Customer Experience – why do only the best ‘get it’ ?
Queues. Attitude. Unreturned calls. We’ve all been there. It’s astonishing how often it still happens, given today’s multi-front battle for commercial survival. Somehow the customer seems to feature last in the picture.
Even amongst retailers, excellent service can be a somewhat distant utopia, and when a fabulous interaction is experienced it’s too often the exception not the rule. Unsurprisingly month after month large B2C organisations with bricks and mortar models report an annual dwindling of footfall and consequently revenue.
The consumer’s pound is precious, and I sometimes look enviously at other countries. The dollar especially seems to be more coveted, with great service and excellent overall customer experience being a standard in the US. Restaurants, banks, car dealers, real estate agents, department stores – all seem to ‘get’ the need to serve customers well.
In the UK, online rockets ahead as the fastest growing way for a consumer to acquire goods and services. Why? Because the ‘Amazonification’ we’ve seen in the last decade or so, offers the buying public what they want most:
- Reassurance of quality
And they get it without the queues, attitude or unreturned calls!
Around 20% of all retail purchases are now online. That’s over a whole day of high street footfall lost over time, so not surprising that fewer stores open, and every year higher numbers close forever. The tragedy of Debenhams’ struggle continues this week, and exemplifies the battle perfectly. But not all is lost.
Whilst Amazon, eBay, Walmart and their like get their heads around solving ‘instant delivery’ gratification, retailers still have exactly that as their biggest remaining advantage. Customers will always want an immediate, immersive experience with the product they seek. The issue retailers must avoid though, is a tendency to get in the way of the customer.
Whilst they too offer choice, quality reassurance and most crucially a ‘take me home now’ advantage, their customer experience credentials simply haven’t kept up with customer expectation. The online retail game-changers have set a new bar, and customers demand that all retailers live up to it. It’s the new benchmark, against which their expectations are set.
Shopping face to face should be a pleasure, but increasingly online is the easy alternative. But Amazon, Asos, Boohoo and the rest don’t have to win the war.
The best retailers already know that superb experiences will capture customers today and into the future. When John Lewis opened its Westfield store last year, they revealed a store for the future. It even included an Experience Desk! Who says the Department Store is dead.
Look at the banks! Our most traditional, legacy industry finally ‘got’ experience. Halifax in Oxford Street has a coffee shop, and a kids zone! But I see small businesses too, creating pop-up experiences and placing an emphasis on good old face to face service that truly nurtures customers.
And only this week, Primark announced their biggest store ever in Birmingham will include a Disney-themed cafe and shopping area, a beauty studio, a Hogwarts Wizarding World section, a custom lab is going to enable shoppers to print personalised T-shirts and other clothing, and shoppers will also be able to donate old clothes and shoes of any brand for recycling. That’s how big retailers face the future.
The very best know that customer experience should be just that… an actual experience. And it doesn’t have to be an expensive, immersive experience. It just has to be impressive, memorable and savoured – talked about; that can be done equally well by great sales people, caring service staff – usually happy employees. (That’s another blog right there!)
Of course, lifting ‘bricks and mortar’ shopping up by its bootstraps and elevating it to something fun and exciting is not just a question of sorting the people element out. Incorporating online and digital innovation into a traditional business is also key.
Retailers must have first-class online experiences AND in store experiences, that allow the customer to navigate seamlessly between the two. Every channel and stage of the customer journey must be bench-marked and tested against customer expectations that have been rigorously researched.
The future may be ominously dictated by Amazon again, having now taken big steps in to ‘bricks and mortar’, opening physical bookstores, Amazon Go grocery stores and the Amazon 4 Star store. Why? Because they intend to show customers how in store retail should be done, blended with online, marrying the two worlds in to one, with a focus on removing all the friction points remaining that still frustrate consumers. Ouch!
At Yomdel we’re obsessed with great customer experience. We watch keenly, and we help everywhere we can. We’d be delighted to hear your thoughts and responses. Email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yomdel is one of the UK’s premier providers of Customer Experience Services, including:
Live Chat – real people answering customer questions via your website 24/7
Mystery Shopping – testing your team to make sure they really are excelling face to face. And rewarding them for doing so.
Market Research – understanding customer expectations of your business, and how you can exceed them, to grow your customer lifetime value.