Wow Customer Experiences

Providing wow customer experiences has always been the requirement to be successful in retail.  COVID-19 has upped the ante and made it even more of a mandate than it was before as the definition of wow customer experiences now must include health and safety.  

But the truth is, regardless the external circumstances that require you and your team to be at their best for every customer who walks in the door, this post is going to give you a different way to look at what makes a wow customer experience.  Regardless of they type of retail, the three aspects of creating wow customer experiences applies.  

Three F's

The Three “F‘s”

My friend, John Hanson, Customer Expereince expert and author of “WOW Your Customers, 7 Ways to World Class Service“, shared his feedback on this blog and suggested I use the “3 F’s” to explain it.  Thanks John!  John and I have an upcoming podcast about providing world class service coming out soon.  Watch for it!

I learned this approach to thinking about the customer experience when I was a Regional Learning Manager at Limited Brands.  I am not sure they “invented” this theory but always want to be forth-rite about where my content comes from.

There are 3 levels of operating a retail store:  Technical, Functional and Emotional.  Taking John’s recommendation, I am adjusting it to First Impressions, Functional and Feeling (aka the 3 F’s).

First Impressions create a wow customer experience

When we use the term “First Impressions” or what I learned as the “technical” components of operating a store, we are talking about the physical aspects of your store.  This is the most basic component of wow customer experiences.  Customers expect it as what I will call, the price of admission.

Examples are:
– Lights On – no burned out bulbs
– Clean Store – no dust bunnies in the windows or under the fixtures, no fingerprints     on the mirrors or doors
– Store Opens on time

Next time you walk into a retail store, look around. You will be amazed how many stores have burned out light bulbs, dust rolling around in the front window and the store opens a few minutes after their posted open time. There is really no reason for these issues…I bet you learned these basics early on in your retail career. But if you manage a store and haven’t nailed these components, that is job #1.

Every Manager Needs to Get It

Every manager on your team has to have these basics nailed, not just the store manager.  You see, customers expect a consistent experience every time they walk into your store.  They don’t care who is working.  It is like McDonalds french fries.  You expect them to taste the same no matter where you get them.  

Missing these components of the customer experience is what gets a business poor reviews on Yelp.  

Okay, we have the basics in place. Time for the next level of execution required to run a great store.

Functional Aspects of the Customer Experience

Definition of Functional:  having a special activity, purpose or task; relating to the way in which something works or operates.  You might be asking yourself, how does the way something works or operates impact creating a wow customer experience?  Truth is, well run stores have detailed processes that drive consistency in how the store works. This consistency creates a expectation.  When the expectation is met, a wow customer experience happens.

When we think about the functional components of running a store, it includes the store operations like:
– Merchandise Flow – product is filled in and sized, sales floor is full and abundant
– Performance Management – the team effectively evaluates the metrics that drive sales results and make the necessary adjustments to associate behaviors and the way customers are engaged
– Talent – the team is staffed with people who have a “customer first” mindset
– Floor Supervision – the managers are amazing at creating a fun, high energy environment for the team and the customers
– Labor Scheduling – The store team has the right availability to ensure that you are scheduling the right people in the right place at the right time.

What Else Can You Add to the List

This is not an all inclusive list, rather examples.  I bet you can add things to this list that are specific to your brand.  It just got a bit more complex, didn’t it? There is a lot to unpack here. Being consistent at all these different components of running a store can be a challenge when you have 10, 18, 30, even 100 people working at your store.  

The best place to start evaluating is with your own skills. Where are your strengths and opportunities? Talk to your supervisor and ask who you can partner with for training. Learning from a peer is one of the best ways to master a skill.

Learning and mastering these activities are critical to running a great store and preparing yourself for the next level of retail leadership. This is not a menu where you can select which ones you like or are naturally good at. You have to master them all in order to master this second component of creating wow customer experiences.  

If you are a store manager, having talent on the team who rounds out all the different components of running a great store is key.  

How Does Your Team Perform?

You know what I am going to ask next, right? How does your management team perform in these activities? This is not an “all or nothing” question. They might be very effective in Merchandise Flow, but less so with Business Acumen or Coaching the Team. No problem! You can teach it to them or partner them with another manager who has strength in this topic.

The Feeling that generates wow customer experiences

Ready for the final component of running a great store? It is by far the most difficult. It is what I call your “Brand Differentiation”. These are the emotional components of your store, or the ‘warm and fuzzy feelings’ customers get when they shop in your brand and these components are being done well: 
– Customer Experience / Engagement
– Visual Merchandising / Displays / Windows
– Fitting Room Experience

Now listen, I am not pretending that we can all be great at everything to run a great store. Let’s say visual displays aren’t your strong suit. That is ok as long as you have someone on your team who is skilled at visual merchandising and can ensure your store looks amazing all the time. Over my years of working in stores, I have found that people who are strong at visual merchandising often prefer tasking over selling / floor supervision. They prefer being focused on making the store look amazing to running the sales floor and that is okay, as all your managers don’t possess the same skill set.

Having a management team who is well rounded and ensures the First Impressions, Functional and Feeling components of running a store are covered will mean you have a store team who can create wow customer experiences.  Teamwork makes the dream work! Creating wow customer experiences requires every member of the team, regardless of position, to be committed to the customer.

Your Turn

Now that we have reviewed the three components to creating wow customer experiences, it’s time for you to review your store / district / region / fleet.  This worksheet is an easy way to evaluate your management team.  

Remember, this is a journey, not a sprint.  The expectations you set with your team will help you deliver the results you want in creating wow customer experiences.

In your Corner,


p.s. if you are learning from this content, please “LIKE” and SHARE” with your friends!

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