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Lisbiz strategies: Improving the customer experience is job No. 1

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By Lisbeth Calandrino

I was recently at my yearly cardiologist visit and noticed that everyone was so friendly, funny and helpful. This is in contrast to my primary care physician’s office where everyone is aloof and looks down at the patients.

It’s a very interesting contrast. I love my cardiologist and dislike my primary care physician. I’ve researched both practices, and everyone loves the CEO of the cardiology department—the love is “not so much” at my primary care physician.

Changing the customer experience can be costly and time consuming, but it ultimately starts at the top. The CEO sets the tone for the entire company.

If the CEO rages when things go wrong, he/she is setting the tone for the company’s culture. This tone trickles down to the employees, who treat the customers the same way they’re being treated. Unless the CEO makes the customer experience a priority, the customer experience will not improve.

Think about what is at the top of your customer’s list: saving time and personalization. Amazon Prime has taught us that at the click of a mouse, our order will be delivered the next day. Need food? Blue Apron and Hello Fresh will have delicious, pre-measured ingredients and simple, chef-made recipes delivered to your door.

If you aren’t interested in saving the customer precious time, someone else will. While Macy’s is dying a slow death, Stich Fix—an online retailer that offers personalized styling services—had a powerful IPO this year. Let’s face it, Macy’s comes from a model that would be described as “old retail.” Paring down sales staff and closing stores to become more efficient will not help them with customers who want something different. What happened to the “wow” factor? Can’t a department store be fun and entertaining? They should look outside their own box and take an idea or two from the Mall of America, which has invested in becoming a destination.

These days, personalization is more demanding. In the 1980s, my friend Ruth worked for a department store that catered to high-end customers. She knew what her customers wore, and she would pick out clothes for them four times a year and just ship them. It was pretty simple.

Sephora has also done a great job of creating personalized experiences for customers by marrying online and offline engagement strategies. All of this takes augmented reality and other tools that many retailers are not ready for. Sephora’s technology allows customers to try on different looks via their phone.

So why aren’t we there? By 2020, it’s estimated we’ll produce 44 zettabytes every day. That’s equal to 44 trillion gigabytes. That’s a lot of data—and most companies cannot process fast enough to keep up with it. Frontline employees are generally operating with data that’s “too little, too late.”

No, we can’t taste food over the phone yet. Online is still not the same as connecting with a real person—yet. However, some brands are making it possible for customers to shop a clothing store and virtually try on items.

The solutions to growing a better customer experience are becoming more sophisticated. It’s obvious that technology will be improving the customer experience, but first we have to take it seriously. The store culture has to make the experience a priority. Maybe your artificial intelligence isn’t there yet, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are willing to change when the tools are available.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.