How to attract and retain NEW customers.

If you want new customers and you want to retain them, make their experience easy and enjoyable – it’s not complicated. B2B is more about making the life of a buyer easier, and B2C is more about making the purchase pleasurable. Here are ten lessons for getting it right, set in the context of the High Street and Hotels, something we can all relate too.

I’ve missed both, but my recent experiences in more cases than not have been anything but easy, and enjoyable. In fact, I thought I was getting old and grumpy before my time, so I co-opted 6 independent retail owners and asked them to share their thoughts and experiences following a day on the high street mystery shopping – which turned out to be enlightening and encouraging but not for the reasons you might think!

3years ago I purchased a pair of walking boots from a national chain, the staff knowledge, experience, and expertise was fantastic, and I happily parted with more cash than I’d intended on a really comfortable pair of boots. Recently I noticed that the splits on the side of each boot were not breathable design features but a manufacturing fault. Now I’m not a big walker and I’m certainly not a hiker, local lanes, fields, hills, and the Anglesey Coastal path, hardly testing and certainly not challenging terrain, in short, they had spent more time in the garage and certainly hadn’t had anywhere near 3 years wear and tear. So I called the store to ask for repair advice (not a replacement pair), Sam answered the phone and wasted no time in asking me 4 questions – the name of the brand, had they split on the sole (as they’d had lots of problems with this brand) had I taken out their 3-year warranty, and how long had I had them? Answers duly received he then told me they couldn’t be repaired, I’d had my monies worth and the best thing I could do is buy a new pair! WOW pre-sale service ten out of ten, after sales service one out of ten. At which point I told him to stop digging and go and ask someone what could be done to repair them. He came back 3 minutes later and told me to bring them in so they could be looked at.

Once instore John agreed they were faulty, and he could sort things out “so let’s get your feet measured up” but you don’t have to give me a replacement pair I said “oh no you’ll have to pay for a new pair” but I just want them repaired. Lessons 1-2: Listen and Engage

Meet Mark the store manager, his knowledge and advice was first class, he was very reassuring and gave me confidence in what he was saying. Yes, they could be repaired without damaging the waterproof inner blah blah we’d send them away to a specialist – will that cost me anything? “Yes of course it will” – great a direct answer to a direct question how much? £60-£80 “then I’m better off buying a new pair than spending that on a repair” – I said. At this stage I am feeling better because I’d been heard, he’d built some rapport, given me confidence in what he was saying, and the knowledge to make my own decision. We agreed that I would keep the faulty boots and if my feet ever got wet, I would come in for a new pair of boots and enjoy a 20% discount off my purchase – why couldn’t Sam or John have done that? Lessons 3-4: Clarity is vital and take Responsibility for the conversation.

The lawn mower missed an annual service (due to covid19), and my 5-year warranty could be invalidated according to the manufacturers small print, a quick phone call to the shop I purchased it from to book it in should restore the warranty or so I thought until I heard the price. A service was 50% of the original purchase price, when queried the response was “I only work here!” Needless to say, it is being serviced elsewhere. Lesson 5: Only employ people who reflect your company values.

After trying and failing online to find shoes I wanted that actually fitted me, I went to my local shoe shop as soon as it was safe and legal to do so, to touch, feel and try on for comfort. Armed with style details, product codes, photos, and prices off their website I went to buy not browse. The shoes on my short list were either only available online or they were out of stock or not stocked at that branch and they were not allowed to transfer stock from another branch – REALLY! “So, I’ll know what size to order online, will you measure my feet please?”  Oh, we don’t measure feet anymore. “Because of covid?” No, we stopped doing it years ago. But if you go online, we have a really, good shoe size comparison guide. Lesson 6: Give the customers what they want, not what you want.

At the checkout, the Garden Centre gift card wouldn’t swipe – do you know how long you’ve had it? do you know how much was on it? I need to speak to my supervisor, 5 minutes later maybe 9 or 10 minutes, with a queue behind me, people with carts full the plants and stuff, I was told they can’t accept it because I had to use it within 13 months of the issue date, and it expired two weeks ago – Hello we’ve been in lockdown for months so how about 2 weeks grace? I looked behind me and decided to pay the bill and let it go … but then asked who told you that you can’t “no one I looked it up on the computer”. So off I went to the Customer Service desk,  I explained the situation and that the card had expired 2 weeks ago and that his colleague had looked it up on the computer and they couldn’t accept it – so in front of me they looked it up on the computer and said we can’t accept it. “Can’t or won’t?” I enquired.

Jayne the Manager arrives, and my experience repeated, and the same response repeated for a third time until I asked the question Can’t or Won’t… can’t because the cards out of date and the Garden Centre would not be refunded by card supplier and won’t because it’s not a fair or reasonable request to justify taking money out of the till to give away. Lesson 7: Explain the won’t rather than hide behind the can’t.

Back at my desk and sensing a customer experience blog in the making, I flipped the card over to get the card provider’s phone number, when I noticed the card was only valid for 30 months – I’m sure they said 13 months, I’m convinced they said 13 months it certainly sounded like 13. Lesson 8: Customers can be just as forgetful, emotional, and even stupid but then most have been out of circulation for a year or so.

Postscript – a few weeks later I found myself in the vicinity of the Garden Centre so called in with sole purpose of apologising to Jayne which I did along with the suggestion of asking her staff to explain the won’t rather than state the can’t. Oh and the next time they meet a really “stupid” customers like me, just flip the card over and point to the 30 months but it did sound like 13 months behind a mask and a screen 😊

I mentioned the retail owner’s mystery shopping trip, here’s what they had to say about their High Street experiences.

The service was awful. Poor displays. No masks or screens. Relied on showing me items online as they were out of stock. Didn’t even ask my name. All very generic and very average. Pleasant but didn’t ask any questions. Not much product information all about price and quickly discounted. Not particularly friendly but nice. Didn’t try to engage.

At the end of the day, they left to reflect on what their customers might be experiencing in their stores and encouraged by the opportunity to differentiate themselves by offering a better experience than others. Lesson 9: Don’t assume you get it right all the time.

I’ve recently had the need to stay in a few hotels, one with disappointing service, one with excellent service and the others were OK, and all operated under the same strict covid19 guidelines.

After my stay at the hotel with the poor service I received an email questionnaire about my stay (note: never ask a marketer to complete a questionnaire). I kept it brief, in that it took several attempts to get the right dates on my booking confirmation despite 3 or 4 phone calls, it took a long time to check in as only one person on reception, then sent to an unmade room. The lamb at dinner was grey, thick, and tasteless, and I was disturbed four times in my room despite having paid extra for a late checkout – in the whole scheme of things nothing dramatic. I received two replies the first acknowledging my comments and a commitment to discuss them with the staff. The second informing me that it is very difficult to provide “our normal excellent service” due to the covid restrictions AND no one else had complained about their food during my stay.

The OK hotels were just that OK given the covid restrictions. BUT the excellent hotel was all down to the staff, something my colleagues commented on too! The staff were brilliant, welcoming, engaging, attentive, friendly, approachable, they took care of all our dietary needs – even the ones we’d forgotten to tell them about until they were serving us   – nothing was too much trouble, they were efficient and effective. The next day I phoned the owner and told her so – she felt good, I felt good, and then we both got on with the rest of our day! Lesson 10: Do not use Covid 19 as the excuse for poor service.

Since 2013 I have been helping ambitious SMEs with their Strategic and Leadership challenges.

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Posted in Company Culture, Customer Centricity, Customer Experience, Engagement, People performance, Retail, Retail Service, Values
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