Dana Spinola, CEO and founder of fashion boutique franchise fab'rik, knows at least three things very well: she knows fashion, she knows her customer and she knows customer satisfaction is key to growth, success and sustainability in the competitive retail environment.
Customer experience, as Spinola defines the term, is one where a customer leaves feeling beautiful inside and out, she told RetailCustomerExperience.com in an email interview.
"That's not an easy task, but one our stylists strive for with every person that enters our store," said the entrepreneur whose retail franchise organization includes 42 stores nationwide.
"The obvious success is if they love how they look, which is the easiest of the two. However, at fab'rik we spend time getting to know the customer and make sure the experience inspires them. In today's world, shoppers choose where they are going to shop because of the experience they receive, so focusing on developing relationships is just as important as the product they are purchasing."
And, maybe just as importantly, it's all about providing the "wow" factor for the customer. In fact, she's a big believer in "wow" and created and deployed a customer experience completely focused on "wowing" the customer every day.
It started this past summer when she tasked every store, and every store employee, to focus on "wow" and submit insight on how customers were wowed with five "wows" every day. That led to more than 6,000 "wows" systemwide in just one month.
Now to some, that may not seem to be a huge undertaking, but for a store like fab'rik, which was built from the start providing a high-end luxury experience but boasting more affordable price points, it isn't as easy as it may sound.
And it wasn't a new idea for Spinola as she first thought about providing such a customer culture when visiting Versace as a young woman. While store staff realized she wasn't a high-volume consumer, she was still treated the same as any other customer.
"Growing up, I always loved fashion, but my family certainly couldn't afford boutique shopping. My mother made my clothes from kindergarten to college. Not knowing this was out of necessity, I believed I was the luckiest girl in the world to have a personal stylist and custom clothing just for me," she said.
"When I first visited Versace as a young woman. I knew I couldn't afford to buy anything, but they treated me like a queen all the same. I remember thinking, what if a boutique offered the customer experience of a high-end store — à la champagne and personal styling — without the high price tag? And just like that, the concept was born," she said.
The differentiator in play
Providing an enhanced customer experience is the boutique franchise's "biggest differentiator" within the boutique retail space, said the founder. The "wow" factor strategy even played a key role in helping Spinola attain business funding for her first location and it's still paying off big time in fostering brand loyalty, she said.
The "wow" a customer gets at fab'rik can range from a store associate delivering gift options to a busy consumer's office to sending a bottle of champagne to a customer's special dinner. One store always stocks up with a shopper's favorite lemonade prior to their shopping excursion.
"We believe that going above and beyond is just what we are here to do," said Spinola, adding that "wow" is essentially built into the business model and a strategy that only works when all team members are supporting it.
"As CEO, the commitment to 'wow' starts with me and flows down to the corporate team, franchisees, managers and stylists," said Spinola, adding that the company hands out "wow" awards highlighting associate efforts and store efforts.
"At a day-to-day level, we challenge each of our 42 locations to 'wow' every customer and then share those moments with me at the end of the day. We give shout outs each month in our newsletter and rewards for the most thoughtful, creative ways to love our customers. We have found that this process encourages our stylists to take ownership of the customer experience in a way that's rarely seen in this industry," she said.
For other retailers moving to take such a customer experience approach, Spinola offers up a few specific suggestions — it must be a consistent, authentic customer experience and considered an investment that is built into the budget.
"Whether it's a special discount on a piece they've been eyeing, a surprise gift snuck into their bag at checkout or simply a note mailed to them — a small investment on the front end will often earn a lifelong customer and will surely make your team be more invested in what they do each and every day at your company," she said.
Such customer interaction and attention is a compelling factor in her franchise success, and while other approaches, such as social media and marketing also clearly boost business efforts, the "wow" program is a critical component to what Spinola views as the ultimate key in customer experience.
"Once they are inside, it's all about getting face-to-face, making connections and building relationships organically. Even with all of today's advanced technology, nothing could ever replace that interpersonal experience for us. However, to continue to stay front of mind, we send text updates of new arrivals to customers based on our knowledge of their personal style. Keeping it personal is the key to integrating technology," she said.
Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.www