Technology has fundamentally changed the customer experience. No longer is it all about eye contact, a firm handshake, and a solid product.
Those things are still part of the picture, but these days, customers want an omnichannel experience. They care about online shopping, mobile accessibility, in-store conditions, and, of course, free shipping.
The real challenge? Giving them a great experience without a great cost to your business. Here’s what you might be missing:
1. Soup up your store.
When customers walk in your door, what do they see? A bright, clean, and comfortable shop? Or a dingy, dirty one?
Your store is your home base, and both men and women spend more in-store than they do online on a typical basis. Keep it clean and tidy. Invest in some new furniture, light fixtures, and cozy rugs.
Don’t skimp, but look for ways to save money when remodeling. Group purchasing organizations like Una leverage the collective buying power of their members, giving even small businesses the buying power of large enterprises.
2. Emphasize empathy.
Empathy is good for business, especially in times like these. Customers come to you with a need, and the last thing they want is to get the cold shoulder from your staff.
Conduct empathy training. There are multiple ways to do it:
- Take role-playing seriously
When your team members learn to put themselves in the shoes of the customer, they’ll be that much more able to connect.
- Launch a book club
Research shows that reading fiction builds empathy. Choose a book everyone is interested in, and ask people to read just a chapter a week. Be sure to discuss the characters and their motivations at a weekly meeting.
- Say “please” and “thank you”
Practicing common courtesy reminds us that we’re human beings. We all want to be treated with respect, and small words can be a big deal.
3. Get packaging right.
If you’re a product company, your packaging is one of the key ways customers judge your business. Be sure to get it right.
Think about function, form, and sustainability. Questions to ask yourself include:
- Does the packaging actually protect the product?
Unboxing a broken product is the worst kind of user experience. When in doubt, add cushion.
- Does the packaging look sleek, put-together, or unusual?
There’s a reason Apple products come in beautiful matte boxes. Eye-catching packaging helps sell products and provides a premium experience.
- Is the packaging good for the environment?
Nobody wants to buy a mess of plastic, only to throw it away. Minimizing unnecessary materials saves you money and makes the consumer feel better about his or her purchase.
4. Cut red tape around shipping.
If anything turns customers off, it’s having to pay for shipping. Three-quarters expect free shipping, even on orders under $50.
Think of free shipping as a loss leader. Even if you have to eat a little money on smaller orders to provide it, it’s worth the squeeze. Customers who know shipping is free will buy more and come back again.
Ask, too, if your shipper can help you save money. Perhaps a weekly pickup is cheaper than daily. Maybe you can drive packages to the shipping facility yourself.
5. Don’t forget about face time.
Your branding is even more important when you do business online. The customer is less likely to engage you on a personal level, so you have to work harder to humanize yourself.
If it works with your business model, consider adding an actual face to the transaction via online video chat. And, of course, mind the basics: Be nice to a fault. Promptly respond to emails. Use customers’ names in verbal or written conversations. Create the feel of a brick-and-mortar environment online as much as you can.
However you interact with your customers, it’s important to treat them how you’d want to be treated. That means giving them a comfortable environment, online and off. It means listening to them, respecting their values with your packaging, and meeting their shipping expectations.
When it comes to the customer experience, don’t underestimate the value of the small things. Put them together, and they become a big deal — and a big competitive advantage.