The Art of Customer Delight – Every Little Thing Matters

Customer Delight

I was out shopping with my wife and son at a large 3 floor retail outlet. We were looking to buy something for all three of us and as is normal, spent quite a bit of time at the store.

It was then that I felt thirsty. I approached an employee and the conversation that took place was something like this:

Me: I am feeling thirsty. Can you pls tell me where can I find some water?

Employee: Sir, you need to go to the 2nd floor. That is where you will find the water filter.

Me: Don’t you have any water available on this floor?

Employee: No sir. We only have one water filter and that is available on the 2nd floor.

Me: So, if you want to drink water, you also have to go to the 2nd floor?

Employee: Yes and No. We are required to carry a water bottle that we fill and keep with ourselves. But that is for our own use. For customers, the water is available at the water filter on the 2nd floor.

And I was on the Ground floor.

So, I went back to the 2nd floor, found the water filter tucked in a corner. I was a bit miffed at the fact that the store did not have a water filter available on each floor. It doesn’t cost much. But, then forgot about this all together.

Until the next time, I visited another retail store, similarly large.

This time, i was curious to find out if this retailer had water available at each floor. To my surprise (or maybe not so much of a surprise), I found that this retailer also had water available only at one of its floor.

I tried to check this at almost every large retailer in Bangalore and found the same to be true.

Now, the question that i have is the following:

Why cant a high end retailer doesn’t care about customer (and employee) comfort, when it comes to little things like this?

It doesn’t cost them much to have a water filter at every floor of the retailer.

Though it doesn’t seem to be much of an issue at a superficial level, but at a deeper level is a big issue. By not doing this small and not so important a thing, you are setting an example and telling your employees and customers that their comfort doesn’t matter.

This also sets a culture where employees are not keyed in to delight customers.

It is these small things that when done well, delight your customers.

These also set the ball rolling and sets a culture of thinking about the comfort of your customers at the centre of all your decisions.

This also tells your employees that the customer and his comfort matters, however small their request is.

So, what is your water filter problem? How do you plan to address it?

Niche E-commerce Product that Helps Old Indian Art forms Stay Alive – NatsyByDesign #1000Entrepreneurs


As part of the Help a 1000 Entrepreneurs project that I have launched, the second enterprise that I would like to promote and share about is

You will love this site if you have a discerning taste and like hand crafted stuff made by artisans using hundreds of years old techniques.

India has been home to hundreds of different types of crafts that has been passed on from one generation of artisans to another for centuries. Some of the art forms are even a few thousand years old. Of late, the artisans have found it difficult to survive and there has been a movement by extremely dedicated patrons to help these artisans survive so that the art form doesn’t vanish.

The challenge in this is two-fold:

  • You need to be able to design new contemporary designs using these age old art forms, so that these products find home in the modern homes.
  • You need to find customers or people who appreciate this effort and are willing to pay that little bit of premium for the products.

This is where the entire e-commerce business model has come to help.

I would like to introduce NatsyByDesign.

The founder has actually created an online store that has products made by more than 50 art forms with thousands of product options.

What I like about the product:

  1. The focus of the business – which is to present the various art crafts with modern designs while at the same time remain authentic to the craft.
  2. Contemporary designs which are not only authentic to the craft but chic to wear and use at home.

What I would like to see more:

  1. It would be really nice to know more about the art form while looking at the products made using the art form. That way, the customer will be able to appreciate the product better and hence are willing to pay a premium.

Business Model:

  1. This is a hybrid e-commerce model with a physical experience store in Bangalore for customers to touch and feel the product if they want and a e-commerce website for people to order online.
  2. The key value proposition that the business offers is the following:
    1. Hand-crafted products ensure that there is a level of exclusivity of the products.
    2. The emotional satisfaction for the customer of having helped a art/craft form revive.

Ideas for the founder:

  1. Create or link to videos that that show how a particular product is crafted and where possible share a story about the artisan and their lives. This will ensure that the people who buy the products appreciate it even more.
  2. Host online events to talk about the various art and craft forms that are more than a century old. This will help build even more authority for the business in the niche that they are in.
  3. Hold member only pre-launches before introducing new products or product lines like preview sale that brick and mortar stores run for their existing customers. Even offer exclusive products for members only.
  4. Create a focus product of the day/week/Month which the founder can showcase with a lot more information about the product/craft/artisan.
  5. Create a referral system for existing customers.
    1. For every new friend that an existing customer refers, they get points that they can use to buy products from the catalogue.
    2. Alternately, Allow an existing customer add a product to wishlist. Based on the product that they have added to the wish list, the team can actually suggest the number of friends that they need to refer in order to get the item shipped for free to them.
  6. Add pre-order capability within the platform, ie, create a product in the digital form and ask for pre-orders from the patrons before actually producing the product.
  7. Create exclusive limited edition products (for pre-order or on produce).

