Provide a Customer Experience, but What Do They Really Want?

By: John Stanley

The move towards global businesses and particularly John Stanleyís global retailing may excite business people, but the challenge is in providing what the customer really wants, not what you think they want.

Let me give you two examples.

Firstly, from New Zealand, the countryís leading retailer is publishing very healthy net profits and has nearly every Kiwi as an advocate. They have become a household name. Their company philosophy has worked in New Zealand.

The journey across the Tasman to Australia is not that great. One would expect that what customers want in New Zealand can be copied in Australia. However, Aussies have different expectations to the Kiwis and as a result the Aussie arm of the business is finding it difficult to establish itself in Australia. The companyís strategy has been to buy their way into the market. But will the retail experience suit the Aussie culture? Time will tell.

The most diverse variations on customer expectations are in the airline industry. Global partnering may mean an easy transit around the world, but it can be a cultural nightmare.

The American travelling consumer wants a safe, reliable flight between A and B at the best price. Thatís the way it is done in the USA. As far as Americans are concerned the Airlines are selling a commodity.

Compare this with European travelling consumer expectations, even on a short flight. They want safety, reliability, the best price and service that provide a hot breakfast, cup of coffee, the latest news on television and a good movie. If this is not provided, their expectations are not being met, whereas, merely adding the cup of coffee would exceed the Americanís expectations.

As retailers, we often talk about providing our customers with a memorable retail experience, yet we often forget to ask the consumer what they want. In a global economy you cannot win. The American may perceive European airlines as far too expensive for the experience offered, whereas the European desires service and a meal, even on a short US flight and would be prepared to pay for the improved experience.

The challenge as a global company is how do you develop the appropriate experience to meet your consumerís desires.

Holistic steps to improve the experience

The consumer has specific needs based on reliability and price. This allows you to set up business, provide a specific service to your customers at the lowest price. This is the point the majority of American Airlines work at.

If the culture of your customer base expects high individual service, then you can provide incremental steps to improve your customerís holistic experience.

If your consumers are happy with each progression you make, they will then be prepared to pay more. If they do not agree with your strategy, you will be perceived as becoming expensive.

Every retail business is different. Brainstorm with your team what holistic steps you can take to improve your customerís experiences. Remember though, all of your customers will never be satisfied. You will never achieve 10/10 from all your customers consistently.

Some holistic steps as a retailer that you may consider include:

A coffee bar
A welcoming lounge
Todayís newspapers
Educational workshops
Loyalty network clubs
Delivery service

Remember, it is how you understand your own customerís culture that makes the difference. If culturally your customers do not want it, do not do it. It is when you start dealing with multiple cultures that it becomes a real challenge. That may be a global expansion of your business or working within a multicultural society within your own city.

The real challenge is developing the right experience for your clientele in your business to encourage business growth.

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John Stanley is a conference speaker and retail consultant with over 20 years experience in 15 countries and has authored several successful marketing and retail books including the best seller Just About Everything a Retail Manager Needs to Know.

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