Experience Boutique Interview

Experience Boutique characterHi everyone, today I am interviewing one of our customer experience consultants, Jane.   Hi Jane, so what is the best experience you can think of as a customer?

It is good when someone greets you promptly and smiles as you walk through the door.  I suppose Capel Carpets in Watford is a company that I really like.  I have used their store a few times for carpet and Karndean.  When I go into the store, the owner always says, “Hello Jane,” in a warm and friendly voice.  He tells me that I am their best customer and so that makes me feel good.  It is nice to be remembered.  I can see that he is conscientious and that draws me to his company.  He is very knowledgeable and you can tell that he knows his stuff.  I bought some Karndean there recently for my new kitchen floor.

What is the worst experience you have had as a customer?

I had a bad experience in Morrisons.  However I think that was more to do with the other customers.

Well you mentioned that the queues were long at that time.  Long queues can have a knock on effect to cause irate customers so that may have been what happened during your visit.

Also If the staff don’t give eye contact then it seems as though they can’t be bothered.  I was recently on holiday in York.  I asked a staff member for some curtain tie backs.  I could see that she didn’t want to engage and would rather be reading whatever she was reading.  She had her head down.  When I asked her a question, she looked witheringly at me over her glasses as though I was a nuisance.  She told me that they only had what was on display.  She did not apologise or offer any alternatives.

What do you think makes good customer service?

A feeling that the staff believe in the company and what they are selling. Staff who care about getting you the most appropriate product or service you have come in for. So, for example, if something isn’t available, they make an effort to find a suitable alternative for you. This shows that making the customer happy is their priority, rather than making a profit for themselves.

Yes we know that each customer wants to feel as though they have received a personalised solution to their unique needs.

Yes and it is also good if the staff make an effort to create a personal connection.  For example if they introduce themselves and ask for your name.

When you are on a mystery visit, what are the three most important things that you are looking out for?  Let’s use an example of eating a meal in a restaurant.

  • Efficiency of service: If a customer is kept waiting they can start to question their purchase decision. This may prevent them from wanting to return in future.
  • Friendliness of staff: Staff can show their interest in customers by making sure they check back during the meal. They can also ask some personal questions, for example about the weather or the person’s day.  They could also recommend something from the menu to show enthusiasm and to show that they care.
  • Atmosphere: It is important that the temperature is comfortable and that the music and lighting are at suitable levels.

Are there any brands that you have altered your opinion on recently, either positively or negatively?

I tend to favour Waitrose over Tesco these days.  I like Waitrose as they don’t keep me waiting.  I think it is worth paying more for a good experience.

What can a store do to create customer loyalty?

A loyalty card is a good way to encourage me to return to a store.  Alternatively they could offer something like a discount or treat to redeem on my next visit.

Yes, so it is important that the staff remember to offer these to customers.

The staff can also suggest a reason for the customer to return.  Going back to the restaurant scenario, a customer may have difficulty in choosing between two desserts.  The server could jokingly say that they could order one today and then try the other one on their next visit.

At certain beauty counters I have been invited back to let them know how I have got on with a product or for a makeup lesson.  A simply phrase, such as, “We would love to see you,” can really encourage a customer to return.

Personalising Your Service

personalised Coca Cola bottlesWe know that customers want to feel as though they have received a personalised solution to their unique challenge. This was brought to light to me this week while I was looking into ordering some new business cards. I looked on both Vistaprint and moo.com. Both of these websites offer a service in which they will send out a sample pack of their products to prospective customers. The process of ordering these sample packs differed greatly on the two sites.

On Vistaprint, I was simply asked for my contact details so that the pack could be sent to me. However on moo.com, I was asked a series of questions so that the sample pack could be tailored to my needs. The questions were quick and simple to answer.

I noticed how my perception of these two companies had been affected by the differing approaches. I guessed that the value of the cards from moo.com would be more expensive. I felt that it would be worth paying more for their service as it had been tailored to my specific needs. I felt confident that their company was looking after me and that I would be happy with my purchase.

