Retail Customer Experience: Making a Lasting Impression In a Single Moment

Gladly Team

Read Time

7 minute read

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Highlights from the Future Commerce podcast on the retail customer experience feat. TUMI’s Charlie Cole and our own Joseph Ansanelli

Q.  What do you get when you put two CX thought leaders,Charlie Cole (Global Chief eCommerce Officer, TUMI) and Joseph Ansanelli (CEO and Co-Founder, Gladly) in a room with two leading Retail strategy podcasters?

A.  A ton of great customer insights, stories, and predictions for what’s to come in Retail customer service. 

If you’re strapped for time, or just looking for the CliffsNotes to this great episode, we’ve put together a list of key takeaways for improving the retail customer experience. But, we highly recommend listening to the full episode.

Improving the Retail Customer Experience With The ‘Lookalike’ Strategy

When looking for a spot for a nice night out, or the best climbing gym for our little ones, it’s almost second nature to reach out to our network for recommendations. 

But as Charlie explains, it isn’t the prudent approach when it comes to making decisions for your company around customer service tools. When companies adopt a lookalike strategy with peers, there’s a risk of overlooking solutions that may be newer on the market, that may be addressing needs that previous solutions hadn’t yet tackled.

And there’s also a tendency to underestimate these newer technologies in the market, with Retailers favoring to go with the tried and tested legacy solutions. TUMI, however, makes it a point to keep their ear to the ground for new software that can help keep them ahead of customer expectations.  

“I remember thinking this was the kind of archetype of the conversation you have in retail all the time, where new technologies are sort of shunned as ‘Well it can’t be as good.’ But the reality is that that doesn’t make sense with how technology evolves and Moore’s law.” – Charlie Cole, TUMI

With the rapid pace at which technology has (and continues) to progress, what was once cutting-edge just years ago may no longer be what’s best-in-class in today’s market.

The Slippery Slope of Customer Data, And Not Focusing On the Retail Customer Experience

Customer data (and how to best leverage it) has dominated the conversation in Retail circles for the last decade. And companies have undoubtedly made great strides in using customer data to drive higher conversion amongst their customers. 

But what’s been missing in these conversations, according to Charlie, is a focus on using customer data to enhance the company’s performance from a customer-centricity perspective; on how to use a customer’s data to make their overall customer experience better. 

“In the last 10 years we’ve been going to these conferences and the answer to the question ‘How are we using customer data?’ was onsite personalization, a/b testing advertising, lookalike campaigns on Facebook. None of these things had to do with ‘Oh I’m actually using this customer data to drive a higher NPS.’” – Charlie Cole, TUMI

With Gladly, TUMI’s been able to make their customer’s information actionable, and better understand their customers and their journey with them. Consequently, they’ve been able to help their customers in a more thoughtful way, and treat them like people—not a case number or statistic. 

According to our latest expectations survey, 75% of consumers would return for great service over a great marketing campaign. Which adds strength to the increasingly common adage that customer service is the new marketing

Meeting Customers On Their Terms to Improve the Retail Customer Experience

As Joseph shared, part of delivering on a great customer experience is meeting customers on their terms—allowing them to decide how they want to communicate at any given time. 

A great example of that, which Joseph recalled, involved the Gladly team’s first visit to TUMI’s contact center during implementation. One of TUMI’s agents was trying to call a customer to let them know that their bag was repaired and being sent back. Instead of picking up the phone, the customer replied with an SMS instead, saying that they couldn’t answer the phone right now. 

“The ability to not only know who (your customer) is, but to meet them in the places that they expect to be met in the 21st century; that starts to change the relationship.” – Joseph Ansanelli, Gladly

Rather than call back again or email, the agent took the next most natural action. They hit ‘Reply’ to that SMS in Gladly, and sent an SMS back informing the customer their bag was en route. It was a really simple action that ended up making a big impact on the customer, who was grateful and amazed that TUMI could respond in such a seamless manner.

[Read More: Contact Center Strategy]

It’s an experience unique to Gladly’s omnichannel agnostic platform, which lets agents reach out to customers via any channel, effortlessly, without having to switch to a new platform, window or tab.

Retail Customer Experience: The Next 5 Years

Think ‘Business-to-Human’, ‘Not Business-to-Consumer’

As we enter an era of increasing automation in the retail customer experience and expanding choice of digital channels, it’s becoming harder for companies to build relationships with the customers that buy from them and providing five star customer service

For Joseph, the future of the retail customer experience is one where companies can deliver the same warmth and build the connections they were able to 50, 75 years ago, when customer support was largely an in-person affair. 

“(T)he way that (Retailers) engaged…was very much (built on personal relationships), where people knew who you were and they had these very empathetic personal relationships. I would love that in 5 or 10 years, we can say we helped to transform the way people think about service” – Joseph Ansanelli, Gladly

Creating Differentiating Experiences

When thinking about the future of the retail customer experience, Charlie drew on his current experience going to the grocery store with his young daughter in Seattle.  

While he could (far more easily, one could argue) do his shopping online and simply have it delivered to his home, his neighborhood grocery store, PPC, has made it hard for him to consider making the switch. 

How? With just a single piece of fruit. 

Every time he goes shopping with his young daughter, they offer a free piece of fruit to her, which has ended up being the motivating factor for both him (and his daughter) to keep going back to the store. 

For Charlie, the future of the retail customer experience looks poised to be far less about the actual transaction, which today is far easier than ever before. Instead, it comes down to creating a differentiating experience that keeps a customer loyal and looking forward to their return.

“If I want an apple I can get an apple in 2 hours delivered to my house, or in 5 minutes if I drive down to the store. But how can I (create) those experiences, like those free pieces of fruit at PCC that I didn’t even know would motivate me to bring my kid?…I think the fun part for brands is finding those things that (the consumer) didn’t know they needed and do it in a way that sure helps him get an affinity for the brand it isn’t just about transactions.” – Charlie Cole, TUMI

So much CX, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Be sure to check out the full podcast for more. And if you have any questions or thoughts on the podcast, be sure to share them with us in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.