Ever since the customer took center-stage, retailers have consistently asked themselves the same question: What does the customer want?
Over the years, answers have ranged from higher quality products to more affordable pricing. For today’s consumer, it’s all about the experience, and 1 in 3 consumers will leave a brand after one bad experience. They expect outstanding service throughout the entire customer journey, starting with initial contact and finishing with post purchase support.
To do this, retailers can explore a number of avenues including investing in technology, offering personalized experiences, and our personal favorite—optimizing employee training.
But don’t just take our word for it. Instead, hear from 10 leaders - from founders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and best-selling authors - on the value of CX and its many influencing effects.
Shifting consumer expectations
1. "Your brand is not what you sell; it's the experience you deliver." - Tony Hsieh, Former CEO, Zappos
Former CEO of online clothing retailer Zappos, Tony Hsieh, was known for his focus on enhancing CX and exceeding customer expectations through innovation. While at Zappos, he fostered a customer-centric culture that emphasized customer service, employee empowerment, and building long-term relationships.
Here, Tony is touching on the shift in consumer expectations—having the best product is no longer enough, instead, consumers want a memorable experience at every touch point. Your brand must exist ‘phygitally’ - in the same manner across the internet, in-store, in your communications, and within each step within each process that a consumer might undergo in their interaction with you. And do so well.
Zappos, generating 75% of purchases from returning customers, are a brand who highlight mastery of omnichannel in a world with seemingly infinite customer touchpoints.
The importance of feedback
2. "Your most unhappy customer are your greatest source of learning." - Bill Gates
Bill Gates is…well, he’s Bill Gates. The Microsoft founder and former world's richest man is about as famous as anyone, so we’ll keep his introduction brief.
Gates understands that you can only improve by talking to those who are unsatisfied. Customers offer the most valuable insight as they are the ones who interact with your products and services. They point out flaws in the process, and their opinions let you better understand the needs of your customer base, in order to tweak accordingly.
Despite their dizzying success, Microsoft strives for constant improvement, and seeks customer feedback via a variety of methods that include feedback hubs, customer forums, and customer surveys.
The role of emotion in CX
3. "Customers may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel." - Horst Schulze
Horst Schulze is a hotel executive and co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. He is renowned for his customer-centric approach and focus on providing an outstanding CX. Under his leadership, the Ritz-Carlton became synonymous with industry-leading customer service, and the hotel consistently ranks at the top of guest satisfaction.
With 83% of consumers stating they are more likely to purchase from a brand they have an emotional connection with, Schulze optimized his hotel’s CX by ensuring teams on the ground and across locations were upskilled in the art of engaging in meaningful conversations, building relationships, and ensuring each and every guest felt at home
The ROI of outstanding customer service
4. "If you make a sale, you make a living. If you make in investment of time and good service in a customer, you can make a fortune." - Jim Rohn
Jim Rohn was an American entrepreneur and motivational speaker who focused on the relationship between human behavior and business performance.
Rohn understood the financial benefit of good customer service and how it far outweighs a one-time transaction.
A positive customer experience not only increases sales, but also results in repeat business, positive word-of-mouth recommendations and a higher customer lifetime value—all of which increase revenue over the long-term.
5. "Customer service is not a cost center; it's a revenue generator. Exceptional service leads to repeat business and referrals." - Micah Solomon
Micah Solomon is a best-selling author and thought leader on building growth through customer service, and was recently named ‘new guru of customer service excellence’ by the Financial Post.
Solomon is referencing the dichotomy in attitude among businesses looking to invest in CX. In one camp are those who view optimizing CX as too great an upfront cost to invest in. In the other are businesses that realize that the immediate costs of optimization are eventually exceeded by the resulting revenue. Companies with outstanding customer experience, like Disney, fall into the latter category, proving that the experience always pays off.
Personalizing customer experiences
6. "Personalization is the key to cutting through the noise and making a meaningful connection with customers." - Angela Ahrendts, Former SVP of Retail at Apple
Angela Ahrendts is former SVP of Apple’s retail and online stores who played a huge role in the often written about customer experience provided by Apple’s retail arm. She also worked for fashion brand Burberry, helping mitigate the brand's decline in prestige.
Personalization is now a key element to CX, something Ahrendts was acutely aware of. In fact, 80% of customers say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences.
Under Ahrendts’ leadership, Apple revolutionized its CX approach, offering free workshops to customers in order to engage with on a more personal level, leveraging customer data to learn more about each consumer, and providing personal set up sessions for those who are new to Apple products.
Attention to detail
7. "In customer experience, the little things are the big things. Pay attention to every detail." - Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken is a global authority on customer experience and has worked with notable companies, including Disney and FedEx, as well as smaller and mid-sized businesses, helping optimize their own customer service and experience.
Here, Hyken is highlighting the need for total optimization, including smaller things that may seem insignificant. To hark back to the exemplary Disney - the business sanitizes their pools using bromine as opposed to the conventional chlorine, though bromine carries a heftier price tag.
Why? The less abrasive bromine means less irritated skin. A behind the scenes switch up that is entirely imperceptible to swimmers, but for the brand means the difference between a negative and positive customer experience, and the subsequent domino effect and onward implications each carry.