This is a similar phenomenon to when I have been assisted while trying on clothes in a fitting room. When an employee makes a comment along the lines of, “That blue colour really illuminates your skin”, then I feel as though I would be missing out if I did not buy the garment in question! How do you make sure your customers feel as though your service has been personalised to them?

Customer Service Versus Marketing

“Customer service is the new marketing” – Derek Sivers.

pile of loyalty cardsA well known brand launched a new loyalty scheme a few weeks ago. I bought some food items recently in this store. When I looked at the receipt, it told me how many loyalty points I could have earned. I felt slightly annoyed that the cashier had not pointed this out to me at the time so that I could have opened a card to earn the points. Once I got home, I looked at the store’s website and found out that I would need to go into a store in order to get a loyalty card.

I was passing a different branch of the store earlier this week and so I decided to go in and pick up a card. I waited for five minutes in a queue at the till point. Once I reached the counter, the staff member told me that I would need to go over to the food department to find someone with an iPad. There was no apology for my wait. I found it quite irritating that there had not been any signs to tell me where to sign up. I would have expected the procedure to be better organised, considering the scale of the launch on this loyalty scheme. I couldn’t see anyone with an iPad, so I waited at the Customer Services desk. There were four staff members standing around discussing some issue among themselves. After waiting for a few minutes without being acknowledged, I decided to tell one of them that I was waiting to pick up a loyalty card.

The staff member was very helpful and obliging. She led me into a small office and offered me a seat on a dingy looking chair. It felt a bit odd to be sitting in what was clearly a staff office. While I was in the office, another staff member came in and interrupted my meeting. Without excusing herself to me, she asked the staff member who was assisting me if she could help somebody else sign up for the loyalty scheme. It all seemed highly unprofessional. The staff member who had been assisting me seemed slightly annoyed by the interruption from her colleague and explained that there were no iPads working and so she would have to serve the next customer once she had finished signing me up. It seemed very odd to me that there was no way to sign up for this scheme other than to sit in this strange cubby hole sized office. I had to tell the staff member all of my personal details including my date of birth. I did not feel confident that my data was being dealt with in a secure manner.

What can we learn from this scenario? I have seen this time and time again. A company comes up with a great idea, in this case a loyalty scheme. However there are not sufficient staff in place to implement the scheme and on top of this, the staff are not well trained enough to deal with customers who want to sign up to the scheme. I came across a similar example a few weeks ago. A large organisation had been looking at plans to improve their complaints system. They were spending thousands of pounds on working out how to structure their automated switchboard and website contact forms in order to make the process more pleasant for their customers. I had to make the point that all of those plans would be wasted unless they made sure that their staff were sufficiently trained and had the relevant knowledge to answer the complaints that were being made. The same company had been highlighted by Which? last year as having staff without sufficient knowledge on certain key issues. It is no good having a switchboard that is easy to use if the staff member who eventually answers the call doesn’t listen properly and has to ask a customer to repeat themselves several times. Look at the bigger picture!

Setting Customer Expectations

diagram of customer needsWhen a company does what it says it is going to do then builds trust between the company and the customer. When a company fails to fulfill a promise, the opposite can happen. Recently, our local water supplier spent a couple of days in our road, dealing with a leak outside our house. When they departed, they left a lot of stones on the lawn, which would have been dangerous and would have blunted the blade on my lawnmower, had I not spent several minutes picking them up. It struck me as being very slovenly. However I received a very nice note through the door, explaining how much the company tries to improve the customer experience and inviting me to let them know if I was happy with their work. I therefore rang them to let them know about the stones on the lawn. Since I had removed the stones, there was no point in asking them to come back, so I just registered my comment and said there was no need to do any remedial work. However, the lady, who answered the phone, said that someone would phone me back after lunch. This did not happen, which annoyed me more than the original problem, because I felt that I had a promise that something would be done and it wasn’t. I had been encouraged by the first call to believe that the poor service was an exception but, having been let down by the lack of a call back, I rather believe that the poor service was not an exception. The lesson is, carry through on your promises.

Thank you to Keith for this week’s post.

