How to become No. 1 in retail customer experience

Delivering exceptional customer experiences isn't something that happens without significant effort.

Delivering exceptional customer experiences isn't something that happens without significant effort. The concept itself is fairly complicated. After all, customer experience doesn't simply equate to a broad amalgamation of satisfaction rates for different shoppers. Instead, it's the totality of every interaction a customer has with a given business. Each touch point is an opportunity to meet, exceed or fall below the expectations each person has when they connect with a company.

Experiences can vary widely. For instance, there are the straightforward, controllable interactions that consumers have with employees behind the counter or on the other end of the phone line. On the other hand, there are instances where the very ease of surfing around an organization's website can influence the customer's perception of the brand. Satisfaction levels in this instance can be a bit more difficult to identify. For in-store experiences, mystery shopping companies occupy a critical role in helping businesses understand what level of customer experience they provide their shoppers on a recurring basis.

Who's at the top of the pile?
Just recently, the 2015 Temkin Customer Experience Ratings were released, a survey that took the pulse of roughly 10,000 consumers in the U.S. to find out how retailers performed, explained Retail Customer Experience. Leading the way this year were PetSmart and Amazon.com, having both scored 82 out of a possible 100. Some of the questions that led the researchers to reach their conclusions included:

  • Can you accomplish what you set out to do during each interaction?
  • How easy is it to work with the company?
  • What are your feelings about each interaction?

Based on shoppers' responses to these inquiries, Temkin Group was able to find an average score. The benchmark score for excellent is 80 or above. At the bottom end of the spectrum was RadioShack, a company that has been plagued with financial trouble as well.

Generally, retailers that are able to provide customers with the product or service they want without too much effort, while also making the interaction enjoyable, are in a strong position to provide a positive customer experience. However, actually implementing a strategy and measuring the results can be complicated.

Prioritize and manage what's possible
According to the Harvard Business Review, there are several steps that companies can take to improve customer experience. From a broad perspective, retailers need to confirm what their brand stands for, especially in the eyes of the consumer. What makes the company stand out? What comes to a customer's mind when they hear the name mentioned. For instance, the mere mention of Apple may mean genius bar and the dozens of store reps walking around looking to help customers every step of the way. With this in mind, it's likely that Apple's intention is to have shoppers feel like they're the sole focus of every experience.

In any case, one of the best ways for companies to track and measure if their staff is meeting their proscribed goals for service and customer experience is to make use of mystery shoppers. These individuals have direct interactions with staff and are able to record whether a worker meets the brand's standards.