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The end result of customer experience must be heightened relationship with the consumer

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The Customer Experience (CX) exercise is successful when a customer sees the organisation talking of the customer’s benefit rather than the business profit, or at least a balance between creating value for them and turnover.

The end result of customer experience must be heightened relationship with the consumer
Lot of retailers talk about customer loyalty but the way to look at it in today’s generation is how loyal is the retailer to its customer base

does not necessarily mean digital as projected by the software vendors in the market. During my days at Piramyd Retail as Head of IT, we did something different. It was hot summer season in Mumbai so we decided to give watermelons (big ones) for anyone who shopped for Rs 500 and above – no agenda for upselling but just a little fun for consumers while shopping. A corner was also created for customers to take their pictures and keep the postcard we printed it on as a keepsake. Those were the days when we created memories and relationships. Today, such opportunities have quadrupled with the coming of the Millennials. There is comfort with the ample access to technology. Gamifying the selfie generation.

Consumer experience is not just about
– Giving discounts
– Attaching a sales person (head count) to the consumer when they arrive at the store
– Offering free wifi (focus on the outcome and not just the means)

The end outcome of any CX has to be heightened relationship with the customer and this can happen only when the customer sees the organisation talking of the customer’s benefit rather than the business profit, or at least a balance between creating value for them and turnover.

Lot of retailers talk about customer loyalty but the way to look at it in today’s generation is how loyal is the retailer to its customer base. One needs to keep a keen eye out for change in customer behaviour by mining POS data – for example: if a customer who used to buy Rs 800 shirt has started buying a shirt for Rs 2,200 could spell an opportunity for the retailer to offer him high-end accessories, or anything in the higher price range.

Delivering consumer experience on a technology platform cannot be fulfilled if the following points are not taken care of:

PROCESSES: A high degree of customer-centric processes that are backed by an appropriately empowered employee base. My recent visit to a pizza store helped me understand this. I visited a pizza place with my son and asked for an XYZ pizza. My son pointed out that there is an offer on the pizza that I had ordered – Buy 1 Get 1 Free. So, I asked for the same. It was then that the staff informed me that this was only for consumers who ordered food online, and not for walk-in customers. Here I was being deprived of a benefit just because I walked in. I spoke to the store manager and he responded positively. “Let me see what I can do,” he said. He made a call to someone (presumably important) and just like that, they extended the offer to me. End Result – I walked out of the store happy. The Point of the Story: An empowered employee took care of customer delight. Will I go there again with right expectations? Absolutely yes.

CLEAN MASTER DATA: Your master data has to be absolutely clean and someone should own that piece in retail. An example that comes to mind is
– We as retailers send out emailers during EOSS: ‘Please visit our stores as we are offering 50 per cent discount’
– Customer gets into his car, drives a few miles, takes the trouble of parking and then gets into the store only to find out that the store does not have his shirt size.
– Now the merchandising and marketing teams should have thought this through. They should have known that EOSS has only cut sizes kept in the store. The marketing team should have also known the customer’s size preference, and hence should not have sent him the invite/ promotional message.

HORIZONTALLY CONNECTED ORGANIZATION IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST: Consumer experience gets delivered through various touch points and any such touch-point is a culmination of inter-department collaboration meeting the customer at that touch-point. The supply chain management team should be aware of the event to make sure goods are delivered on time. The merchandising team should know which stocks need to be liquidated and the marketing team should clearly define the set of customers that will be served through the event/ touch-point.

Based on my market observation, despite higher regulatory controls, banks in India have understood the customer journey far better than retailers. I see that all communication from banks is crisp, processes are well-defined, and employees are well-informed.

While a lot of time is spent on discussing ‘Differentiators’, I believe it also has a lot to do with consistency. Consumer experience must be consistently delivered and it’s a promise that gets fulfilled even if it means moving mountains to deliver every time, on time.

Consumer experience starts from the point customer has decided to buy a product or stated his intent on social media and continues till the customer has taken the product home and is using it for his enjoyment. This means retailers must map the entire journey including but – not limited to – the returns policy. I find that a lot of times, internal teams do not follow the 80:20 principle while defining the customer journey and its processes. There will be fringe cases of someone breaking the rule (20 per cent), but then don’t deprive 80 per cent of the cases.

Relations are built on a dialogue where the customer has a voice. If your organization does not provide the ability (IT platform approach) to have a dialogue then don’t bother to worry about consumer experience.

I was on a late-night flight from Delhi to Bengaluru recently, I ordered a cup of noodles and did not like the contents, so I decided to write an e-mail to the customer care and the mail bounced back – forget getting a response. Great will be those retailers who have the ability to convert things gone wrong into building a bridge with the customer – it’s costly to acquire a new customer but cheaper to retain the existing ones.