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The Apprentice: Never forget the customer is key

The Apprentice season 11 is eight episodes in, and if it wasn’t tough to stay in the competition before, it certainly is now.

The last two episodes have seen two candidates fired from the boardroom and Lord Sugar do something unprecedented by keeping an entire team in at the end.

Episode Seven – Discount Store

Key Skill: Strategic PlanningThe Apprentice

Discount Store saw the two teams opening up low-cost stores in Manchester. Each team had to choose what they would like to sell, purchase it from wholesalers and sell it in their own shop in a Manchester mall.

Gary and Scott project managed the teams this week, and problems arose for both. However, it was Scott’s team that seemed to have the biggest problems and, ultimately, lost the task.

They decided to sell electronic items, despite worries from many of the team members, and while the first day selling on the streets went well, it all went downhill when the shop opened. There was a lack of direction on who should sell and who should scout for customers, they couldn’t decide how to lay out the shop, and made lots of price changes throughout the day. Much later in the day, when some decisions were made to benefit the team (such as reshuffling the sales team and store layout), sales finally picked up, but it was too little, too late.

Gary’s team weren’t without problems though. Gary had a serious lack of direction, priced products extremely high for a discount store and left his restocking until right at the end of the day. However, luck was with him and his team and they managed to score a win with profits almost 50% higher than the other side.

The lack of thinking ahead, consideration  for the customer journey,  strategic planning and  customer experience caused huge problems for both teams. It appeared frustrating for some of the candidates as they were recommending ways to make the stores work successfully, but it often fell on deaf ears.

Who got fired?

Sam.

What could have saved him?

Sam got fired for selling very little, failing to work out the required calculations, and failing to step up despite his warning two weeks prior. Had he been able to use effective planning and be aware of his previous downfalls and improve on them, perhaps the lack of sales would not have been such an issue.

Episode Eight – Party Planning

Key Skill: Customer Service

This week, contestants had to plan a child’s party with a budget of £2000, trying to make as much profit as possible in the process.

Selina and Gary were selected by Lord Sugar to project manage the teams because of their experience in event management. In theory, this should have meant two seamless events. Needless to say, it didn’t.

Selina’s team decided to run an Olympic style event for their client, but made a ridiculous error of not obtaining their contact details, meaning she could not upsell anything. She made the decision to go ahead and purchase goody bags for the party, at £10 per head, and when she tried to upsell them on the day, the client wasn’t interested.

There were also some serious delays in the kitchen with Selina’s team, with Richard not putting food out on time and taking far too long with the cake (and proving he is definitely not a team player in the process). One of the guests even had to request a burger as she was walking out of the door. Not a good result.

Gary’s team organised an outdoor activity party, which would have been a hit if it had been more entertaining. The party bus had zero entertainment and Charleine had to save the day with beach games in the afternoon. One of the huge mistakes in this team was when the client gave extremely strict instructions about no nuts, due to the mother’s nut allergy.  A serious miscommunication meant Gary gave them the wrong information and the client’s confidence dropped dramatically.

There were problems with goody bags, which weren’t good enough quality, and the team upsold personalised t-shirts, which the client subsequently didn’t buy because they were ruined.

Gary’s team lost the task in the end, and even though the t-shirts played a big part in it, the fact that the customer wasn’t considered through the process also had a huge impact.

Who got fired?

David

What could have saved him?

While David’s customer service certainly wasn’t the worst in this task, he cost his team a lot of money with the t-shirts and didn’t have the tenacity that his team members did. It’s also never a good sign when your client has to ask you to change your approach to something, because you’re not engaging your audience!

Rachel Matthews

Rachel Matthews, Social Media Marketing Manager

In my blogs I will look at industry constraints and issues and problems that employees face in their day-to-day work lives.

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