JD Wetherspoon: Value For Money?

interior of pub
The Punch Bowl Pub

I have just returned from a week’s holiday in York and wanted to share with readers the excellent marketing strategy that Wetherspoon’s have adopted.

The pub seemed to be continuously busy whenever we passed it.   In the early morning, it was busy with people having a cooked breakfast. At lunchtime, people were enjoying either a cooked meal or a lighter cold lunch like a Panini or a sandwich.  The evenings were positively buzzing with crowds of people. Tourists, students and families all congregated, sharing tables with strangers until every seating place was filled.

Wetherspoon’s know precisely who their target market is.  We wanted to spend our money on sightseeing and shopping, rather than on expensive meals.  Every day of the week the Wetherspoon pub ran a special offer – Mexican Monday offered burritos at a special price, Tuesday was steak, Wednesday chicken, Thursday curry and finally Friday was of course fish night.

Each evening the Wetherspoon pub fulfilled our need for a hot, balanced and filling meal, washed down with a very reasonably priced glass of wine.  On our last evening we both had steak, jacket potato and vegetables plus a bottle of wine between us.  The whole meal cost just £18.95, which seemed incredible considering that the wine could have easily cost that amount on its own!

The only downside was that some evenings we had to wait to find a table and to be served.  However, we were able to pass the time in an enjoyable manner by chatting to strangers.  The camaraderie was excellent.  The staff were also very friendly despite the fact that they had to work at a fast pace. There was no slack for them!  Unfortunately tables were not always cleared immediately or wiped adequately.

If you are looking for a quiet and intimate environment, with attention to detail and all the trimmings then this pub would not be for you.  However if, like us, you want a good value meal in a warm, friendly and cosy environment, along with a wide range of cheap beverages, then head down to your local Wetherspoon pub.

Thank you to Alison for this week’s post.

Do your customers feel welcome?

image of yoga class
Yoga Class

Yesterday morning I decided that I was going to take part in a yoga class. I had visited three different branches of a sports shop recently and I was aware that each branch offered complimentary yoga classes. The difference between the three stores was that only one of them had actually taken the opportunity to invite me to their yoga class. While I was in the store, a friendly employee had told me that they ran yoga classes every Sunday. She informed me that they even provided the mats and said that there was normally space for everyone who turned up. This invite left me feeling welcome. Therefore I chose to go to this store over the others who had not invited me. It is human nature to need to feel wanted. Customers are no different to humans! Research by McKinsey has shown that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. I felt good to be invited to the class. It made me feel as though I could belong in their ‘club’. The instinct to want to belong also left me feeling as though I wanted to purchase the clothing from the store so that I could fit in with the other people in the yoga class.

As it happened, the yoga class exceeded my expectations. The staff thanked me for coming even though it was a free class! The class started on time. I was thanked and wished a good day as I left the store after the class. The class was challenging and I can feel the pain / benefits today!

Even if you are not running any events, there are many other ways of making customers feel encouraged to return.  Three examples are below:

  • Tell the customer your name and contact details. Let them know what days you are working so that they know when they may come back to see you.
  • Tell the customer about a new item that will be arriving soon in the store.
  • Explain to the customer how they can earn loyalty points on future visits.

What experiences have you had that have left you feeling welcome? It would be great to hear your stories in the comments below.

Ideas on The Apprentice

handful of loyalty cards
Collecting loyalty card stamps

This week saw the start of Series 11 of The Apprentice. As predicted there are a few characters on the show. One such character is Richard Woods, a founding director of a digital marketing agency. In week two, he was project manager of a task which involved the marketing of a cactus shampoo. He was seen giving each team member the chance to pitch in with their own ideas. Baroness Karren Brady commented that she wondered if Richard had bought a book on management skills and read it cover to cover prior to coming on the show. It was quite funny because she said she wondered whether Richard was actually listening to them or just pushing what he wanted. Following on from this, I decided that I would discuss the ways in which managers can motivate their staff by giving them the autonomy to have their own ideas.

