The short lesson from this article about Apple’s retail experience is that if you want people to have a consistently good experience with your store, you must CONTROL everything. No element of your store’s experience should be left up to a random element of choice as decided by an hourly employee.
A 2007 employee training manual lays out the A-P-P-L-E “steps of service” with an acronym of the company name: “Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome,” “Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs,” “Present a solution for the customer to take home today,” “Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns,” and “End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.” It is reportedly still in use today.
Freedom comes on the other side of control. How are you controlling the experience in your store?
The human mind is hyper-tuned to detect irregularities in our environment. There are entire websites dedicated to pointing out the irregularities in films and TV shows! This is exactly the reason companies develop "Brand Books", or brand guideline manuals. Every customer interaction with that particular brand is specified to deliver the same experience (or at least one that is congruent with other touch-points).
The same thing applies to how customers interact with your business. Is the Caller Experience they receive congruent with the In-Store Experience? You need to design your Caller Experience so that a customer calling in to check a price, ask a question, or even find out what your hours are for the day, has a similar experience to walking in your front door.
So how do you do that? Here are 3 ways to make that Caller Experience coordinate with your retail environment:
1. Match the banners.
Have your Auto-Attendant message read the same posters, slogans,and sale signs that are hanging throughout your store. Rack Room Shoes is famous for there BOGO sales. But when callers are on the phone, do they know when a BOGO Sale is happening? Let them know the moment the phone is answered. You can also accomplish a similar thing by having these messages play to customers while On-Hold.
2. Match the theme, style, and atmosphere.
We worked with a client who played this for callers On-Hold: …while when you walked in to one of their retail locations, you were greeted with this from the strategically placed speakers:
(Verve Remixed, Quantic Soul Orchestra and other "Euro-pop" sounds)
When someone walks into your business, are they greeted by your staff in fashion-forward suits? Is the lighting progressive and modern? Is the overhead music unique, cultured, and hip? Make sure your On-Hold message uses those same elements to reinforce the in-store experience, even to a caller on the phone!
3. Match the upcoming events.
More and more stores are becoming Experience Destinations, with much more than shopping. Special events, members-only activities, after-hours community functions, and even film screenings are becoming more and more normal at brand retailers. Your walk-in clientle may see annoucements and information about these events.
But what about the customers that call in over the phone? You have a prime opportunity to reach them with information they would otherwise not know. Inform your callers through your Auto-Attendant or On-Hold message, and you will be automatically reaching the people that are already interested in your business! The ways your customer interacts with your company or brand are very important touch-points. Make them incongruent, and you will upset your customer's sense of connectedness to your company. Keep them consistent across the phone, website, and in-store experience, and you will draw your customer closer to your business.
Chester Hull owns ProsoundUSA, a company dedicated to improving the experience of being on hold by providing great on hold messages. He's a client of mine.