The real secrets to creating a memorable customer experience
The experience a customer has with a retailer is often what the customer remembers when making his or her next purchase decision. In fact, recent research by Temkin Group points to the return on investment potential of a positive and memorable customer experience, indicating that there is “a strong correlation” between experience and loyalty factors, such as likelihood of a customer to forgive mistakes, and trying new products and offerings. Here’s a look what it takes to create a memorable customer experience.
Prioritize two-way trust.Customer experience is about building a sense of trust with the customer, assuring them that their business is in fact valuable, and demonstrating that through every phase of their interaction with your brand. That trust is largely established through your internal process — including whether customer issues are resolved efficiently and completely, even if means your company incurs a temporary loss.
As customer experience consultancy Nunwood found in its latest research, “trust” is a currency all its own in the customer’s perception of a positive or negative experience. The reason a brand like Amazon is continually a winner, say Nunwood’s experts, is largely because it prioritizes customer experience over its own self-serving processes, allowing for policies like “no questions asked” returns. As a result of the shared trust, customers typically play by the rules, and continue to buy from Amazon. Any retailer can improve customer experience by understanding the customer’s point of view and designing policies with those needs in mind, including giving employees the freedom to make decisions that aren’t dictated by a corporate script.
Approach your experience with empathy. Customer experience is closely intertwined with empathy, even in small ways that add up to an overall experience that is lasting and meaningful. Consider the customer experience differences between Megabus and Greyhound: Both brands provide the same service, and in fact, Greyhound should fare better due to high name recognition. But, as customer experience consultancy Nunwood points out, Megabus far outranks Greyhound in customer experience because of one factor: It understands that comfort is key for its passengers, and delivers on that need throughout the brand experience.
As a result, customers describe their Megabus experience as “peaceful,” “clean,” and note that the staff is helpful and courteous. Greyhound, on the other hand, claims to be outfitted with entertainment, like movie screens, but customers complain of too many stops while in transit leading to an uncomfortable journey.
Remember, the devil is in the details.You can transform a customer’s experience with little touches, like a pleasant aroma or playlist in a store, or convenience solutions such as free child care services at a grocery store. The challenge of finding the winning customer experience formula is that there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach; it’s dependent on what each customer and prospect base values. Conduct observational research, whether through focus groups or by “shadowing” customers as they shop in order to understand what leads to a meaningful experience in their eyes. Bettering your retail customer experience often means simple, common-sense solutions that have critical impact, simply because they’re highly relevant to the target customer.
Make your employees entrepreneurs.Hiring initiatives, recruitment, training programs, your internal culture and compensation should all reflect that customer-facing employees are your real brand; they can make or break a customer experience. As customer experience consultant Micah Solomon recently described in a Forbes article, part of that process is an internal culture of positive peer pressure and shared ownership. For employees of Ritz-Carlton hotels, for example, the first 21 days are treated as crucial to future employment. If they don’t pass the snuff test, they’re not hired to continue to Day 22. When you set an internal expectation among your employees that reinforces their sense of importance, they’ll feel a sense of ownership to deliver the experience that makes a lasting impression.
Today’s empowered customers want their experience to meet real needs (including the ones they don’t consciously know they have). Whether they wish to be recognized, win a prize or simply feel a part of a larger purpose, understanding what your customers value — and giving it to them consistently, via your unique brand — is the key to creating the experience that brings customers back.
(Photo by David Blackwell.)
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, providing retail payment processing solutions for merchants of all sizes. She brings more than 15 years of experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management, and marketing to the company and also serves on its Board of Directors.www