Strategies to Wow Retail Customers

Customer with the owner of a bespoke leather handbag shop

 Luca Sage/Taxi/Getty Images

Good customer service is expected, and it’s necessary for a retail business to thrive. But when we service customers in ways that they don’t expect, we create a wow factor that sets us apart from the competition. In fact, in today's retail environment, it is a necessity. Customers don't want their expectations met anymore; they want them exceeded. 

Here are five strategies to help you go the extra mile in your customer services strategy by using these four methods:

  1. Escort Customers to the Location of the Product They Need
    1. When customers ask a salesperson where to find a product in the store, the salesperson will simply say which aisle the product is stocked on.
    2. Many stores have adopted a new strategy: when someone asks where they can find a product, the salesperson says, “Let me show you where it is,” and they proceed to take the customer right to the product.
    3. Telling the customer where they can find the product is communicating that you don’t care much about their well being or experience in the store. By taking customers to the products, you’re saying, “We understand and value you as a customer, and we’ll take you where you need to go.”
    4. Even when it's obvious, like "they are in aisle 10", it's still an unexpected delight when you take them to the product.
  2. Ask Them About Their Project
    1. Not only is exporting a customer a good idea, but it also allows you an opportunity to engage in conversation with the customer and perhaps even sell them more.
    2. Focusing on the "big picture" (the end result) for the customer is not expected, but it should be. After all, if we can see retail from the customer's point of view, then it would only make sense that we would begin with the end in mind. Fewer trips mean greater satisfaction and more time to enjoy their new product or completed project. 
  3. Ask Permission to Make Product Suggestions
    1. Classier companies, like Ritz Carlton and Fidelity, will ask, “Can I suggest a few things?” versus simply "selling" your suggestions to the customer.
    2. This nice touch says that the company is treating you special, that they need your permission to be a part of your decision-making process. They are asking to enter into your world, rather than assuming it’s ok. It is a simple strategy for demonstrating respect.
    3. Asking to make a suggestion isn’t necessary, but it separates the better companies from the average companies. Especially when you consider that these are items you are "adding on" to the original purchase. 
  4. Provide Status Updates on Custom Orders and Products Being Serviced
    1. There is nothing worse than waiting for a response from a store about a product you’ve ordered (whether it's merchandized the store routinely carries or a special order). Customers become frustrated when they don’t know in a timely manner when the product will arrive or when the product they're getting serviced will be ready.
    2. Rather than making customers wait for that information, be proactive and provide customers with regular updates and timeframes. You will wow customers by initiating this kind of communication. It demonstrates that you go out of your way to make the customer feel at ease and reinforces they made the right choice on where to buy.
    3. Often, stores will not call until they "know something." In other words, they do not want to call the customer until they have more information to share. Customers have told me time and time again that they will wait longer and be less stressed about a service experience as long as they are being communicated with.
  5. Acknowledge a Customer Waiting to Be Served
    1. This strategy is not new--and it should already be a part of your customer service policy and routinely used by employees. However, it’s a noteworthy strategy because not only does it demonstrate your care and awareness of customers, it staves off customers’ frustrations, which can lead to a perceived sense of poor customer service.
    2. When working with Shell Oil several years ago, we performed an exercise to collect information for training materials we were developing.
    3. A customer would come into the store every day and pay for gas. Additionally, he would buy a cup of coffee and a pack of cigarettes, exchanging “good mornings” and pleasantries with the clerk. He’d spend a total of 40 seconds in the store. One day, the same person comes into the store spending the same amount of time--40 seconds--getting what he needs. But this time he left the store claiming he experienced poor customer service.
    4. It took the same amount of time to get what he wanted, yet he was unhappy. How could this be? Why did he complain?
    5. Simple. Because he had to wait in line, which he never had to do--and he was not acknowledged by the clerk. He perceived the time to be longer than 40 seconds, claiming he received poor customer service. A simple acknowledgment from the clerk would have eliminated the problem.
    6. If customers are waiting in line or waiting for their turn to talk with you, give a simple “Hello, I’ll be with you in a moment.” And consider adding great signage to areas of your store where people have to wait. These things make a world of difference for customers and have a ​great impact on how they view your level of service.

Always look for ways to go the extra mile when you service customers. They’ll notice, even if the act is simple. Most often it ’s the little things that make the biggest difference. It's what I like to call Experience Engineering. Think about your customer and end work to engineer experiences in your store that exceed expectations every cutover every time.