Overall, if you love arts and hand crafted products, this is a great site for you to find more than 6 lines of products made by 50+ different types of art forms, then NatsyByDesign is a great place for you to buy.

This is also a great site to find art/craft based products that you can buy as a gift for someone you love.

I wish the entire team of NatsyByDesign a lot of success!

Idea for a disruptive biz-model innovation for banks

There is a lot of discussions and activities around the revival of the good old ATM.

  • Some are trying to make these machines more Customer-centric like Wells Fargo.
  • Some are trying to improve the overall user experience of the ATM like Diebold.

However, the true question should be the following:

Do we even need an ATM? Is there a better, easier, faster way to manage cash than via an ATM?

The first bank to figure out the answer to this question has the potential to truly disrupt the banking industry from a cash management perspective.

One way that I think could be used is the small businesses that accept payments from a credit or debit card?

Can they not be used to function as a teller for the bank? The bank instead of charging a fee for the use of the card machine, can instead pay the business a nominal amount and convert them into cash dispenser.

All the technology that is needed to make this happen is already available. The only change is in the execution of the idea.

This is just one idea to enable this. There could be many more viable ideas.. The question is are we looking for them?

Do let me know your thoughts by posting your comments below or tweeting them to me at @rmukeshgupta.


Are large Indian retailers battle ready?

In their current state of operations, Indian organized retailers are in no way equipped to compete with the likes of Walmart, Tesco or Target.

Let me re-count to you my experience based on which I have come to this conclusion.

Last week, I went grocery shopping with my wife to a large format retail store in Bangalore. I was appalled at the thoughtless design of the store and the lack of the willingness to serve the customers in the entire staff.

In my opinion, there are 2 key performance areas which are critical for a retailer to succeed in a market like India:

  1. Supply chain efficiencies
  2. Customer’s shopping experience

This retailer failed on both counts (to provide the goods at the cheapest price or to provide a high class immersive retail experience).

Before we move ahead with this line of thought, let me share my impressions  from my visit:

Customer Experience perspective: 

  1. Store design: This store was spread across 2 floors. The layout of the store was such, that you need to go to the 1st floor (non-grocery items, a.k.a, high margin items), walk all the way across to the other end of the floor, then come down to the ground floor for groceries. What this meant was that, even if I only wanted to buy groceries, I am still forced to walk through the non-grocery floor, hoping that I shall be tempted to pick something based on the promotions offered. Though this helps the retailer try and maximize the revenue per shopper, this leaves the shopper in a bad taste.
  • Cart design: The only shopping cart that they have for usage is a large size cart. There was no option of a handbag or a smaller cart. Though not bad by itself, this was a problem with the way the store was laid out. I had at least a dozen customers bump into me and me bumping into another half a dozen customers, as the space between ailes was so narrow.
  • Motivated and trained employees: The store had minimal support staff. There was no one to help. I had a few questions on the placement of a product of a particular brand. There was no one present to help. The staff whom I did find, were not able to help as they were as clueless as me.
  • Check-out experience: Now that I had collected everything that I wanted to buy in my cart, I went to the billing counters. There were about 16 billing counters. However, there were about 6 – 7 customers already waiting for billing in each of these counters. What this meant was that I had to wait for another 45 minutes to get my items billed and get out of the store. The billing clerk tried on his part to be as quick as possible, but to the dismay of the customers, he was not able to scan the bar-codes of 1 out of every 9 or 10 articles. This meant that he had to manually type these codes (I think about 16 numeric characters each) in order to complete the billing. Also, there was no separate counter for fast track billing (maybe for 5 items or less or cash billing). So, even if you only had to pick one item, you still had to go through the entire grill.

After such an experience, I doubt if I shall think of going shopping in the store  again, as I have a myriad of options for where I can go (including online stores) shopping for grocery and these options will only increase with FDI in Retail cleared.