Three examples are shown below:
Loyalty card stamps: Joseph Nunes and Xavier Dreze conducted a study into the effort that customers put into achieving the reward from their loyalty cards. They conducted a study with a car wash business involving a total of 300 customers. The loyalty cards involved collecting stamps in order to get a free car wash. There were two groups in the study. One group was given a card that required 8 stamps in order to receive the reward. The second group was given a card that required 10 stamps in order to get the reward. However these cards had two stamps already completed. This is known as ‘artifical enhancement’. The second group were found to be 44% more likely to complete the cards. The completion time also decreased. This effect has been named the Endowed Progress Effect. You could allow your staff the discretion to provide one or two extra stamps when issuing customers with their loyalty cards.
Store environment: The coffee shop chain Harris and Hoole gives their staff input into what music is played in the store. This is a simple, yet effective, way to engage staff.
Treating customers: Pret A Manger rejects the loyalty card idea, in favour of giving out a certain allowance of free items to their customers each day. The staff members are given the freedom to choose which customers receive the free items.

What do you think of these ideas? It would be great to hear your thoughts!

Related articles: Employee Engagement

The Importance of Feeling Important

very important customer quote
This week I am returning to my experience in a cycle store, as published two weeks ago. You can review the post here: Learning something new
I realised that there was another very important factor as to why this experience was so good. Effectively, I had two employees assisting me at the same time. This left me feeling like a Very Important Customer (VIC). Here at the Experience Boutique we believe that customer service and employee engagement are intrinsically interlinked. Customers and employees alike want to feel important and valued. In the TV show ‘Undercover Boss’ my favourite part of the show is the final part. The employees realise how important and valued they are within the business.

Here are a few suggestions that can make your customers feel important:
• If an appointment has been arranged, make sure that your front of house staff know about it. This allows them to show the client that you were expecting them before they even have to state who they are.
• Make notes during the consultation to show that you are listening.
• Repeat the customer’s needs back to them to show that you were listening and understood what they wanted.
• Tell the customer why a particular item or service could solve their unique challenge.
• Invite them to return to the store for a particular reason that is unique to them.

References: Undercover Boss

Employee Engagement

quote about employee engagement
In last week’s post, I spoke about some highly motivated and engaged employees in a cycle store. Extensive research has been carried out which has closely linked employee engagement to customer experience. Dan Pink carried out some research into the key factors that motivate employees. He found that the three most important factors, apart from a fair monetary reward, were as follows:
Autonomy: Research shows that staff react better to being given guidelines, rather than strict rules that they need to follow. It is important to give staff some freedom to do the job the way they want to do it.
Mastery: People want to feel as though they are getting better at doing something that matters.
Purpose: It is natural for staff to want to make customers happy. It is important to publicise to staff what the business is working to achieve and why.

I will discuss some of these factors in greater depth in future posts. For now, I will refer back to my experience last week in the cycle store. I think we can see how some of these factors came into play. The staff member who wanted to learn from his colleague had enough autonomy to be honest about this without fear of being reprimanded. He was keen to master a new skill. The staff member saw an opportunity in learning more about the nutrition in their energy food to be able to make me and other customers happy in future = purpose. Furthermore research by the Temkin Group also showed that employees who feel as though they are contributing are 30% less likely to take more than one sick day. How do you implement these factors into your business? See you next week when we will be returning to the cycle store!


Learning Something New

selection of energy snacks A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about a friendly employee in a cycle store selling me unusual flavours of Mule Bars: Liquorice and Coconut.

This week I returned to a different branch of the same store. I asked an employee for some advice on some snacks to take with me on a long bike ride. The employee directed me to another staff member who was more of an expert in that area and would be better positioned to advise me. He said, however, that he would listen while his colleague told me about the products as he was keen to learn more about them. I thought that this store had a fantastic ethos and team spirit. I could see that the staff were passionate about creating a great experience for their customers. The employee who I initially spoke to was motivated by being able to learn new information and he wasn’t afraid to let me know that a colleague could teach him a few things. A great team effort! Next week’s post will continue this theme by discussing how staff can be motivated by being given the chance to master a new skill or gain new knowledge.