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?

Right Data at the Right Time to the Right People

Right Data, Right time, Right People

Today I was travelling from Bangalore to Mumbai on an airline. I had a upgrade voucher that I used and got upgraded to Business Class.

As soon as the flight took off, I realized that 6 of the 16 business class seats were un-occupied.

That is such a waste of opportunity. The airline could have used this opportunity to delight at least 6 of their loyal customers.

All the airline had to do was the following:

  1. Include the Frequent flier status/miles of the passengers in their manifesto.
  2. Once the boarding is completed and if there are vacant seats in the business cabin, look at the manifesto and invite the passenger with the most miles to move to the business class seats. It is such a waste to let business class seats go un-used.

This is just one small thing that the crew could do based on the information that the passenger manifesto could have.

There is so much more that the airline could do:

  • They could have meaningful conversation with the customers on-board as they would know if the passenger is home bound or out bound.
  • They could give gifts to passengers who were flying on their birthdays or anniversaries. Maybe they could even throw an impromptu party for these passengers in the sky.

These small things can go a long way in not only delighting their customers but also making them keep coming back.

What I am driving at is that the possibilities are limitless once you are able to get the right data made available to the right people at the right time and empowering your employees to make decisions that are right in that moment.

And this is something that can be done right away, without any additional information, just by tweaking the existing information and making it available.

What this also hints at is that before organizations like this airline start looking at big data and data mining, they should start with the small data that they already have and use it well.

So, the question is what in your business is like the un-utilized business class seats? And what are you going to do about it?

Engaging Your Customers Is Not Sufficient Anymore

We are in an era where we are grappling with too much choice.  Consumers today are facing a challenge in keeping up with the different choices they have.

Every product or service category has become crowded (maybe apart from some categories like online search, where Google still continues to have substantial market share). In this scenario, having a meaningful engagement with your customers has become table stakes for any business to survive and thrive.

So, the question that every marketer grapples with is “How can my Product/service stand out in this crowded marketplace?”.

Some marketers try to stand-out by providing exceptional products/service/engagement (Apple)

Some try to come up with stunning advertisements and marketing campaigns for their products/services (Coke).

Some try to use the new age media to engage with their customers and build communities (SAP).

Irrespective of what strategy we use as a marketer, we need to be able to “Surprise” and “Inspire” our customers. If we are able to do both, we would have their attention and affection.

Doing these alone is not sufficient for a product/service to stand out and be successful. The product/service needs to be good quality, address a specific need for a customer, engage the customers in meaningful ways. All these are table stakes without which you do not stand a chance.

But by themselves, you don’t stand a chance to win over your customers.

Find creative ways to both “Surprise” and “Inspire” your customers.

How does your organization go about doing this?

Share your experiences about when were you “surprised” or “inspired” as a customer/consumer.

PS: Some integrated campaigns which have both “Surprised” and “Inspired” me are below:









My adventures in buying a dining table and lessons for retailers

Recently, me and my wife decided that it was time to buy a dining table.

My wife always wanted to buy a 6 seater wooden dining table. I wanted chairs without any cushions. We had a budget in mind (INR 20K).

Now, if you have bought a dining table in Bangalore anytime in the recent past, you would know that it is near to impossible to get a dining table which met all the three conditions above.

Still, we visited a lot of stores just like other married couples. After having seen what’s on offer almost in all the shops that we could find, we finally had to compromise and decide on a 4 seater dining table that met our expectations all but in the number of seats. We debated but decided to go for it.

The salesman saw what we were doing and came over. He explained a bit more about this particular piece of furniture. He said that the table and chair were made of solid Sheesham wood and went on to explain the properties of Sheesham wood and how long the piece of furniture would last. The price – INR19999/- (You see, the piece was on a discount sale. Original price was at least about 40% more).

We finally decided to buy the piece. As a global citizen of the 21st century, I took out my Platinum Credit Card and got it swiped for the said amount. We felt really happy! We were excited! We were told that the furniture will be delivered in the next few days as they need to get it from the warehouse.

So, we came back home (after having a pizza party at Pizza Hut).

Next day, my wife wanted me to go out and check out the accessories that we will need to go with the dining table. So, I went to a shop which also sells furniture accessories.

As soon as I entered this shop, I was in for a surprise. The dining table that I had bought (same brand, same piece) just a day before, was here available for the same price (but with 6 chairs). When I spoke to the sales man, he also mentioned that the wood is not Sheesham but was Mango. The life of the furniture doesn’t change drastically due to this simple fact. This store was the primary manufacturer and it had a shop-in-shop at the store where I had bought the furniture from.

Now, I was really upset about this. I felt cheated! However, I wanted to know this was a mistake. I hoped this was a mistake. So, I went to the store and told them that the same piece of furniture was available at the other store at the same price with 2 additional chairs and that the case of the kind of wood used.