Supply chain efficiency perspective:

  • Stock-outs: From my list of groceries, there were 3 items (cooking oil, a specific brand of Jam & a specific kind of spice) which were in a stock-out position. This was on a Saturday evening at around 6PM. Now, it is very well known that the biggest lost opportunities for retailers is lost sale due to stock-outs.
  • Price: I happen to go a mom & pop store near my home to buy these 3 items that were not available at this store. I also saw the retailer selling a couple of items (a specific brand of whole wheat atta) to a customer at a price that was lower than the price i bought at the store earlier in the evening. So, not sure if they will be able to compete on price either.

This is not just the state of this one retailer in India. Most so called organized retail stores (multi-brand, multi category stores) have more or less similar problems. Some more serious than others.

Now, the question is,  if and when players like Walmart, Target or 24×7 arrive in India, will these retailers be able to compete with them? I am not suggesting that these retailers will get all of this right. However, if i were an Indian retailer, I would not bet my survival on the assumption that they will also face similar problems. I would be ready with a strategy to compete/co-opt with these retailers before they can hurt me.

What next? 

So, the next question that beckons is the following – what can retailers do to counter this threat?

Strategically, they need to pick a field where they want to be the best. Whether it is  competing on

  • Cost (low cost or luxury or premium)
  • Customer experience
  • Speed (how fast or slow do i get new products lines on the shelf)
  • Niche (define and win the niche)

It doesn’t matter, what strategy they adopt; they will need to improve on both the supply chain efficiency and the customer experience part, as these will be the necessary battle conditions, without which, you will no longer be in the competition.

These are my thoughts on the state of organized retail in India. Do you agree with my assessments?

Please do post your thoughts as comments below or tweet your thoughts to me on twitter (@rmukeshgupta).

PS: Something extra for all you people. Watch this prank by the Improv  team at a Best buy store

Ideas for Big bazaar to improve their check-out situation..

I am one of the many people who dread the thought of going to Big Bazaar for shopping but do so due to other social compulsions.

The reason I dread going there for shopping is the time it takes to check out once you have completed your shopping. There have been instances when it has taken me more than 60 minutes to check out. There have been times when I’ve dropped the articles I had selected after seing the que at the check-out counter and left for home as I thought it is not worth standing in a que for an hour or even more for the articles that I have picked up.

I also know that this is not just true in my case but also in a number of my friends case as well.

Now, is Big Bazaar (or for that matter any other large format retail store) not aware of this problem? That can’t be the case as they are smart and would know that this is a problem.

So, what is stopping them from solving this problem? Inertia? Maybe they do not realize the magnitude of the problem.

I wanted to think about this from their perspective and to try and find a solution that not only fixes this problem, but does so in a manner to increase the total sale per customer as well.

I could come up with the following ideas:

  1. Implement the teller system used by banks. All customers who have less than 6 articles can get on the que and get their wares billed and leave. All others will get a token for their carts. These customers are then free to roam about in the store or wait at a lounge (where coffee or tea can be served).  Just like the teller at a bank announces the token number and the customer can then go and get attended, the check-out counter announces the cart number and the customer can then join the counter, get his wares billed, make their payments and leave. No long ques and killing time (the most precious commodity of all).
  2. Implement the ATM concept: Introduce billing machines that the customers can use themselves to bill their wares, pay and check-out. These machines have been available for some time now. Though this involves a lot of investment, it also improves customer satisfaction. Also, the next generation of consumers are a generation which will grow up in a DIY (do-it-yourself) world and would rather prefer this than waiting in a que to be served.
  3. Order online, collect at the store: This model is already working at many stores. For example, “Groupe Casino“, a french departmental store has already deployed this model with great success. Their customers can place their orders online, make the payment and collect their goods in 2 hours from the store on their way back.
  4. Flip the billed to the biller: With the proliferation of smart phones and appification of our lives, they can think of developing an app which could recognize the bar-codes and can be used to scan all the items, generate a bill, collect payment from the stored credit card and generate a bar-code which can be verified at the gate to ensure there is no theft.

These are just 3 ideas that I could come up which would not only make it easier for the customers and improve customer satisfaction, but will also increase impulse purchase and last-minute drop-outs at the counter when the consumers have time to think and rationalize their purchases and some of the impulse purchases get dropped just before billing. This will increase the average bill size of the customers.

If given a good thought, we can come up with many more such creative solutions for many such problems.

Makes life easier for people like me!

Question is “Do they want to make our lifes easier?”

How has your experience been with the different departmental stores? Have you come across any interesting solution to solve the problem of the wait time at the check-out? If yes, please share the same with us..