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A Three-Step Guide to the Ultimate Customer Experience

SAP Retail (1024x512).pngRetailers have a lot on their plate these days. How to keep up with mobile consumers, connect with Millennials, and tap into social media are just a few of the challenges they are currently tackling.  But are they pulling it all together to deliver the best customer experience possible?

Not really. Not according to retail expert, Scott McKain. He’s been researching this topic for a long time and says retailers need to focus on what he calls the, “ultimate customer experience.”

McKain says retailers spend a lot of time and money on certain aspects of their business, but pay little attention to the overall experience created for the customer. “It’s like going to a movie with great cinematography and actors, but no story,” says McKain.

The hard part is figuring out how to create the ultimate customer experience. Unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer. Every retailer runs its business a bit differently, and every customer has unique needs. However, McKain lays out three questions to help retailers get started down the right path.

Question #1: What if everything went exactly right?

What if a customer’s interaction with the retailer, from start to finish, went exactly the way the customer would like it to? Achieving this begins with figuring out what the customers actually want.

Retailers need to connect with customers and learn their preferences at every stage of the buying cycle. “Maybe low prices are important to your customer … or maybe they want to speak with knowledgeable sales teams and know more about the product … you’ve got to know that and then ask, what if everything went exactly right for that customer, for your customer that you know so well.”

Of course the devil is in the details. The more a retailer analyzes every customer touch point the more complicated things get. “It’s everything from where do they park, to where do they go, to what happens when they first walk in the store, to how merchandise is displayed, to what your sales team says … all of these things create an aspect of it going exactly right,” says McKain. Once a retailer knows what its customers want at every stage it can move on to the second question.

Question #2: What does it take to make it work out that way?

This question leads to actually delivering on the, “What if?” posed above. It means identifying the specific steps, action items, and work that needs to happen to implement the changes customers’ want.

“That becomes incredibly challenging,” says McKain. If done properly, this step usually forces retailers to change and improve areas of the business they’ve never addressed before. That’s often a difficult proposition, especially when it comes to implementing new policies and procedures or reallocating funds and resources – which leads us to the last question.

Question #3: What are the road blocks?

McKain finds many retailers have outdated policies and procedures. They operate in a way that made sense in the past, but in today’s hypercompetitive marketplace new and better business models are taking over. The mobile consumer can shop when and where they want in an instant and won’t stay loyal to a retailer if it can’t meet their expectations.

“One of the things that any retail customer hates to hear is, ‘that’s not company policy’ or ‘we’ve never done it that way’,” says McKain. Those types of responses are immediate road blocks to customer satisfaction and need to be eliminated.

“The fundamental goal is to create the ultimate customer experience for every one of our retail customers, even for our retail prospects, every single time,” concludes McKain.

Watch this video to hear McKain talk about creating the ultimate customer experience.

To learn how SAP helps retailers deliver the ultimate customer experience click here.

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  • Thanks David for the suggestions. I've heard Scott McKain talk about Taxi Terry & shared a great experience I had in Tucson with a taxi driver. For retailers, I remembered watching a TEDTalk by Eric Horvitz (Making Friends with AI) at 21:30 where he showed a demo of 3rd generation elevators. These 3GE could anticipate people's needs by watching their movements. What if retailers could use Artificial Intelligence to monitor customers movements (browsing, selecting, trying on clothes etc) to give them an Ultimate Customer Experience? Too creepy? Macys is trialling mirrors in changing rooms to help customers select & even order! 

    • Thanks for the comment, Yvonne. McKain's story about Taxi Terri, and the power of positive expectations, is also a great lesson for retailers.

      Soon enough, retailers will have sensors on all physical products where customer browse and try things on. The sensors will track product movement more-so than people so it shouldn't be creepy. It will allow retailers to see which products interest people the most (like tracking what people look at on-line) and offer instant in-store discounts and recommendations related to the specific products we touch (if we opt-in to receive such info). I know Macy's is testing beacons but I didn't know about the mirrors. I'll have to check that out!

  • I believe there is absolutely value in these three questions. However, giving customers exactly what they want is probably not benificial to the retailer and ultimately also not to the customers itself. Each service element comes at a certain price. Focusing on those elements which deliver added value at a sustainable investment would be a smarter decision. And having some 'peak moments' and a positive closing in the customer journey is essential, for customers to return. IKEA demonstrates how this can work.

  • Good article.   One thing businesses fail to realize that the journey in providing a differentiated customer experience has a prerequisite in products and services.  The product and service that is being offered needs to be working correctly.  Once you get this right, then you have permission from the customer to deliver an "ultimate" customer experience.

    Often times, I see businesses try so hard in this space, and fail to reach their objective and majority of time it goes back to this mentioned prerequisite.