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Customer Experience Engineering - part one

 

Over the past few years, I have conducted a survey of customers to understand their likelihood to return to a retailer based on the "experience" they had shopping there. I would stand outside a retail store and talk to customers as they left or I would post on an online survey or even sent surveys to customers via email through various retailers. 

 

What was remarkable is that after thousands of submissions and interviews over the last three years, the data has remained the same.

Customers no longer want their expectations met in retail - they want them EXCEEDED! I grew up in a time when customer service in retail was all about "satisfying" the customer. The problem with that idea is that for the customer - that is simply not enough anymore. 

In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace where your competition is not only the other stores in town, and also the other stores online, this fact should scare the heck out of you. After all, as a customer, it is very easy to have your expectations met by an online retailer. You know what you want (at least you think you do). You search for it online. You buy it. They ship it to your home. And your expectations are met. Simple - as long as the order is in stock, it ships property, the website works on the first try, etc.

If you want to compete today, you can no longer be in the business of just meeting expectations— you have to EXCEED them!

There is no other path. This is the reason why so many believe loyalty is dead; because even if you do your job right, the customer still shops around next time. In my book, Signs Sell, co-authored with the great Rick Segel, I coined the term "experience engineering." 

To exceed expectations, you must become an “experience engineer.”.

Experience Engineering is the art and science of engineering experiences that leave a lasting impression on every customer, every time. 

In this case, the engineer is really a retailing expert— - someone who “begins with the end in mind.” In other words, they start with what the customer experience needs to be (in our case one that exceeds expectations) and then creates or engineers the processes, policies,  training, promotions, store design, signage, and hiring back with the end goal in mind. 

Think back to the time when you first opened your store. You probably were an engineer, but not an experience one. You focused on the brand and the look and the design of your store. But did you consider what the customer experience would be? Probably not. I know I didn't with my first store. I was focused on inventory and merchandising. I was more worried about my logo than I was the customer experience. 

True, none of us ignore the customer in our planning - at least that we will admit - but to be an experienced engineer, you have to be the customer and not be the store owner.

Consider this, when you examine your store, you are thinking like a store owner. You look at the cleanliness and the signage and the visual merchandising. Your focus is increasing sales or cutting expenses. You view your store through the lens of the P&L statement. 

But your customer views your store very differently. They view it through the lens of experience. Consider this, is your favorite restaurant the one with the fanciest interior and finish out? Is it the one with the most expensive food? Or is it the one you have the best time at? Research proves it's the latter. It's the experience you have when dining there that makes it memorable. Some of my favorite places are pretty old and ugly to look at, but the people and the food make it a fun experience. In fact, the outdated interior and the "hole-in-the-wall" atmosphere are part of the appeal. (But I never use the bathroom there.) 

Follow the Experience Engineering techniques in the second part of this article.

 Compiled in Editorial Board of Retail iran

  

 

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