If you’ve ever worked in retail or owned a business, you’ve likely heard the saying “the customer is always right.” While this might not technically be true, the saying boils down to customer experience and making customers feel like they come first.
Putting your customer first isn’t always easy, as there are so many different factors to consider in running a business. You have to concern yourself with costs, cash flow, inventory, hiring the right employees and much more.
However, 78 percent of customers who have a negative customer service experience abandon an intended transaction. Putting customers first can turn that number around. There are some concrete things you can do, both offline and online, to make customers feel they are number one in your eyes.
1. Test Your Interface
One of the first things you need to do if you have an online presence is test the user interface, or UI, on your website. Everything should work the way it is supposed to, and the interface should be intuitive. When a user visits your site, does the visitor know exactly where to go and how to find essential functions, such as the home page or search feature?
Look at your website through the eyes of a first-time visitor. Does it load quickly enough? Can you find what you want quickly? Get input from others and make adjustments as needed. Also, check that all links are working and forms are submitting correctly?
2. Add a Loyalty Program
Adding a loyalty program brings customers back again and again. However, if the customer experience is negative, it can overpower the benefits of the loyalty program. 74 percent of consumers state that the overall customer experience, or CX, impacts how loyal they are to a brand. Another 59 percent switch to a competitor when having a poor experience with a brand.
Sephora offers a loyalty reward program that works in both their brick-and-mortar and their online stores. You earn points for each purchase, and those points are worth free products and samples. However, the more you spend, the more your level rises, giving you even more points and free products. This setup rewards their most loyal customers with exclusive perks.
3. Conduct a Survey
One of the best ways to improve CX is to survey your current customers. Anytime someone orders, offer them an opportunity to complete a short survey. This feedback will tell you what they enjoyed about the experience of ordering from your site and what they didn’t enjoy. Armed with this information, you can make changes accordingly. This type of CX is valuable to your overall business strategies.
Studying heat maps and where customers exit your site also allows you to paint a picture of things that need to be adjusted. For example, if you notice that a high percentage of visitors abandon their shopping carts when you add shipping costs, it might be time to rethink what you charge for shipping.
4. Train Sales Clerks and Customer Service Reps
Invest in training for your sales clerks and customer service reps. Make sure the training program pushes a customer-first agenda. Those who work for you should have the same philosophy you do about customer service. Train using a variety of role-playing scenarios so that new employees can practice their skills.
Make sure that you clearly outline all policies so that employees know how to deal with a wide variety of situations. There should also be a clear chain of command. If an employee isn’t sure how to handle an irate customer, they should immediately know who to refer that customer to for a solution to the problem.
5. Make an Emotional Connection
Businesses that focus on the emotional connection they make with their customers sell more than their competitors by about 85 percent. Creating an emotional connection involves several factors. You first need to understand your target audience and what they care about. Once you know what your audience cares about, you can present a solution that appeals to them.
Subaru captures the love we feel for our pets in their commercial titled “Dream Weekend.” The man goes on a road trip with his 14-year-old dog, crossing items off the dog’s bucket list, taking selfies and building memories. It tugs at the heartstrings of every dog owner out there and makes the product relatable.
6. Have a Generous Return Policy
There are many reasons why Walmart has been such a successful company. One of them is their liberal return policy. They take returns on most items for just about any reason, allowing store credits, exchanges or refunds.
If you want to gain the trust of customers, create a generous return policy. While most won’t take you up on the offer, you do have to be prepared for some to return items without much of an explanation. In the long run, you’ll build rapport with customers and a loyal following that will far outweigh the minor losses associated with returns.
7. Create a Consistent Experience
Today, many retailers have both an online and offline presence. However, these two elements shouldn’t be separate from one another. Instead, figure out a way to mesh the two and create consistent customer experiences between them. If a customer emails you, the experience should match what happens when that same customer comes into a brick-and-mortar store.
Many JCPenney stores now allow you to order online and pick up in store. If you are in the store, and they don’t have an item in the size or color you’d like, they will order for you. You can pick it up when it arrives at the store or have it shipped to your home. Having a choice about how to receive the product makes the customer experience a more positive one.
8. Entertain Your Customers
When was the last time you entered a store and felt entertained? There are many ways to create this feeling, but one is to immerse your customer in the world of your store. If you are about fun, vibrant clothing, then put fresh, bright colors at the front of the store. Add beach balls and summer settings to show where your clothes might look best.
You can also use apps to send pings to customers’ phones and walk them through a unique in-store experience. The CX of your store involves many different things. Even how quickly the consumer is greeted upon entering your store has an impact on the overall feel of your brand.
Putting Customers First
Making a lasting impression requires putting customers first. The best way to do that is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and figure out what they most want from the experience of your store or website. If the entire philosophy of your company is “customers first,” then everything else falls into place.
Lexie Lu is a designer and writer. She loves researching trends in the web and graphic design industry. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.