A report by consultants Bain & Company contained the rather shocking statistic that while 80% of businesses believe that they provide a ‘superior proposition’, only 8% of their customers agree. This highlights what, for many, is one of the key challenges in retail today – how to close the gap between your perception of the experience you provide, and that of your customers.
For many thought leaders today, the answer to this problem lies in the thorny area of Customer Experience, As a relatively new practice, CX is in many ways still finding its feet, while the question of who exactly owns it, is further complicated by the fact that every touch point with a customer shapes your businesses’ unique and personal experience.
Over the last three months, we’ve been speaking to some of the best minds working in the field today. Here’s a selection of tips for anyone looking to close the gap between the theoretical and the actual operationalization of customer experience best practices.
For Jeanne Bliss, a five-time Chief Customer Officer including stints at Microsoft and Coldwell Banker, making sure you take a deliberate approach to the experience you want to create for your business is key: “What is the memory you want to imprint on your customers? Are you hiring the right people and behaving the right way to make those moments?”
Smart retailers are now investing early and often in training staff to provide the kind of service that customers simply cannot get from purchasing online. With up to 80% of Gen-Z shoppers saying they ‘like’ in-store, but turn to e-commerce for convenience, it’s up to retailers to find ways to draw the next generation of shoppers into their doors. By focusing on the tangible elements of your customer experience that truly surprise and delight – and our retail data indicates that outstanding service is one of the best ways to do this – you can make a big impact.
Think creatively and be deliberate when considering the kind of experience that you want to impress on your own customer base.
Don’t Just Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience for FCR and co-creator of the Customer Service Life Blog. For Jeremy, customer experience is something that every single person in an organization can and should be thinking of: “In my opinion, there’s too much talk about CX and not enough doing. Before we start beating the drum, let’s roll up our sleeves and be part of the solution. This means that whatever your level in your organization, you can start improving the CX right now.”
For large organizations implementing a completely coherent and unified CX strategy can be difficult work, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t the opportunity for individuals to shine if they show the right initiative. One of our merchant partners, a high-end Canadian grocer, was delighted when a shift manager in one of their Toronto locations did just this.
Checking his TruRating data he noticed a dip in scores for product and service across the evenings in his busy urban location. After an inspection of the floor, it became clear that stock and staffing issues were affecting the customer experience. By reshuffling his staff schedule, and ensuring product layouts remained consistent across the day, the store soon saw a 22% increase in satisfaction with a 12% associated increase in spend.
Make Life Easy
For Shep Hyken, New York Times best-seller and author of The Convenience Revolution, the businesses that are going to lead the way tomorrow, are those who make it easy for their customers to work with them. While innovation is important, to truly please your customers, you have to focus on ‘innovation that makes life more convenient for the customers’.
The rise of “Click & Collect” is just one example of a prevalent retail trend, that has been born as a result of businesses pro-actively adapting to the lifestyle and needs of the modern consumer. The fundamental reason for click and collect is to create a better experience for the shopper. While overcoming limited retail space can pose a challenge when it comes to actually fulfil online orders, for those who can get it right, it’s proven to be a winning formula.
Last year, the UK fashion retailer Next was able to see off the challenges of an increasingly difficult market, largely in thanks to its Click & Collect program, which grew by 15% thanks to a strategic investment in fulfilment capabilities. If you can take the time to really understand which areas of your service matter most to your customers, you may soon find that life becomes easier for you both.
Don’t Fall Asleep at the Wheel
Nate Brown, Director of CX at UL EHS Sustainability and co-founder of CX Accelerator, warns that in today’s environment, “Competition is too fierce to be asleep at the experience wheel…. at least for any business that wants to be around in five years”. For Brown, the missing bridge closing the gap from theory to action is the “Voice of the Customer”. Without an accurate way to listen to and react to customer response, there’s no way to know if you’re focusing on the right priorities or the changes you make are actually having an impact.
Nike’s master franchise holders in Australia and New Zealand, Retail Prodigy Group, were able to use TruRating to help them with their goal of providing the ‘Ultimate Customer Experience’. By establishing a simple but repeatable methodology – test initiative, measure response, iterate across the customer experience – management was able to drive fast and effective improvements to their in-store experience to a great result.
What in isolation may have seemed like relatively simple measures – asking for a customer’s first name, offering multiple product selections, smiling at checkout – incrementally had a significant impact to CX scores, and soon saw the retailer drive increased transaction values of as much as 30% per transaction and 5% increase in overall revenue within a matter of months.
Prove the ROI of your Initiatives
For Brian Dennis, former VP Customer Experience at Kohl’s, one of the greatest challenges facing CX professionals is getting C-Suite buy-in. While no businesses worth their salt are likely to deny the need to provide excellent experiences, without a quantitatively expressed ROI, getting sign off on budgeted initiatives can be hard work.
“A formula I like to use is CX ROI = 100 x (Benefits – Investments)/Investments.” Dennis cites revenue as a common benefit, noting that the Forrester Customer Experience Index demonstrated that increasing CX performance by even a few points can be worth hundreds of million dollars in incremental revenue.
While it may seem slightly unnatural if you’ve not done it before, the ability to demonstrate an actual monetary value to your efforts is incredibly powerful. Working with the operations team of a discount retailer, we helped them to quickly understand the impact a new staffing initiative would have on their bottom line. By running an A/B test across their estate, we helped them to not only put a $ value to their efforts but to understand in which stores and where the new ‘Service Champions’ would be of most value. Read how we did it here.
No matter the size of your budget or team, there is never a wrong time to think about the ways you can implement CX best practices into your day to day operations.
Tools like TruRating, provide a simple and effective way to both manage and prove the value of your initiatives. If you would like to discuss how we could help you to get the most out of your CX strategy for the year ahead, we’d love to hear from you.