A lot has been spoken about Customer Experience and it still continues to generate interest. Since CX typically is the experience of an individual customer, it keeps varying and there cannot be a standard definition for it. However, what remains constant for any business is that customer experience begins much before any sale takes place. It is true that “people who have decided against your products and services at pre-sale are talking about you and driving business away”.
The reason why Amazon is part of the ‘Top 3 Global Brands’ list is its mission to be “the most customer-centric company where people can discover and buy anything they want”. Amazon has won the trust of consumers for sheer convenience and efficiency it offers. “Start with the customer and work backwards” is the principle on which Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos established the business.
For a business to be able to create favourable customer experience it is mandatory to look at how we take care of the in-stores customers when they visit us. This is where a majority of the business happens in countries like India. There certainly is a big noise about creating an online or digital shopping experience but in certain industries like staples & fresh etc. a larger section of the country prefers to have a look and touch experience. So making the whole atmosphere welcoming in the stores is to be understood at war footing. This is an experience that you provide which in return ensures not just customer satisfaction but also customer loyalty which is the primary concern for every retailer today.
While we work on excelling at our online shopping experience, understanding the gaps in our stores such as unavailable stocks esp. the fast moving ones, an unclean look and feel, indifferent and unfriendly staff, long check out queues and other such factors must be immediately plugged. Some simple ways to do these are by empowering the customers. Installing kiosks where the customers after checking out the stocks (look and feel experience) can place orders for home delivery. Enabling payments at these kiosks itself will resolve the concern on long checkout queues.
Modern day customers prefer multiple options for shopping. They may walk-in at the stores or simply order online. Thus giving them an option of click and collect will be adding on to their ease of shopping experience. The customers can shop online and drop in at the store to collect it at their convenient time. Once again we are aiming to provide quick and seamless checkout process.
While installing kiosks, a customer’s primary need for human interaction cannot be overlooked. An extremely well informed and empowered staff at the store is the first need that must be met. There could be nothing worse than having a staff that listens to a complain and can do nothing but shrug his shoulders away! There are challenges with this though. High level of attrition, long training hours and cost involved may make this look like a humongous task but it certainly is one investing in. After all, the staff at our stores is the face of our brand – a well informed and empowered staff.
I mentioned earlier some factors that may spoil the customer’s in-store experience, amongst the top ones is the unavailability stocks. Customers may build a general perception that the store is unable to provide items on my list and may choose to go elsewhere. We need a robust back-end team and systems that don’t falter at any time in replenishing the stocks. Basically, work towards building a strong supply chain system. This becomes even more crucial during the big sale days when ensuring timely availability of stocks is imperative.
Creating a welcoming atmosphere at the stores is also an area that retail stores are working on. This involves making enough number of staff members on the floor and put clear displays and other communication. Make your store look full and clean. Take special care of the sections with perishable goods. A practice that is followed by some retailers is to appoint a Greeter whose primary role is to welcome customers, assist them with cart selection, direct them to relevant sections in the store and other things that will make the shopping easy and convenient.
Some brands also go to the extent of personalizing customer’s shopping experience. After having shopped online, on your next log in there is often a list of recommendations that the system feels you may want to consider. This is a perfect example of personalizing your services for the customers. While it may work online, the same replicated at the stores could be a bit challenging. For some customers, it may be a good idea to be identified as one of the valuable customers and thus get personalized services based on their previous transactions. However, some may completely be put off. Not everyone may like being put under the spotlight. They prefer to be independent while walking through and shop in their own “space”.
The quest to provide an encouraging customer experience is never-ending. So, is there one way to enhance your in-store customer experience to the next level? Well, the answer is – not really. Retailers everywhere have their own way of looking at it and thus have a unique list of best practices to be followed. What suits one may not appeal to the other? How do we get it right? Ask yourself, ask your customers, do your research well and never overdo it!
Always ponder: Do we know where to stop?
(‘Disclaimed from the Author: All views expressed in the article are my own’ )