It’s Important to Sweat the Little Stuff

In an age where a single consumer can have amazing reach through social media, and where customers generally expect perfection, it is critical for retailers to understand that the first order of business should be to get the little stuff right. As pointed out in a recent story from mycustomer.com:

There is a line between brand reputation and common sense customer service that is becoming wider by the minute. While brands may aspire to having customers identify with that brand, it may be just as important to get the service basics right to close the gap between what the brand promises and what the customer actually experiences.

In January, 2006, the Verde Group and the Baker Retail School at Wharton released the results of a US study designed to better understand the effect of problem experience and negative word-of-mouth on the retail shopping experience. The study revealed ten key findings. Some of the big ones are:

  • Chances of a smooth shopping experience are only 50:50.
    • Half of shoppers encounter at least one problem when purchasing items – in fact, they encounter 2.7 problems on average.
  • The retailer may be the last to know.
    • Shoppers experiencing problems are more than five times as likely to tell a friend or colleague about it than to contact the company.
  • When they talk, they talk.
    • One in three disgruntled shoppers will complain to a friend or colleague but each one will tell an average of 4.1 people about their bad experience.
  • Their word does carry weight.
    • Almost half of shoppers have avoided a particular store in the past because of someone else’s negative experience. A similar proportion say they will avoid buying a similar item at the store, or visiting the store altogether, in the future.
  • Bad shopping experiences are not easily forgotten.
    • Almost half feel that a return visit to a store where a problem occurred would likely result in a repeat of the problem. And, one in five reveal some hesitancy – the problem may or may not occur again.
  • Bad shopping experiences erode loyalty.
    • Shoppers encountering one or more problems are less likely to continue shopping at the store, to recommend the product or item purchased to others, and are particularly less inclined to recommend the store.
  • ‘Disloyal’ attitudes can have wide spread consequences.
    • Customers revealing the lowest levels of loyalty will talk to the largest number of friends or colleagues about the problems they encountered.

Retailers spend significant time and money coming up with new and innovative ways to get their customer to Engage with them. Innovation programs to come up with that new winning idea have been all the rage over the last few years. But when was the last time you put yourself in the customer’s shoes and took a good, hard look at the little things that diminish the experience? That peg hook that has been empty for weeks (is the product “in the back”?); the interactive displays that aren’t working; or even something as simple as acknowledging the customer as they are coming in and out of the store. These little things, more than anything else, define a brand to the customer, yet some retailers never seem to be able to focus their resources there. Why is that?

It boils down to trust, reputation and word of mouth. Customers satisfied with the way they have been treated become the best ambassadors for a company, sharing their experience with friends, family and colleagues. Big, new ideas are great, but they will gain you nothing in the customer’s eyes if you don’t get the little stuff right first.

What are the little things that detract from your customer’s experience. What can you do about them?

6 comments so far

  1. […] Little Stuff Redux Jump to Comments Earlier this week, I wrote about the opportunities in addressing the sources of customer dissatisfaction. On Friday, APs […]

  2. […] is clear to me is that Panera is not managing this little problem at my store and as I recently wrote, ensuring that the little things are done right (like having the soups listed on your website) is […]

  3. […] retail customer dissatisfaction.  If you are a regular reader, you know I have written about this before.  The big takeaway from this year’s study is that the most impactful area of dissatisfaction […]

  4. […] costumes, makes them seem more expressive, more real, especially to the younger guests.   People like to talk about their experiences, both good and bad.  It’s the sharing of these experiences that can make or break a brand over time.  If people […]

  5. […] paragraph of the post focused on “Little Things“; a concept I have discussed here on several occasions. Becky said: I heard an interesting quote on the radio today which sums this all up: […]


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