Customer Experience is Vital for Today’s Retailers to Survive Tomorrow

By Missy Koefod, CEO, 18.21 Bitters. 

Every retailer should understand that in the age of ecommerce and endless choices, it is customer experience that will help them stand out and earn loyal clients who keep coming back and help spread the word. Today’s customers don’t want satisfaction. What they seek out – and return to – are retailers that deliver personalized and delightful experiences. What’s more, they have embraced this emphasis on exceptional customer experience and see it as the new normal, relegating companies that merely focus on customer satisfaction to the dark ages.

At 18.21 Bitters, we’ve made delivering an amazing customer experience as our number-one priority. So how can your retail business create a memorable customer experience? Here are a few of our best practices.

Elevate retail as an extension of the hospitality industry.

We treat every customer as if they are a guest in our home. When a guest comes to your home your first thought is to make them feel welcome and comfortable, not to get into their wallet. It should be the same way with customers. We make sure to greet every customer soon as they walk in the door because leaving a customer alone is not only bad manners but also bad for business. In fact, 80% of customers never return to businesses due to perceived indifference from staff.

Get to know your customers on a personal level and relate it back to a product you sell or a service you offer. For example, we are in the cocktail world so we like to talk to our customers about what they enjoy drinking or if they are looking to create a specialty cocktail for an upcoming event. This helps put the customer at ease and also helps your business provide a need, creating a happy customer.

Treat retail as an educational experience.

When a customer walks into our store, we try to impart one piece of knowledge that they did not already have. Perhaps the customer doesn’t know what goes in an old fashioned cocktail. We can teach them so that they leave our business feeling excited. Or if a customer is well versed in our industry, we inform them about upcoming events or a new local business to visit. We want every customer to feel like we provided them with something of value before they leave.

Make it a goal to educate your customers on something related to your business and/or your community. They will be more likely to return and shop with you in the future.

Give your customers choice and convenience.

Today, customers are surrounded by different options so limiting their choices isn’t smart business. In the past, we did not accept American Express Cards, although our customers repeatedly asked about it. We soon realized that providing a great customer experience is also about giving our customers choice and making it as convenient as possible for them to use their preferred method of payment. We now accept all cards, and as a result, our customers are happy that they accrue miles with every purchase, and we are happy to accommodate them.

Find simple and turnkey ways to say yes to your customers because if you make it seamless, they will shop again.

Realize that customer experience starts and ends with employees.

At 18.21 Bitters, our goal is simple and that is to equip our employees to be the best informed, most passionate and most accommodating brand representatives that any customer has ever had the pleasure of doing business with. Our people are an extension of our brand.

If employees aren’t fully engaged and enthusiastic about your company, they simply can’t create strong experiences for your customers. And that’s the bottom line.

As an owner, stay in the frontline.

You are the face of the business so don’t let other people exclusively define your customer experience. At 18.21 Bitters, my wife and I take turns being on the floor because we know how important it is to share our story with our customers and give them a behind-the-scenes look at our products.

Think about why you started your retail business or why you decided to sell the products that you do. Sharing this story with your customers will help your business stand out and generate loyal customers.

Missy Koefod, CEO of 18.21 Bitters, a craft cocktail mixer company based in Atlanta, GA, has been involved in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and is passionate about crafting a better cocktail and customer experience.

Photo Details: Missy Koefod speaking at the OptBlue event in Atlanta. Image provided by American Express.  

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