction they desire. Again, specific attitudes and behaviors are required.

    The results achieved by the businesses participating in the respective competitiveness programs can be summarized as follows:
  • Generate a clear awareness of what emotional management applied to business competitiveness truly is, commencing with the need for personal change.
  • Have a map of generic expectations, which can also be grouped into meta-expectations. That gives businesses an accurate view of what customers really want. Consequently, a business with that information (expectations and meta-expectations) can design strategic and operative plans to meet or exceed those customer expectations. Hence, both the offer itself (products) and the way it is placed on the market will be appreciated by customers because it will be aligned with what they really want. In other words, they will be relevant, substantive to them.

  • Figure 1: Prestige Behavioral Matrix.

    Table 1: Set of tools for retail business.

    Figure 2: Emotional Perception Scale

    Figure 3: The broad listening process.

    Table 2: Summary of meta-expectations per age range.