Customer Service Is More Important Than Anything

Photo from Corbis.com © Corbis 2014

Photo from Corbis.com © Corbis 2014

 

A recent customer service experience reinforced in my mind, how important customer service is to your business. It doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, product maker, service provider – understand your customers and how to take care of them. That should be the number one rule for your business.

A Bad Buying Experience

In my example I was simply a customer looking to use a dealer parts coupon to get $80 off of a $1,000 set of run flat tires. Not a big deal, and I had cleared it with a service representative when I made the appointment. Turns out they wouldn’t honor our agreement when I went to drop my car off. They explained the price was already discounted (it wasn’t, I had checked pricing and got several other quotes which were in line with the dealer’s price quote) and I was getting a good deal (I wasn’t – install was $25 / tire and they were going to make me get an alignment).

So despite the fact my family woke up early and drove across town to help me drop the car off, I walked out, taking my business, and future business elsewhere.

Now whether you think I over reacted or not (I didn’t), it was so refreshing as a consumer to feel empowered. I don’t have enough time, money or desire to play games as a consumer. I had another tire dealer on the phone before I was out of the parking lot and they took care of me. The dealer lost a long time customer (we’ve bought three cars there) over an $80 discount.

Focus On Customer Service

Successful businesses build mutually beneficial relationships that encourage people to part with their money, goods or services in exchange for money, goods, or services. To me this is what customer service is: building, managing and maintaining those relationships.

Business is not just “business” if you want to be in business for long.

There are so many options for spending one’s time and money in this omni-channel world. Customer service is the most important aspect of business. Guests are more informed and have less perceived time more now than ever. Yes, they will linger or buy on a whim, but more often they do their homework and have the value of something in mind before they buy. They know what they want, how much they are willing to pay, and can likely rattle off a handful of places where they can get it besides you or your business.

The economy in this country is humming along at a steady pace. So there are people out there spending money, and they are empowered more so now than ever. Yes, it’s a two-way street. Customers should reward businesses that do a good job. But you can’t control that. What you can control is how your business operates and approaches customer service.

We work in the retail design business. The displays, fixtures and interiors we design enhance the experience of shopping for your guests and potential customers. I see our work as a subset of, or secondary to, customer service. We can design things that make guests go “wow”, making it easy and enjoyable to buy things from you.

But nothing we can design will compensate for bad customer service.

If you want them to come to you to buy what you are selling, then you need to make customer service the priority in your business. It’s where the rubber meets the road (pun intended).

-Chris

Chris Weigand is the president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a retail design agency that services customers by providing world class retail research, display, fixture, space planning, and interior design services. Visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com or call them at (330) 858-8926 to learn more.

Retailing: Putting the “Experience” in Retail Experience

I’m not afraid to admit it: I love shopping. I like parking, walking into a store, exploring and maybe even going home with a goodie or two. Shopping doesn’t even have to do with buying more stuff. Day dreaming in a store with an awesome retail experience can be fulfilling enough.

Anyway, so when the opportunity came to travel two hours south to Columbus for business, I made sure to schedule a stop at Cabela’s on the way home. Not only do they have awesome outdoor products, their retail experience is generally second to none.

Retail experience

The Columbus store is a relatively small one compared to others in this midwest based retail chain. Even smaller stores though benefit from their unique retail experience. They have real “store within a store” destinations including a den-like gun-room and bargain basement. I always enjoy taking a look at the large aquarium with native fish species represented inside, supplemented with informative signage. Behind the tank is a large “mountain” with stuffed animals (think taxidermy, not the things in your kid’s bedroom).

Hello beaver and mountain lion.

Exploring products

As with most stores I like to walk the outside “racetrack” then delve into each department. But first I made stop for lunch at the in-store cafe. I did not partake in the extensive offering of fudge, but I was delighted to sit and enjoy a smoked bison sandwich. It was really good, along with a side of potato salad. Sadly the potato salad was not made on-site.

Hunger satiated, I grabbed a shopping cart with the intent of picking up impromptu presents for the family. It was easy to find a variety of token needful things to take home: a compass, lip balm, a little bird whistle, even some jerky to snack on for the ride home. The selection was expansive and easy to navigate. For myself I scored an awesome rain coat on clearance. Each department has overhead signage, taking advantage of long sight-lines.

There are also a lot of associates who are willing to help out confused shoppers (i.e. me). As an aside, don’t forget that human beings are part of your shopping experience for guests. Make sure they understand your mission, are approachable and helpful. I had several dumb questions that were handled by store personnel with aplomb.

Omni-channel done effectively

Their catalog offers more products than you could ever put in a store of this size, so Cabela’s does a nice job of mating on-line with in-store shopping experiences. There are a half-dozen interactive kiosks peppered throughout the store. I took one for a test drive and found the familiar website experience supplemented with in-store specific options such as checking inventory, or even printing a ticket to help locate items in-store. Want something that isn’t available in store? Order it on the kiosk and get free shipping. I wonder if my item could beat me home if I was shopping further from home. Hmmm.

Cabela’s started out as a catalog merchant. As they moved into brick and mortar, retail experience has always been a foremost focus, and they’ve executed well in that light. Now as on-line and in-store start to meld it appears they’re able to leverage both areas of their expertise. As a retail designer it’s well worth a stop out to one of their stores to get inspired and get some ideas of how you can up the experience at retail. You may even go home with some jerky which isn’t a bad thing.

Check out the gallery below to see what we’re talking about.

Do you love shopping?

What are your favorite retail experiences?

Share in the comments below.

-Chris Weigand

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a boutique retail design agency. He’s been creating experiences at retail for nearly 20 years. He’s been shopping for a lot longer than that. Visit their website at www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information or to contact Chris. We welcome the chance to share our love of retail with you, and help create wonderful experiences for your guests. We don’t work for or endorse Cabela’s, we just like shopping there and other great retail stores. Buy your jerky wherever you’d like.