25 May 2024, 11:43
By Jonathan Creese Jan 15, 2024

Delivering remarkable customer experience

Why should furniture retailers focus on customer experience (CX)? Here, Jonathan Creese, customer experience manager at growing Scottish retailer Gillies, looks at what it takes to lift customer service levels to something truly remarkable …    

Customer experience (CX) is the fastest-growing business discipline. There are many reasons for this, but two significant drivers are: firstly, customer expectations are rising – as customers, we compare experience with our most recent best experience, regardless of the company or industry; secondly, customer trust is dropping in every market – customers no longer trust companies like they once did, however, they do trust the opinions of their friends, family and colleagues.

Covid-19 altered many customers’ mindsets on how, who and where they bought goods and services from, which has been further compounded by the underperformance of world economies, leading to severe challenges for businesses in an evermore technological and globalised marketplace. This has resulted in many businesses asking themselves, “How can we deliver business growth and be differentiated from our competitors?”

The answer to this question has led many companies to adopt CX as a long-term business strategy, focusing on the customer journey, customer retention and loyalty, and improving the company culture. By delivering CX excellence, companies can gain a competitive advantage.

Thanks to my role at Gillies, I truly understand the complexities and challenges that face companies, particularly in this current economy – but we all need to ensure that we consider more than the functional components, and really appreciate the emotional elements to the customer journey.

Delivering CX excellence is not an easy task, but it should be an aspiration for any company who wants to develop a customer-centric culture and deliver world-class service to their customers. The ultimate goal of great CX is getting customers to recommend your company to others. To do this, companies must deliver a ‘remarkable’ customer experience. Remarkable CX is all about going the extra mile for customers. It has such a positive impact on customers that they can’t help but tell people about it.

A good example of remarkable CX is when a company surprises and delights its customers. ‘Surprise and delight’ is a business strategy that seeks to attract and nurture customers by enhancing interactions with them and offering unexpected rewards, often referred to as ‘wow moments’. To surprise and delight customers is to exceed their expectations, improving their overall brand experience with spontaneous offers of kindness. ‘Surprise and delight’ strategies increase customer loyalty, which in turn leads to repeat purchases, larger basket sizes and increased brand engagement. When utilised properly, ‘surprise and delight’ can be extremely good for business.

In order to launch ‘The Gillies Experience’, I facilitated CX workshops for the entire company – capturing over 200 employees from all areas of the business (sales, delivery drivers, flooring fitters, warehouse, customer service, admin, accounts, web and directors). This was a significant and important step for our business to ensure that all employees understood that we all play our part in delivering CX. Remarkable CX featured as the finale for these workshops and set an aspirational goal for employees to achieve.

Many colleagues asked me, “What does a wow moment look like?” There is no hard-and-fast rule on this – it could be adding a complimentary item to their order, it could be delivering an item ahead of when you said you would, or it could be going above and beyond to get an item that was out of stock because you know your customer needed it urgently. 

In reply to my response, some employees flippantly suggested providing flowers or a bottle of fizz to every customer. Yes, this could be easy to deliver, but would every customer appreciate this? The most important aspect of this strategy is to ensure the ‘wow moment’, whatever it may be, is personal to the customer. 

To help capture imaginations, I used the story about Eleven Madison Park, one of America’s most critically acclaimed fine dining restaurants, based in Manhattan, New York City. It has held three Michelin stars since 2012 and was ranked 1st among The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017. I will not spoil this story for you, instead I encourage you all to watch Will Guidara’s TED Talk or read his book, Unreasonable Hospitality (which will blow your mind!).

Eleven Madison Park set a new service standard – it is somewhat extreme, but the basic premise of this concept is simply centred on going the extra mile for all customers. So, I challenged Gillies’ staff to consider how, what and when could we deliver ‘wow moments’ that were truly personal to our customers.

One of our customer service advisors was resolving an issue for a customer and had developed a great rapport and working relationship over the subsequent weeks. Upon conducting the final satisfaction call, the customer divulged that he was going away to get married in the coming days, which extended the call as they both got carried away chatting. 

After the call, this advisor asked if we could do something special for them. She simply wanted to send a greetings card and a Gillies gift voucher, offering our congratulations on this special occasion. A week later, the customer called back and told us that they were absolutely delighted by the gesture, and offered their sincere gratitude.

This gesture was easy to deliver, but the impact on the customer was priceless. Delivering ‘wow moments’ does not have to be elaborate or expensive – most of the time, customers appreciate the small things that matter to them, and the fact that we cared to listen and acknowledge.

Remarkable CX is all about going the extra mile for customers. It has such a positive impact on customers that they can’t help but tell people about it.

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