This GUEST CORNER feature is by Richard R Shapiro
Image by Jonathan Kim
We are witnessing a convergence of forces that are moving customer loyalty to the edge of extinction. As consumers, we are empowered by increasing control over the retail process. Herein lies the challenge for retailers: to engender loyalty – but the loyal customer is an endangered species. With all of the customer experience investment opportunities out there, retailers are often left wondering if investing in the customer experience is really worth it when they can simply price more competitively. Based on my experience, investing in the customer experience is the only thing that will generate repeat business and save retailers.
Recently I was having dinner at one of my favorite restaurants when we saw an unsavory critter skittering along the floor. We immediately told our waiter about the unpaying guest. You could tell from the waiter’s face, who knows us well as good customers, that he was not a happy camper. Our waiter brought back the bill with a recalculated amount. There was the original total and the restaurant gave us a 25% reduction. We quickly computed that the critter discount was equal to $11 a person. The incident and the resolution happened so quickly that we really did not have time to think about fairness or anything else.
Was our customer experience affected? Of course, and not just for that meal but for the future too. How could our favorite restaurant still be favorite if we had to be on guard for critters crawling around? What could have been a possible better outcome? Yes, our bill was reduced, but the management remained silent, even if they wanted to avoid calling another patrons’ attention to our situation. However, if they had contacted us the following day to apologize and reassure us that this was an isolated incident and would be further addressed, we might have felt more comfortable about returning.
The customer experience investment starts at the manager and sales associate level.
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In this experience, the restaurant simply threw money at the situation instead of also providing some genuine customer service. This would have been a great moment for the manager of the restaurant or even our waiter to apologize and address our concern beyond simply applying a critter discount to the bill. However, most companies do not understand the value of their employees and how important it is to give them the skills to communicate more authentically and empathically. If companies tried to determine the ROI for each associate, they could not only ascertain their true worth, but could better compensate and retain excellent associates, and therefore have much higher revenues and profits. This ROI would also document that the investment in customer experience is worth it.
Executives and business owners need to realize that their sales associates are worth a great deal to the organization’s success. Investing in their people is just as important as buying the latest technology to use in their store. There are many technologies available that enhance the customer experience, but if someone walks into a store, a kiosk or hologram can’t help them the way a person can. Investing in people who know how to create a memorable customer experience will generate repeat business time after time.
Richard R. Shapiro is Founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) and a leading authority in the area of customer satisfaction and loyalty. For 30 years, Richard has spearheaded the research conducted with thousands of customers from Fortune 100 and 500 companies compiling the ingredients of customer loyalty and what drives repeat business. His first book was The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business and The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business, was released February, 2016.
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