February 05, 2008

THE CONTAINER STORE CEO REVEALS HOW TO MAKE THE CUSTOMER DANCE

A key to the success of his company, said Kip Tindell, CEO and Chairman of The Container Store, is the emotional attachment customers develop for its products. Speaking at the Tandy Executive Speaker Series on January 23, 2008, Tindell said, "Creating the 'customer dance' is really our objective. The customer dance is about the experience in the store and everything that happens after the customer returns home. People have to go home and live with what they've purchased for a long time, so we want them to do a little dance every time they open that closet door… because it's perfect for them, and frankly, because they feel an emotional connection to it."  

That passion, according to Tindell, is due to the fact that The Container Store is a solutions-based retailer. "Our stores are filled with solutions, not products. When you come in to buy an individual item, we feel like we've failed," he said. "But if you come in and say, 'My son's toy storage situation is driving me crazy, do you have any solution for that?' - That's what we're all about."

He admitted that the solution-based focus can sometimes be a "headache," but it is what differentiates The Container Store from its competitors.

With projected 2007 sales in excess of $600 million and 40 stores nationwide, Tindell said The Container Store has enjoyed steady annual growth of 15-20% in its 20-year history and plans to open five additional stores in the coming year.

"I think it's important to pick a metered growth rate that you can maintain without screwing up what got you there in the first place, and keep doing that," he said. "It's ironic, because people think we're growing slowly, but it's kind of like a turtle - we're going at a sustained pace."

Recently named by Fortune magazine as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" for the ninth consecutive year, Tindell asserted that hiring superior employees and keeping them satisfied should be a top priority for every organization, because happy and informed employees create a memorable customer experience.

Tindell believes that experience - the one that makes the customer "dance" - is a combination of three factors: products that transcend value; people; and persistent, impressive service. "Customer experience isn't about one thing - it's a powerful, complex mix of many things," he said. "We're continually challenging ourselves to provide that perfect retail experience, and that's kind of a never ending thing."

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Neeley School of Business at TCU
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