Shopping Insights from Retail Experts: Customer Experience

If you’re a leader in retail, you’re probably trying to answer a wide variety of business questions right now. Companies like yours are responding to the rapid rise of eCommerce, routine delays in supply chain, changing customer demands, and ruthless competitors. To connect you with consultative insight, the Expert ENGINE team conducted in-depth interviews with retail thought leaders in our longstanding network.

In this installment, retail leader Jeff builds on his recent expert input and sets up our next installment for his four E’s of competitive retail: engagement, experience, entertainment and execution.

 

Three Decades of Retail Experience

Jeff has held executive leadership roles for three major retailers — forerunners in big box, home improvement and major outlet bookselling. Now he works as CEO, leadership coach, retail analyst, and international author, where he provides a “business world hybrid” methodology for the retail clients who need it. In this interview, Jeff discusses changes in customer demand, retailer transparency, social media, brand awareness, speed, efficiency, and seamless customer interactions.

We started with the concept of time — in Jeff’s words, “everyone’s most valuable asset.” That’s why he advises retailers to focus on “speed, efficiency, and seamless interactions” in order to foster a peaceful, pleasant environment — not only for customers, but for their own employees. Brick and mortar locations are competing against 15 minutes (or as little as 30 seconds) for online transactions, and, in turn, customer expectations. For example, customers now experience frustration or disappointment while waiting for an employee to scan an item or look it up and may wonder why they didn’t simply purchase it online. Indeed, given the options at their disposal, Jeff says, “customers are in the driver’s seat now.” Jeff has even branded his own consulting and publishing as the new retail ethos in response to retailers who are committed to antiquated methods and technologies that fail to meet their customers where they are.

 

Customer Experience and Feedback

To that point, Jeff highlights the increasing importance of an exponential environment, which he describes as a “silver lining” from the pandemic era. More than ever, customers want to utilize all five senses when they are shopping: An immersive visceral experience. Jeff often asks clients when they last felt valued as a customer. Sadly, many have trouble recollecting. (I couldn’t.) Jeff stresses the necessity of avoiding high-pressure commission situations — his examples: high-end furniture and car sales — and instead creating an emotional bond with the customer, a practice that includes empathy, compassion, listening, and exemplary service to create “a world-class guest experience.”

In his experience at a major home improvement big box, Jeff made a point of soliciting customer feedback from a variety of demographics (age, gender, partnership) to learn about their shopping experience and to invite them back. Perhaps to reader surprise, Jeff would push customers to share their negative experience — not the easy or common request to report the positive — and genuinely seek an opportunity to improve. He would then address those issues. Many customers focused on time wasted waiting. Now his clients “dig deep” for those executive reviews.

 

75% Detail, 95% Perfection

To that point, Jeff lamented the “major disconnect” between [a] companies’ impressive growth, and [b] the culture and value training within their stores. To amend that gap, he noted that “social media is a gold mine” for shoppers’ positive and negative shoutouts in in-store activity. For one thing, customers can conduct research independently in lieu of old-school pamphlets or flyers or showrooms. Retailers now have the opportunity to “create a perfect omnichannel platform” — like, yes, Amazon — that includes “probably 75% of the information” the customer needs to make a purchase decision. Now review sites (he cites and describes five of them in his consultative training module) provide companies all manner of access to feedback if they choose to take it: “Weak links” in the transaction chain, recommendations, gauges of quality, and more. Often customers report the same issues as one another — so, even if retailers “can’t please everyone,” they can address these repeated complaints by learning what they are and creating an effective timeline for amending them.

In a perfect world, retailers would call every single customer who had a complaint, set a tone for allowing the customer to provide feedback, then implement the changes after the conversation. In his own experience, Jeff would then call the customer again and offer a $25 gift card. Suddenly you — the retailer — have created a positive feedback loop. While understanding that no experience is perfect, you can aim for “the 95-percentile range” in customer experience across your stores.

 

Your 2022 Retail Strategy

How will you create a new strategy this year? What can you expect as the retail industry continues to change? In our next installment — the final chapter of the “Shopping Insights from Retail Experts” blog series — we continue to share Jeff’s industry insights. In the upcoming post, we review the four sacred E’s of competitive retail: Engagement, experience, entertainment and execution. We’ll also discuss changes in customer demand, retailer transparency, social media and brand awareness, speed, efficiency, and seamless customer interactions. Stay tuned!

Interested in working with an expert on a project of your own? Don’t hesitate to explore Expert ENGINE’s network of thousands of experts. Reach out to connect with an enrolled consultant or make use of our limber custom recruiting services anytime.

 

Written by Zaq Baker, Senior Manager, Expert ENGINE

 

 

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