For retailers to please their customers, they must first know what their customers like.
Consumer behavior studies have demonstrated a number of best practices that retailers can adapt and adopt when hoping to improve their customer’s store experience. Good customer experiences are a win-win – in fact, a statistic from Salesforce says that 70% of buying experiences are influenced by how a customer feels they’re being treated.
Here’s how to tweak a business in order to maximize customer experience and happiness.
Know Your Customer
Businesses that care about their customers value them as more than just buyers. Take American retailer Nordstrom. The high end department store is known for the individualized service it offers customers. Some of its top salespeople have lists of more than a thousand clients who rely on their in-store service. They’re loyal to the company because the salespeople are loyal to them – providing personalized product and sales information and sending handwritten thank you notes. Whether it’s knowing their customer’s name or their jacket size, the success of Nordstrom salespeople demonstrates how personalized service can pay off.
This also applies to the food industry. There is a level of customer satisfaction that comes from having a barista know you want a decaf tall caramel latte or a wait staff remembering you like extra olives on your pizza. Some food retailers are even using tablets to facilitate these relationships, making it easy for them to pull up past sales and customer data. Pay attention to details, and your customer will thank you.
Offer Deals – but Make Sure They’re Clearly Stated
There is nothing more frustrating to customers than misleading signage. You know the kind: advertisements that say “all jeans are half off,” only to have a customer discover at the cash that the deal applied only to certain styles. While offering deals is the most important aspect of a brand experience for some shoppers, businesses will only reap the rewards of customer loyalty if that person has not felt deceived by dodgy deals.
Clarity can be provided in brick-and-mortar stores by having salespeople on the floor to answer any questions or provide clarification. The use of digital signage can also facilitate displaying the correct offerings: digital signage is easy to update and maintain, and signage about offers and sales can be updated whenever needed. Stores can also avoid misleading customers by providing price checkers through stores, allowing customers to check the prices of the products they intend to buy, and receive the most up to date price. Ensure products are well-marked, and be willing to accept a mistake if a customer feels misled. Avoid sweeping statements such as “everything on sale” and “whole store 60% off” if this discount only applies to certain products.
Avoid the “Cliff of Dissatisfaction”
The cliff of dissatisfaction is a term coined by customer service expert Micah Solomon. He describes the concept in Forbes as the moment when a customer loses patience and faith in a business.
A franchise that is masterful at staying away from this cliff is Starbucks. The coffee chain has mechanisms in place to constantly check in on customers’ patience levels, addressing those frustrations and nudging them away from the cliff. For example, when lines are too long, baristas will come out from behind the counter and take drink orders or offer samples. If a drink is made incorrectly or has taken too long, baristas are encouraged to dole out free drink coupons. By transforming negative customer experiences into an opportunity for a freebie, Starbucks leaves the customer with a positive final impression.
The takeaway is that businesses of all sizes can take small, proactive steps to check in on customers, ensuring patience and happiness levels don’t go off the edge.
Create a Customer Experience
If your brand depends on a specific store atmosphere, make sure that atmosphere is consistent amongst your different locations. Some shoppers take solace in the fact that an Apple Store in Canada will look identical to an Apple Store in Malaysia. If customers are responding well to a certain level of service and appearance, they’ll appreciate the consistency wherever they go.
Then again, under certain circumstances consistency can be adapted. Blue Bottle Coffee is one of America’s most successful coffee chains – despite each of its locations looking different, and thereby offering a slightly different customer experience. The cafes all offer the same quality Blue Bottle product, but the design is customized based on the culture of the location. For example, the Williamsburg Blue Bottle location is more relaxed than the Manhattan café, which is different still than the new Tokyo location. By offering a consistently good cup of coffee while also being mindful of where that coffee is being sipped, Blue Bottle sells itself as more of a local cafe than a country-wide coffee seller.
Remember that what works best for one customer may not be right for another. Above all, the most important customer experience a retailer or restaurant can offer is one that is flexible and truly listens to the needs of the people who walk through the door.