By Beth Terry, CPA
Manager, Audit & Assurance Services
We live in a world where we can shop for virtually anything online. So now, when customers enter a brick-and-mortar business, they want more than a transaction — they want an experience. Customers crave human connections and the feeling that people in the marketplace care about them on a personal level. Rather than simply providing a product or service, businesses should ultimately focus on building relationships with people who come in contact with their enterprise.
Think about how movie theaters have evolved in the wake of streaming services taking over the film industry. We now have theaters like Flix Brewhouse, which offers a night out at the bar plus dinner and a movie all in one place. And theaters now have more reclining seats and IMAX screens to rival our entertainment centers at home. Seeing a movie on the big screen is already a vastly different experience from watching one at home or on your phone, so these additions to that experience go above and beyond and make moviegoers feel like they are in the caring hands of fellow film lovers.
So, what can you do to give your customers this warm, welcoming feeling?
First, take a fresh look at your company’s culture. Is the environment vibrant and positive? How do your staff members greet your customers? Remember that an employee can only share a positive experience if they themselves feel valued and appreciated … and THAT starts at the TOP! Make sure you institutionalize attentive friendliness within the culture of your operations on a daily basis. What do most customers of Chick-fil-A recognize: (1) the speed of their service delivery and (2) the departing greeting, “It is my pleasure!”
More importantly, be transparent with your customers. Tell them you want their honest feedback, criticisms and all. Also ask how they’d prefer you interact with them. Over the phone? Via email? In person? Customize your relationship to fit their needs.
Speaking of communication preferences, always be aware of generational differences among your customers. For example, Baby Boomers are often called members of the “show me generation,” as they place importance on body language and in-person interactions. Millennials, on the other hand, prefer digital communication. The attention span of millennials is roughly 11 seconds, so keep those emails short and sweet! Another fun fact: 78% of Generation Z members (born between 1996 and 2011) have never visited a brick-and-mortar bank. Imagine their expectations for face-to-face customer service. Rather than inviting them to your building, it may be better to meet them at Starbucks and conduct business over cappuccinos.
Every customer is different, but they all long for a positive personal experience tailored to their individual needs. Think about what you can do to leave a smile on their faces after they do business with you. If you are successful, they will value your relationship and tell others about your enterprise.