It’s the Little Things, Part 3

handshake-recruiting-sepia.jpgIn a recent post on her excellent blog, “Customers Rock!”, Becky Carroll told a tale of two experiences. The last paragraph of the post focused on how “Little Things”  can make all the difference in a customer experience; 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: “The little things aren’t a lot – they are everything.” Little things like looking a customer in the eye, greeting them, smiling, and carrying on a human conversation go a long way towards marketing a company/store as friendly and welcoming. And it is cheaper than all those advertisements, right?!

Right! So why is it that, generally speaking, the larger the retailer, the larger the spend on messaging and the smaller the spend on the human capital who interact directly with customers and can have the biggest impact on the experience?

In large retail chains, store and call center employees are usually viewed as expenses that must be closely managed. The experience that results from a focus on cost vs quality is often inconsistent and usually unremarkable (unless of course it’s really bad). Some companies recognize their experience problem and try to address it with training and/or initiatives to “change the culture”. But when you have turnover of 40 – 50%, the results of those initiatives quickly fade. The old adage “you get what you pay for” certainly holds up here.

Treat Me Like I Matter

Contrast this with the individual proprietor who’s competitive edge comes from their ability to deliver a more personalized experience. Finding and keeping quality employees who can deliver the same experience as the owner is the top priority. They don’t have the time or the budget to replace and retain employees every couple of months so they often pay a little better and treat the employees like family resulting in lower turnover.   More importantly, the relationships those long-term employees build with customers over time are a big part of the loyalty equation.

Without long term employees interacting with customers every day, it’s very difficult for big retailers to build those personal relationships. They try to compensate with CRM systems and loyalty programs, but in the end, “personalized” marketing is not substitute for the personal touch.

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