Have you ever shopped at a store where the employees went above and beyond for you? So much so that you left the store with a literal smile on your face and a warm feeling working its way through your body?
What you’re experiencing are the aftereffects of flawless customer experience.
Surprise coupons, free desserts, and caring cashiers— moments so sincere and surprising, you believe there’s no way they were planned. But they were. A lot of research, meetings, re-branding, messaging, and training goes into a flawless customer experience. Businesses are watching customers and listening to their feedback. They’re redrafting their mission statements. They’re training employees to follow-through and renovating lobbies and store aisles to meet your expectations.
Flawless customer experience isn’t easy. If it was, we’d never wait impatiently in line again. In their quest for better customer experience, some companies fail miserably (I’m sure we can all think of a few!), but others shine so brightly, their logos practically flash in our brains when we simply hear the word “customer experience.”
From its simple return policy to its TextStyle feature that lets customers place orders via text message, Nordstrom embodies flawless customer experience.
It personalizes its service by giving every customer a personal assistant. These associates usually end up sending emails or handwritten notes to each and every customer after a purchase. Nordstrom also respects customers’ time with its mobile in-store checkout. It even embraces the unexpected with tales of associates who iron clothes for customers, make personal home deliveries, and refund tire chains…despite not selling them.
How is the company able to keep such a flawless customer experience alive? With a team of employees dedicated to the follow-through. Employees are told to “use good judgment” and are trained in a variety of mannerisms that make all the difference, from never pointing at clothes racks to walking you’re bagged purchased around the counter and into your hands.
While some may think of long lines around shopping mall kiosks, pumpkin spice, and baristas misspelling your name, for a great many more (60 million people per week) Starbucks is a symbol of flawless customer experience.
Like Nordstrom, the experience is personalized. Coffees are delivered by name (even if that name isn’t always correct). Starbucks locations are designed around comfort and focused on the idea of making the most of a customer’s time. Customers can read the paper, charge their devices, or hold a writing group. There are business meetings and literature classes and job interviews. Time spent at a Starbucks is usually never wasted.
Starbucks has also shown itself to be an avid listener. In 2012, the chain revamped its menu to include more than just coffee to cater to its customers’ needs. It also actively engages with its more than 50 million social media followers.
Much like eating at Starbucks, shopping at the Swedish furniture company IKEA is very much an experience. From winding through the warehouse-sized display rooms to dining in the store’s cafeteria to attempting to puzzle the furniture together yourself, IKEA has found a way to create leisurely afternoons and funny stories of furniture assembly fails, all of which keep customers coming back.
IKEA disrupted the way customers shop for furniture and continues to do so, relying on the element of the unexpected to keep customers engaged. For example, the store’s “Swipe a Surprise” promotion awarded every customer who made a purchase with a gift, whether that was a meal from the cafeteria or a gift card worth hundreds.
At Sweetgreen, the flawless experience starts as soon as you enter the restaurant. An open, clean kitchen where the fresh ingredients are visible. A smiling team member who walks you through the order from beginning to end (unlike other assembly-line restaurants). White walls and pictures of farms. All pieces flow together in what Sweetgreen’s co-founder Nathaniel Ru calls “service design.”
Like all other examples in this list, Sweetgreen has come to understand how important time is to customers. An app allows customers to order their food beforehand and skip the line. The restaurant has also eliminated cash, leading to cleaner and quicker service.
Sweetgreen also boasts what is perhaps the most dedicated team of employees. There’s sincere follow-through on the company’s mission statement. Executives meet with area farmers regularly to learn about the season’s produce. Employees who work at Sweetgreen remain dedicated to the company’s mission of fresh, healthy food and follow the company’s principles outside the restaurant.
What Can You Do?
So what can you learn from these companies? What can you do to start delivering better customer experience?
- Seek opportunities to personalize your interactions with customers
- Make the most of customers’ time and search for ways you can turn the time they spend with your brand into a memorable experience
- Encourage follow-through with your employees and make sure they’re committing to the mission your brand shares
Delivering a flawless customer experience won’t happen overnight, but if you look at companies doing customer experience right, companies like Nordstrom or IKEA, you may learn a thing or two to get a pretty good start.
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