I had hoped that the store would check this out with their supplier (which owns the other store) and deliver the furniture with 6 chairs and the matter would end there.

Again, I was in for a surprise. Firstly, the salesman got really defensive. He straight ahead came out and said that if I am getting a better price at a different store, then I should go ahead and buy it from there instead. He denied having given the wrong information about the wood.

I decided that it was time to speak to someone senior at the store. I asked to speak to the store manager.

I was then introduced to the head of the furniture section. Let’s call him Shyam (name changed). He was not willing to accept that there could be a difference in the price between their store and the other store. Finally, I convinced him to talk to his supplier and check if there was any difference in price and if they could give me the same price. He said that he will check with the supplier and call me back the next day.

I waited for the call till evening. I finally went to the store on my way back. I was told that Shyam was on his weekly off and that he will be in office the next day. I got the folks from the customer service desk to call him and check on the status. He said that he was unable to check as it was his weekly off and that he will call me the next day for sure.

The next day passed. I did not get the call. I called the store but was unable to get through to Shyam via their store phone number. Again, I visited the store on my way back home. He said that he had checked with his supplier and they had assured him that there was no price differential. By then, I was loosing patience and decided to cancel my order. I asked them to cancel my order. I was told that the order will be cancelled and they will issue me a cheque for the amount. I will need to come back to collect the cheque the next day as the finance team had already left.

I did not want to go back to the store again and waste a few more hours in the process. So, I instead asked them to cancel the credit card transaction and I would not have to go back to their store. They checked internally and agreed to do so the next day.

I got an email from the accounts team addressed to their bank asking them to cancel that particular transaction.

I went to the furniture manufacturers store and found that the same piece was still available for the same price. I decided to wait for the re-fund before placing an order with them.

The same evening, I got a call from Shyam. He said that they are now willing to offer me the same price that the manufacturer was quoting and wanted to know if I would like to still take delivery. Since, I had invested so much time and effort with Shyam, I said that it was ok and that he could deliver. He asked me if I would like to pay fresh or would like to cancel the request to the bank. I said that I would pay fresh.

The same evening, I was in for another surprise. I got an email from their finance team asking the bank to stop the cancellation. I thought that we should let this go.

So, we waited for the furniture to be delivered. Three days passed with no news about when the furniture was going to be delivered. Now, I got really angry at the way the store was treating me.

I called Shyam and he said that he will ask the manufacturer to call me and confirm when he will deliver the furniture. I got a call the next day that they will deliver the furniture next day.

The furniture was delivered the next day evening. When I got home, I found that one of the chair was damaged. As it was already late in the evening, I sent an SMS to Shyam indicating so. I got an response saying that he shall get the same replaced as soon as possible.

Then, I did not hear back from Shyam for the next couple of days. I really got angry and visited the store on my way back home. I demanded to see the store manager and was introduced to him.

I narrated the entire story to him and asked him if this is how his store treates their customers. He tried to pacify me. Took me for a cup of coffee and spent sometime with me talking about different things. He said that he will take care of the replacement.

Since then, I got calls from the store continously keeping me updated on when the replacement will be made. Once it was done, I got another call asking if everything was well.

Finally, we had our dining table complete with all 6 chairs.

Now, there are a lot of things that the store did should have been avoided:

  • The salesman needs to be trained better so that they know about their products and do not give out wrong information.
  • The situation could have been handled as soon as it was brought to their notice. Instead of haggling with their supplier and the customer back and forth, they could have sent someone over to the store that I was referring to validate my claim. If true, they should have simply offered me the same price, close the sale and then deal with their supplier. Do not let the customer wait or suffer.
  • Shyam knew that the next day was his off. He should not have committed to get back the next day. Clear communication was the key. It was missing in the entire interaction.
  • Mistakes happen. One needs to own up to it, apologize and figure out a way to correct the mistake quickly. In such cases, speed matters.
  • Also, when you’ve put your customer through such a process, go beyond what is expected. Replace the damaged chair and more. They could have provided a gift voucher to be used against my next purchase at the store. This would also increase the chance that I will shop there again and give them an opportunity to improve my shopping experience.
  • The store had an opportunity to convert a bad experience into a wow experience multiple times in the entire interaction but missed it every time.
  • The store could have thanked me (or rewarded me ;-)) for bringing the anomaly to their notice. There could have been other customers that the store would have lost due to this differential pricing. Also, this brought out the weakness in their supply chain which need to be corrected immediately to avoid any further issues.

The manufacturer made a mistake by having differential pricing at his store and other stores. This only leads to confusion and in this case, resulted in their customer (store) losing trust.

PS: I bought the furniture from Home Stop. The manufacturer was Mother Earth (Future Group)

And here we talk about the Future of retail –

This only goes on to tell how far this future is in India.