Today I have the pleasure of having a guest blogger on Customers Rock! C. B. Whittemore is the blogging maven at Flooring the Consumer, a fantastic blog. She has put together a rockin’ post for you, so grab a cup of coffee and take your time reading it. It is a perfect match for my blog. Thanks so much, C. B.!
To Rock or Not To Rock
What’s the difference between companies where customers rock and those where they don’t?
Where customers don’t rock, companies tend to focus on product, on price, on their own internal systems, and not on adding value, creating a memorable experience and building loyalty. We’ve all been in those places… They’re uninspired, grim places that drive you out as quickly as possible. Employees tend to be surly, resentful and unhelpful.
In places where customers rock, the opposite happens. Rocking retail environments practically sing out to consumers inviting them in to explore and imagine the possibilities within. For example, an Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters store disavows direct selling [i.e., NO HARD SELL!] because that conflicts with a customer rocking attitude. Talk about an experience! These stores are magical in how they have been designed to engage the senses – beautiful juxtapositions in product displays, unusual materials [e.g., old bricks wide, sun bleached planks] used in-store to create a wall or a shelf, intriguing scents – and welcome all those interested and not so interested [they offer comfortable seating]. Essentially, customer rocking companies design the whole experience – their processes, their communications, their product assortment and display, their follow up, their interactions – from the customer’s perspective rather than their own.
A customer rocking retailer exudes passion and enthusiasm for the product, the category and how it adds value to a customer’s life. Everyone working within feels energized, empowered, and focused on how to provide customers with meaningful value.
Customers inevitably react with delight and curiosity, appreciation, and heightened expectations. And once that customer has fully experienced what that company has to offer, she leaves feeling good about the transaction and more than willing to engage in a series of transactions – otherwise known as a relationship – for additional purchases. She also tells everyone she knows about this amazing customer-centric or customer-focused organization she just encountered. In other words, it generates intense loyalty.
Now, some organizations might respond by saying “we don’t want those customers walking all over us; we’re not going to give it all away!” That’s not the point.
The point is truly understanding and appreciating our business from the customer’s perspective to make us easier to interact with, to eliminate any friction between his or her buying process and our selling process, and to make each feel really good about doing business with us.
So, we’re not talking about a relationship where the customer walks all over us, but rather a relationship of equals where both parties benefit. The customer must feel that she is obtaining value from the experience. After all, if the consumer spends money in our establishment, she is rejecting the commodity experience and acknowledging that we represent significant value over and above the cost of the item. At the same time, we must earn a return for that value to remain in business.
Many customer rocking organizations put tremendous effort into acknowledging and nurturing the relationships they have developed with their customers. After all, that loyalty literally represents the key to profitability and that ongoing acknowledgment means that the creation of value never diminishes.
I have a strong preference for Continental Airlines. Even when I fly for pleasure, I only consider Continental. The reason? I feel intense loyalty toward them. They rock! They have made a significant effort to meet the needs of business travelers by redesigning the travel bins to fit luggage, and coming up with small ways of making travel less onerous [e.g., Elite Access to expedite the security screening process]. Yes, I participate in their loyalty program, but I don’t get upgraded very much [flights too full]. I appreciate, though, the on-line advance check in, the weather report for the city I’m traveling to, the food that Continental still serves in flight, the friendly and professional staff…. The overall experience is geared toward making my flying experience just a little easier. I feel valued and I’m grateful.
Another organization that rocks for me is Coldwater Creek. It sells attractive, fun, well-made and fairly priced apparel. Its catalogs delight me with how outfits are put together, and colors and patterns coordinated. The catalog cover inevitably features an inspiring nature shot – sometimes Georgia O’Keefe-like, sometimes more Monet-ish, but always beautiful and colorful. The store experience itself is a delight: nice flow, comfortable chairs, engaging outfits and a big focus on welcoming consumers and helping them, particularly during the changing room experience. In fact, the store dedicates a store associate to the changing room to help facilitate the process, search for different sizes or coordinate options not to mention help entertain busy 5 year olds! During my most recent experience, the woman in the changing room did all of that plus help me locate on-line the product I wanted in the correct size, and she then made sure that the on-line folks honored the in-store sale price on the item + no shipping charges because I couldn’t find the item in-store. The dedicated and passionate sales help I encountered combined with all of the other aspects of my Coldwater Creek experience make this a treasured resource.
I bet you can come up with your own customer rocking examples that have earned your loyalty. What about your own organization? How do you nurture your customer relationships? Do customers rock, or do they not – and how do you demonstrate that?