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Best Customer Experience in Retail

Best Retail Customer Experience

Best Retail Customer Experience – Other Things are Going On

Whenever we talk about the best customer experience in retail, then we must accept we are dealing with subjective assessments. Not just a bit subjective, but dependent on two sets of factors beyond the supplier’s control, beyond their knowledge, and sometimes even beyond their ability to find out:

  • Preferences, attitudes, culture, and personality of the customers, bearing in mind, there might be quite a range across the customer base.
  • Factors that affect the mood and attitude of those customers. These could include the weather, time of day/week/month/year, business pressures, or whether they had a fight with their family that morning.

The first of those you can research on, the second you might (just might) be able to find out afterwards, but they both drive the quality of the customer experience. So, when you ask your customers to rate their experience or what was their best customer experience, remember that it isn’t all about you. Sometimes things just feel ‘right’ for the customer even when you didn’t do your best, and sometimes however well you performed, they just feel it’s ‘wrong.’

Best Retail Customer Experience – We All Love Superman

Ask people about their best retail customer experience, and much of the time you will get a tale about how an extraordinary staff member saved the day – fixed a fault, repaired an error, or came up with the solution when things looked bad. It could be the sales assistant who spends half an hour phoning other stores to find the size or color you need or the one who visits your house to show you how something works. It’s not unique to retail; in fact, it is even more pronounced in industries like travel and – especially – IT, where the technical hero is called in at the middle of the night when systems won’t run.

It’s human nature to love being rescued. But logically, the best customer service experience is when things go exactly as planned. In retail terms, that might be when you go to the store looking for a dress for Friday’s party; you see just what you want, they have it in your size, you buy it and take it home. For you, it was easy: what you don’t see is the careful work, the customer profiling, and capacity planning, and logistics that ensure the right stock is in the right place. Or how the staff resourcing and training are correct, so you don’t wait for ages in line at the checkout, the operator knows how to use the till and credit card machine. They give you a nice waterproof carrier bag to take it home even before you noticed that it had started to rain. Smooth, easy, well-oiled procedures that make your life so easy they are all but invisible. Ask that person how their customer experience was, and they’ll likely say, ‘Yeah, it was OK, nothing special.’ You might even think it was just lucky that they had what you wanted.

You might think about an even more extreme example. Captain Sullenberger, landing the plane on the Hudson River, was an undoubted hero, delivered exceptional service to his customers. But most people would prefer to be on a boring flight that just took off and landed like it was supposed to. 

Best Retail Customer Service Experience Two Kinds of Best

So, after all this preamble, we can ask, perhaps, about someone’s best customer experience in retail and expect two kinds of answers. Maybe we can even ask people for their favorite example of each approach. Who saved your day; where did your day go so easy you just got on with it? I’ll go first …

Saved the day

My wife saw the sweatshirt she absolutely wanted to take home as a souvenir from Kruger Park in South Africa. It was on a mannequin torso, fixed to the wall nearly four meters above the ground: a very good display technique. But it was the only one they had left: sadness. This was saved by a three-way debate amongst the shop staff, a phone call to maintenance, and a smiley man arriving with a ladder. Fun, noise, and enthusiasm ensued, and the sweatshirt was liberated from the false torso and sold to us. Still worn often, with an appreciation for that rescue team.

Just get on with it

Almost by definition, this one is harder to answer. But after some cogitating, here’s one. At my daughter’s wedding, all the top table men have to wear the same uniform of suit, cravat, etc. Arranged with nationwide clothes hire company, so I have to go to my nearest branch to get fitted. I hate buying clothes at the best of times, let alone the prospect of trying on various things until we get it right – and all for just one day. So I turn up, report to the sales assistant, who takes one quick look at me and quickly produces a set of clothes. I try them on; they all fit perfectly. He packs them, the paperwork is instant, and I leave in minutes when I expected hours. And I didn’t realize how good they had been until I sat down and thought about it afterward. Skilled staff, applied to the job in hand backed up by excellent behind the scenes procedures and IT system. Some people even said, I looked good at the wedding. 

Seek out the realities

Talk with your customers and find out their stories of the best customer experience in retail. Don’t lead them – at least not initially – into one or another version of best. Try and find out what factors influenced them. You will likely discover that the situation isn’t quite as you anticipated. That other factors are playing in this game too. When you learn about them, then you stand more chance of playing with them instead of against them.

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