Brands that didn’t take e-commerce and digital mastery seriously enough before the pandemic are now out of business, or heading in that direction.
Seismic shifts, to be sure. It’s also proof that we are living in accelerated times, where change is happening exponentially.
Many companies today have a dedicated 'Customer Service' team, these are the unsung heroes of a company who to be frank, are far too often tasked with dealing with the shit end of the wedge.
They are seen as the teams that are constantly dealing with hostile complaints from irate customers, most of which are as a result of an out of step internal alignment and poor communication around the service and offer.
If you operate in the retail sector you'll have been told that 'service' is what differentiates your company from your competitor.
Forget the excuse of 'Covid' - in today's world if your company has a big customer service team who are kept busy it's probably because you're neglecting the one thing that makes us all choose one brand/company over another.
That one thing is 'how does this make me feel' - this is my emotional reaction to you, and it has a huge impact on our future (or not) relationship.
It's what I call an outside in point of view because it's driven by the customer, not an internalised (inside out) view which is driven by the brand/company.
Or put in business speak - "what did I just experience".
When talking to leadership teams I ask them to reflect on their last hotel or restaurant experience and if they remembered any part of them.
The answer was, in many cases, no.
Because even if these experiences are really good, even if the service is great, we simply expect that when it comes to what the brand promises us to deliver.
So it’s simply perceived as a given.
When we expect something, it’s already priced in. In other words, a great customer experience is the minimum expected experience.
Consumers (you/me) don't think in process or silo terms like companies and brands tend to do. We can have a great process but if the overall 'experience' doesn't live up to what your shiny intrusive adverts promised me then next time I'll go elsewhere, and chances are I'll probably share those thoughts on social media.
My take on this after many years in multi-channel retail is that customer support teams are there to 'prop up' really crap internal alignment around the brand promise and what the 'customer experience's' - and its hugely wasteful for everyone involved.
Let's be honest with ourselves, retail adopted the homogenisation and the blandness of 'corporate multiple retailing' long before the internet kicked it in the balls.
Add to this the constant pressure on rising cost, the not very environmentally friendly splurge of fast fashion, overt commoditisation of the brand, and a simple lack of 'retail theatre' all round has led to this opportunity to re-invent what was.
Hence, to provide such an experience, brands must not rely on randomness.
It has to be the result of strategy, training, and mastery in delivery. Additionally, the digital experience, as well as the physical experience, has to tell the story of the brand.
However, when brands do it right, you leave the store (digital or otherwise) with your mind blown. When you reflect on what just happened, you should feel the emotion that is unique to that brand.
The visit should change you.
A couple of questions;
Do you think 'service' instead of 'experience'?
When was the last time your leadership team 'experienced' your brand?
Even in categories like fine watches and jewelry, diamonds, luxury fashion, or luxury cars, you get pretty much the same experience across the leading brands, with few exceptions. Often these experiences are underwhelming, even disappointing. Even brands that do it better often struggle with providing consistency.