“My Oberon, what visions have I seen! Methought I was enamoured of an ass” – Titania, Act IV, Scene1
W.Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
One beautiful day, you decide to take a stroll down the main street where your shop lives and notice how nice most shops look along the boulevard. You realise that your shop front could possibly do with a coat of paint and engage one of the most reputable shop front designers in the market, Peter Quince, which kinda hurts your back pocket. A few weeks after doing up the shop front, you notice that foot traffic has increased. New customers walk through the door; they love your loss leader items at the front of the shop. Over time you notice the till is doing only just marginally better than before the shop make-over.
Concerned, you phone up Peter, and as proof for a job well-done he offers 2 solid arguments:
• Did you notice an increase in foot-traffic after the shop front was done up?
• Were you able to retain your existing customers after the job. Did you consider what your existing customers would have done had you not done up the shop front?
You have a chat with a few other shop owners over coffee to pick their brains. One of the folks you chat with believe you have been conned and makes 2 points:
• The World of Snoopy, down the road is a thriving business despite a poor shop front; other folks dispute this example, saying it is a well-known place to procuring sniffing powder
• Exilsior, is an exclusive distributor for a secret potion which delivers a long and healthy life. They have customers queuing at the door every day. Their outlet is not that flash!
You decide that you don’t want to be the World of Snoopy, and cannot be Exilsior since you can’t get your hands on an elixir. You still feel, considering the time, effort and money you spent on your refurbishment, you do not have much to show for. What else may your customers have been concerned about? What would you need to do to find out?
Next thing, your home computer is playing up. You are going to the city next Friday and decide to wait till then to visit the Apple store. On Friday, you reach the city early and see people queueing in front of the Apple Store already. Must be the store-front right? Through the glass façade you notice the shop room is slick and uncluttered. Sales staff are dressed in T-Shirts, look cool and approachable.
When the store opens, the concierge directs you upstairs to the service area which you reach by making your way up a glass staircase, where you are met by another concierge. Luckily you don’t have to wait much to get an audience with Titania, your tech guru. Patient and lovely, she explains how you need to proceed to book an appointment online next time you come to the store to ensure you don’t waste your time. Your problem is solved, you only needed to replace your power cable. They seem to get a few more things right than just the store front at Apple, right? Only, you don’t really understand why you had to pay $99 for a piece of wire and reluctantly chose to stay put and not replace the battery on your machine, since it would probably be wiser, at such expense, to buy a new machine.
On your way home, while you are on the train, you pull out your phone and read about the latest trends in retail. The article refers to the rise of Amazon and like the below quote by Jeff Bezos:
“Our focus is on customer obsession rather than competitor obsession, eagerness to invent and pioneer, willingness to fail, the patience to think long-term, and the taking of professional pride in operational excellence.”
Now, you start to understand why lines of credits for your existing business have appeared to be harder work lately than in the heydays.
Retail may not be your thing, but if you ever invested your time, effort or money in Customer experience it is quite likely you may feel like our shop owner at some point in this journey. You might even be asking yourself profound existential questions already. How can you get the biggest bang from your bucks? What approach would you need to take to identify customer pain points? What would delight customers? When does it make sense to ‘delight’ customers?
And, if you are lucky enough to come from an industry which is yet to be disrupted by a player who “gets” customer experience the way Amazon or Apple do, then it is really just a matter of time before you see the equivalent of an Amazon surface.
Sadly, though, there is no such thing as a wonder hit when it comes to Customer Experience. Since loyalty matters for most businesses, we are in it for the long run. Not a one-night stand, but a marriage of some sort. Played in the ‘Woodlands’ of bricks and mortar as well as in the Digital Space ‘Fairyland’, for the best of times and for the worst of times.
Which, in real terms, means that organisations may need to back up every one of their moves to stay ahead, since customers will be judging them based on their weakest link, during every episode, whether they want to make a purchase, get help, get advice or renew a partnership or their subscription.