Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Are you experienced?

Retailers and really anyone that needs to sell you SOMETHING are more focused on the customer experience than ever today. They're starting to realize that in a market where something can become a commodity so fast it can make your head spin, your survival might rely on it. There are all kinds of thought leaders in this area. I tend to keep track of Kelly Mooney and the gang over at Resource Interactive as folks that have some great insights, but there are countless examples out there. So... when my daily NRF SmartBrief came to my inbox yesterday with an article from the NYT about the Samsung Experience store in Manhattan and I thought it was a great time to chime in for a minute about what it means to have an "excellent customer experience."

Now, I'm sure that someone could write a long case study on this stuff, in fact I'm sure many have. But, really it boils down to this; If your customer's demands are met, then you've provided a good customer experience. If they begin to choose you over your competitors on a regular basis, you're providing a great customer experience. If they choose you so often that your competitor either starts to copy you, or loses market share, you are providing a superior customer experience. What happens... the "customer" begins to "trust" you. So... I think of a superior customer experience as one of "trust" of you, your service, your product(s) and your ability to meet their "need."

In the NYT article, they talk about the Samsung Experience store and how you can't buy anything in it (gasp!). You just get to try out cool Samsung stuff. They also talk about the new ATT Experience stores that are coming, which will highlight the new capabilities of "the new ATT" with wireless, voice, web, and TV coming together on one platform. Both of these brands realize that the more interaction people have with your products... the opportunity to investigate on your own... the more they learn about you... and develop a trustworthy relationship with your brand. Once you have that... you have a brand affinity that will follow them.

When I was at Famous Footwear, we learned this lesson to some degree with some store redesign concepts based around ease of shopping and also simple things like the ability to easily sit down and try shoes on. Instead of the "pile it high and it'll fly" approach that was ESPECIALLY prevalent in Shoe Retailing (remember walking into the store and seeing boxes of shoes stacked to the ceiling???) we made more room for benches, better lighting, etc. We differentiated ourselves on this as well as better product. We TALKED about it with the beginnings of the "more shoes more ways" marketing campaign. And guess what? It worked! More sales, happier-more loyal customers... and a record year in 2006 for Famous Footwear.

In short, the "experience" is the WHOLE THING. It is a concerted effort on behalf of your WHOLE TEAM to meet the customer's needs... and building trust in them so that they pick YOU rather than YOUR COMPETITOR.

So... with that discussion in mind... I pose the question (borrowing from the late great Jimi Hendrix); Are you experienced?

Would love to hear your thoughts... either meebome at the right or comment.

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