Sue Smith, CBA Board Chairman

“Love your customer, the money will follow.” Retail expert Bob Negen holds to this principle at all levels. If we do anything else in our business with laser focus, this should be the top priority.

Given the constant noise in the retail space about where to shop, loving your customer well by creating the best customer experience possible clarifies consistent loyalty. Of course, given that it’s our top priority does not make it easy. Maybe that’s the point. It just may be that as retailers, we’re all looking for the magic bullet to gain momentum to our bottom line. Creating customer experience is complex.

CUSTOMER SERVICE VS. EXPERIENCE

“Experience” is the current buzzword in retail, and many people feel that it basically is glorified customer service. We’ve even been instructed to replace “customer service” verbiage with “customer experience.” Again, I feel that we’re trying to streamline this concept, which just isn’t going to happen. Both concepts are mandatory to a successful business, but one is harder to measure and define.

Customer service is assistance and advice that we provide for each guest. Examples would be wrapping gifts, imprinting names on Bibles, and assisting customers find the right book, CD, or gift.

Customer experience, on the other hand, is much more elusive, more feelings based. It is how customers feel about our store, our brand, and our inventory. Do they feel great being surrounded by products that glorify the Lord and serve the body of Christ? Do they feel appreciated because they’re shopping local? Do they feel like they’re “home” in our store because our staff knows them by name?

BEING KNOWN

If I love my customers, then I know them well. This goes way beyond studying buying patterns and inventory sales. This is about personal touch, meeting their unique desire to be recognized and appreciated, and carrying inventory that’s relevant to their interests. Taking time to ask good questions and praying with your customers, as most of you know, gives them a deep connection they cannot find in other business settings.

FUTURE PURCHASES

Those storeowners who really understand customer experience comprehend that in the best customer experience scenario, you’re literally laying the groundwork for their next purchase. This may look difficult at times from our perspective, but in laying that groundwork, you’re cultivating the soil for continued loyalty.