How rethinking the customer journey can save your business

woman customer shopping.jpg

When was the last time you took a walk in your customer's shoes?

Never ever have customers had more options to choose from int both the physical and online space. Patience for poor service is decreasing, and demands in terms of service and experiences are increasing. Please remember, customer journeys happen just as much online as offline. If you are not up to date with what your customers are experiencing there is a good chance you could be in trouble.

A couple of years ago I was hired by COOP a company in Northern Europe who is the equivalent to Woolworths or Coles. They wanted to stand out in the crowd of supermarkets and warehouses. At least in their customer's mind. Often when they asked their customers what they thought set them apart, or what the difference was between COOP and other retailers, the customers couldn't answer.

So, a group of managers, researchers and I started interviewing customers on their experiences in store. We looked where they shopped, how often, how easy it was to find things in the store,  length of queue at the checkout and number of employees. There were improvements to be made.

We believe that customers should experience great service always and an additional “plus service” to their shopping experience whenever it was possible.  To achieve this, I created a staff training program. It was designed to be easy to implement, to be run by the people who were already working in the stores. Improvements that could be actioned every day.

The standards of the everyday service were formulated by us (the chain management team and I) and set a common baseline and the “plus service” was developed by local stores and its employees to create ownership.

The Plus Service Program was introduced in a couple of pilot stores and measured upon a few weeks after and a couple of months after. The success was enormous. Right from setting up and choosing the plus service actions. It got the employees and managers onboard and committed because it was their store and departments who was heard and in focus.

The customers also went wild. They suddenly claimed that the stores had employed more people, had better products and much better service than other stores.

So what exactly did we do? We reintroduced a range of customer service actions. Things as simple as always walking against the main traffic flow of customers in the store and greeting them. This made people claim that we had employed more staff because they suddenly saw them and felt seen. Interestingly, this also led to a decrease in store theft. Maybe shoplifters also felt more seen?

If asked, or if we could saw people scanning the shelves for something, we walked the customer to the product they were looking for. Often we’d talk with customers about what they were going to make with, for example, the pasta they were looking for. This increased satisfaction and basket size by finding the right products, leading attention to offers and complimentary products.

At the checkout the employees took care of sensitive products that could break or get damaged. Like checking your eggs and put a rubber band around the box afterwards and opening bags for you. Staff also constantly kept an eye on the queues and if it became more than the number the team had agreed on they would themselves call to open a new one. Not wait for a manager to do so. These actions led to more return customers, better satisfaction and quicker expedition time.

All of these things were simple. It cost nearly nothing and led to increased customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, a decrease in theft, increase in sales and employee job satisfaction which again rubbed of on everything in a positive way.

All of this came out of looking at the customer journey.

What can you do if you feel you might need at customer journey service check? Start asking yourself is it easy and inspiring to trade or work with you? Do your employees give good customer service that brings your brand to life? Where do you lose sales and what do your customers and competitors say about you?

As mentioned before this applies both in store and online. I have seen exactly the same factors in play in regards to online stores. If your webpage is hard to navigate, confusing in the way it communicates through text and pictures and therefore displays the brand poorly. If it’s hard to order, return a product or does not suggest other opportunities, your customers will leave you.

In short, the customer journey is crucial to your business survival because it holds so many vital pieces of information and actions that can be taken. Service will never be out of fashion. It is crucial to anyone who deals with people, and it is so easy.

Written by Torben Soelvsteen