I love Tom Peters’ book The Little Big Things, 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence. The premise of his book is that nothing he writes will be profoundly new but that sometimes all we need is a reminder or a reframing to spark ingenuity or change. In one chapter, he lists 46 strategies for dealing with the Great Recession. There are many good tips in this list, for both businesses and people who just want to be good humans, but one idea in particular struck me as we work our way back from all that 2020 and 2021 have thrown our way:
“You re-double and re-triple your efforts to ‘walk in your customers’ shoes.’”
We all do this already, don’t we? Yes, we view our websites as the first introduction to our stores and work to be sure our customers are able to find what they need on them. We spend energy focused on making the showroom look amazing and inspirational. We even pivoted to address the fear and anxiety of shopping at the peak of COVID-19 – can we say BOPIS?! But is there more opportunity to win raving fans, despite the challenges still facing retail today? I say, yes – resoundingly so.
With social distancing requirements, inventory shortages and supply chain delays, the world of retail has been increasingly tough. Compound this with increased spending focused on the home, and the pressure to delight customers will take renewed focus. With so much out of our control, what can be done to ensure a great customer experience?
Let’s embrace the lemons and make the best lemonade around.
- Tell them exactly what they want to know. Shoppers have gotten significantly more digitally savvy and want to cut through all the clutter. Use your advertising to promote what you have in-stock or with quick delivery. Share realistic delivery outcomes and why things are taking so much longer than previously experienced. Don’t sugarcoat the situation; each customer should feel they made an informed purchase decision.
- Stay in contact once the sale has been made. This may be the most influential time period, regardless of the length of time. Is the delivery still weeks out? Use this time to surprise and delight with frequent updates on where things stand. A call from the sales rep with a short update will likely diffuse frustrations from a lack of visibility. Rinse and repeat every two weeks or so until delivery is scheduled. Empathy, clear communication and frequency are the most critical factors to winning fans at this phase.
- When the delivery day finally arrives, make it a memorable moment. They’ve likely been waiting two to three times longer than they originally planned when they came in to purchase, and the day is finally here. Make it a celebration. Consider the impact that a single rose and thank you card from the salesperson would make. Or set aside some marketing funds to create a gift box with cookies, cupcakes or locally famous snacks that gets delivered with the product. Small touches like these can take what might be a negative customer survey experience because of the length of time and turn it into a positive, feel-good event that the customer is likely to share.
- Encourage your sales reps to reach out to the customer six weeks post-delivery. Why – the product has been delivered? Well, this step will aid in customer retention efforts for years to come. At this point, the salesperson is someone the customer recognizes and trusts. Use this touchpoint to ensure complete satisfaction and encourage them to shop again with this trusted employee.
In the vein of Tom Peters, none of this is groundbreaking, but sometimes a reminder can lead to our own ideas and that’s what I hope all retailers will take from this. While we can’t control much of what’s happening in retail today, we can make some pretty sweet lemonade for our customers and neighbors.
This article was first published in the May 2021 issue of Retail Observer.