8. "Technology is not just a tool; it's the foundation of modern cusotmer experience." - Brian Chesky, Co-Founder & CEO of Airbnb
Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb, grew the company from small startup to a global platform, connecting millions of hosts with travelers in search of homes and experiences.
It’s no surprise that Chesky considers technology to be the foundation of CX. Airbnb can be considered revolutionary in the way it leveraged technology to streamline the booking process, offer a secure payment system, and provide in-app messaging for a smooth experience all-around.
And the results are impressive - the online marketplace boasts similar occupancy rates to hotels, and actually outperformed the hotel industry during the pandemic.
Today's conscious consumer
9. "Businesses that prioritize conscious consumerism and embed it into their CX strategy will gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace." - Indra Nooyi, Former CEO of PepsiCo
Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, holding the position from 2006 to 2018. Possessing a deep understanding of Pepsi’s customer base, Nooyi brought Pepsi’s CX strategy into the 21st century.
Today’s consumers are increasingly conscious of who they do business with, and one third of global consumers would abandon their favorite brand if it doesn’t align with their personal values.
Nooyi understands that businesses can create an industry advantage by incorporating the values of their consumers into their marketing strategy. And this shift was something Nooyi oversaw, accelerating Pepsi’s movement towards the ethos of sustainability, environmental stewardship, and corporate responsibility during her time in charge.
Optimize CX with employee training
10. "Empowered and well-trained employees are the heart and soul of delivering outstanding customer experiences." - John Zimmer, Co-Founder of Lyft
John Zimmer, American entrepreneur and co-founder of ride-sharing app, Lyft, was heavily involved in the shaping of the brand’s customer experience, focusing on building a sense of reliability and trust between driver and passenger.
Zimmer understands that the only way to optimize your CX is by optimizing your employees. After all, they are the ones who deliver the experience, and all other investments can only be maximized by a well trained workforce.
Lyft provides extensive training to its drivers, utilizing online learning called ‘Lyft Academy’, in-person mentorship, driver feedback, and community support.
The impact of employee training on customer experience
John Zimmer described employee training as ‘the heart and soul’ of CX— and we couldn’t agree more. Practically every element that makes up the customer experience is influenced by your workforce, and the training you provide them will determine your success.
Let's take a closer look at how employee training impacts customer experience:
Knowledge and skills
Effectively training your employees equips them the knowledge and skills to succeed in the role. Retail workers are currently seen as lacking in both of these departments, and 83% of consumers believe they know more than the average retail associate. And with retail’s high turnover rate, it’s hard for retailers to ensure knowledge is replenished as fast as talent is.
But by supplying your workforce with product knowledge, and skills ranging from communication to problem solving, you put them in a position to provide the customer with the best experience possible.
In fact, 80% of Americans highlight speed, convenience, knowledge, and friendly service as the most important elements of CX - all of which are learnable through optimized employee training.
Improves employee retention
Employee training and retention are inextricably linked. When you invest in your employees and make them feel valued, it increases employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement—all elements that lead to greater employee retention.
And retaining your workforce impacts CX on several fronts. Firstly, high turnover is detrimental to the customer experience, with unfilled vacancies increasing wait times and reducing employee productivity by up to 75%.
And secondly, retaining your employees naturally produces a more experienced workforce. Those who have been with the company for years carry ‘tribal knowledge’ - a higher base level of understanding of your vision, mission, and how to best execute on it.
Promotes brand consistency
Training programs help establish consistent and uniform service standards across the organization. When all employees possess the same skills and knowledge, they are better prepared to deliver a consistently excellent CX.
And this is something that’s highly valued by consumers—69% of US consumers shop more with brands that offer a consistent experience online and in-store.
For retailers employing an omnichannel experience, it’s important to optimize your service across all platforms. Doing so will improve customer retention and lifetime value—classic metrics for measuring CX.
Increases employee motivation and engagement
When you provide your workforce with effective training, it increases both short-term and long-term motivation.
The short-term motivation is based on the classic dopamine-releasing feeling we humans love. When training leads to tangible results—such as an upselling technique leading to a sale—the feeling of validation is accompanied by a hit of dopamine, prompting the employee to repeat the effort in hope of the same outcome.
Over the long term, optimizing your employee’s ability to upsell results in consistent sales and increased revenue. And, when employees continuously perform, businesses recognize and reward accordingly and motivation levels remain high.
Engagement is all about emotional connection and investing in the personal growth of your workers helps foster that connection. In fact, 80% of employees say learning and development contributes to them feeling more engaged at work.
So, why is this important for CX? Because a motivated and engaged workforce often provides a superior experience. And the difference is significant - businesses with a highly engaged team outperform the competition by nearly 150%.
Business leaders across various industries understand the value of CX, and the lessons they impart can be applied to the world of retail. The key insights to take away from them are:
- Your brand is defined by your experience, not your product
- Feedback helps improve CX
- An emotional connection resonates with consumers
- Investing in CX will generate revenue
- Personalization is a key component of today's experience
- A well-trained workforce is the foundation of any great CX
The last point is especially important as so much of CX is dependent on, and enhanced by, your workforce. Without well-trained employees, retailers are unable to personalize moments, emotionally connect with consumers, and optimize any investments designed to improve the experience.
Are you ready to optimize your training and enhance CX?