Retailers have a lot on their plate these days. How to keep up with mobile consumers, connect with Millennials, and tap into social media are just a few of the challenges they are currently tackling. But are they pulling it all together to deliver the best customer experience possible?
Not really. Not according to retail expert, Scott McKain. He’s been researching this topic for a long time and says retailers need to focus on what he calls the “ultimate customer experience.”
McKain says retailers spend a lot of time and money on certain aspects of their business, but pay little attention to the overall experience created for the customer. “It’s like going to a movie with great cinematography and actors, but no story,” says McKain.
The hard part is figuring out how to create the ultimate customer experience. Unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer. Every retailer runs its business a bit differently, and every customer has unique needs. However, McKain lays out three questions to help retailers get started down the right path.
What if a customer’s interaction with the retailer, from start to finish, went exactly the way the customer would like it to? Achieving this begins with figuring out what the customers actually want.
Retailers need to connect with customers and learn their preferences at every stage of the buying cycle. “Maybe low prices are important to your customer … or maybe they want to speak with knowledgeable sales teams and know more about the product … you’ve got to know that and then ask, what if everything went exactly right for that customer, for your customer that you know so well.”
Of course the devil is in the details. The more a retailer analyzes every customer touch point the more complicated things get. “It’s everything from where do they park, to where do they go, to what happens when they first walk in the store, to how merchandise is displayed, to what your sales team says … all of these things create an aspect of it going exactly right,” says McKain. Once a retailer knows what its customers want at every stage it can move on to the second question.
This question leads to actually delivering on the, “What if?” posed above. It means identifying the specific steps, action items, and work that needs to happen to implement the changes customers’ want.
“That becomes incredibly challenging,” says McKain. If done properly, this step usually forces retailers to change and improve areas of the business they’ve never addressed before. That’s often a difficult proposition, especially when it comes to implementing new policies and procedures or reallocating funds and resources – which leads us to the last question.
McKain finds many retailers have outdated policies and procedures. They operate in a way that made sense in the past, but in today’s hypercompetitive marketplace new and better business models are taking over. The mobile consumer can shop when and where they want in an instant and won’t stay loyal to a retailer if it can’t meet their expectations.
“One of the things that any retail customer hates to hear is, ‘that’s not company policy’ or ‘we’ve never done it that way’,” says McKain. Those types of responses are immediate road blocks to customer satisfaction and need to be eliminated.
“The fundamental goal is to create the ultimate customer experience for every one of our retail customers, even for our retail prospects, every single time,” concludes McKain.