Businesses should invest in customer experience, not just product

Dear business owners, why do you do this? Why do you invest heavily in the premises complete with extensive grounds, imported furniture and manicured lawns, then sit back and expect the money will roll in. And it does, momentarily. But then it suddenly stops. And you get surprised when it does. Here’s why your investment stops yielding returns. Because, whereas all the visuals were prim and proper, they did their job of wooing the customer; however, keeping the customer was the domain of the salesperson (waitress, attendant, steward, host, etc.), and the experience the customer has with him. So, for a sustainable ROI invest in the customer experience too.

Why bother?

What is customer experience and why is it important for a company? I’ll share two experiences. Twice, I’ve been to this establishment that will remain unnamed. And on both occasions, I drove in excited at the prospect of a relaxed family Sunday outing, only to have my bubble burst right from the parking attendant! The establishment is off Thika Road and sells itself as a team building destination and restaurant. I estimate its green grounds easily occupy two or three acres. As I struggled to park in the almost non-existent parking, two fellows, one in uniform, stared nonchalantly at me, busy chatting away, totally unmoved at my predicament. Finally, I drove up some embankment. I decided not to judge this book by its cover, and so gave them the benefit of the doubt. I wish I hadn’t!

Why is customer experience valuable?

My family and I hopelessly walked around, like blind men feeling their way forward, seeking the restaurant.  Mercifully, a restaurant appeared in front of us. But the torture continued. One waiter, standing a few meters from us was busy on his ‘phone sipping away at a soda. Possibly fascinated by the latest AI gizmo. Another two sat a distance away chatting. No one bothered to acknowledge us. We waited to see what would happen. Suddenly a supervisor appeared issued some orders and the soda-sipper hurriedly came over to take our order. Then he disappeared with it. He only resurfaced eons later when we spotted the supervisor to ask about our order. Long story short, it was one pathetic interaction after another. Zero empathy; just tonnes of sensory overload of all the wrong emotions. As a consequence, poof! All the attractive outer trappings suddenly faded to nothingness.

invest in customer experience

Empathy is inevitable for a positive sensory customer experience

The other experience was a furniture shop along Mombasa with a wide array of impressive office furniture covering an equally impressive floor space.  Only problem is the receptionist had this ‘phone call which our presence was inconveniencing.  Ultimately, she pointed us towards another lady. We walked over; she said she was the sales lady, and what did we want. We told her. Than, we asked to browse the shop all the way upstairs and proceeded to do so; she joined us several minutes later with a brochure. What did we want, she asked again? We told her, again. She kept referring to the brochure with every query we made.

Read: Brochures don’t sell, salespeople do

Her indifference was coming through and our appetite to shop there was waning in commensurate measure. Ultimately my business partner said, “Let’s go back to the other shop we had started from; the saleslady there was warmer and engaging.”

You can charge more and get an even better ROI

Personally, I have been to both establishments twice, a year apart. Yet 365 days apart, the customer contact point was lacking basic selling skills and therefore customer experience. The furniture shop we went back to was not as grandiose in variety nor floor space as this one we had just left but the sales person’s demeanour was. She was pleasant to deal with. Empathetic, accessible, responsive and she knew her stuff. And despite being slightly more expensive it’s anyone’s guess where we finally purchased the furniture. Likewise, it’s a long stretch of imagination to think I’d go back to the ‘green’ restaurant.

(Fun fact: Did you know that 84% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience? It’s why mobile loans are Shylock expensive but no-one pays attention. Until, the Shylock decides to put friction in the customer experience by sending your notice of default to your entire contacts list.)

Invest in customer experience knowing it’s the customer that owns it, not you.

Invest in the customer experience. In truth, you can’t do that, though. And this is the customer experience conundrum. Customer experience is defined by the receiver, not giver; by the customer, not salesperson. So do what you can; invest in the salesperson (and processes) through informed recruitment and continual on-the-job training. The sales person is the point of contact with the client. It’s the customer experience that makes or breaks a sale. The investment in floor space, manicured lawns and imported furniture deserves a pat on the back. However, the presence of lackluster salespeople unable to live up to the standard already set by the product is a wasted and insidious investment. As an entrepreneur you cannot assume this when starting a business. Otherwise, your investment falls short.

Read: Exploiting the customer’s inexperience for personal gain is short-lived

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