A Customer Obsession Makes for a “Wow” Experience

Ask any store owner. Retail is a tough business to be in. In my work as a small business consultant, I often see small, independent retailers struggle to make a profit. Statistics show that only 47 percent of retail businesses survive into the fourth year of business. So when a potential business owner comes to me to realize their dream of getting into retail, I have to ask, “What will be your key to success?”

“Lower prices.” Hardly. The days of competing on price are gone, because any competitor can always go lower. (Think Walmart.)

“Selection?” Not so fast. In a world where anyone can buy anything at any hour online, in-store selection loses relevance.

“Maybe customer service?” Bingo!

I preach constantly to clients that retail is not about transactions. It’s about relationships. So wow me (and woo me). Give me a reason to fall in love with your service. Show me that you’re thinking about me with your innovative ideas the minute I walk through your door.

In other words, be obsessed with the service and create a true customer experience.

I hate to admit this, but I am so underwhelmed by the lackluster service experience I typically receive that I’m not motivated to return if I can find it online. A lukewarm greeting and “Did you find everything OK?” at the checkout isn’t enough to turn me into a raving fan.

But if you know where to look, you will find some wonderful retailers in greater Lansing who are customer experience geniuses, taking their customer relationships to new levels.

Preuss Pets: A true destination

Shopping for pets isn’t just shopping when you go to Old Town’s Preuss Pets — it’s a wildlife destination packed with fish, talking birds, small animals, reptiles and kittens. The store is an explosion of exotic colors and sounds, where you experience an eclectic mix of animals, plants and art. Rick Preuss and his staff are dedicated to sharing their expansive knowledge and passion for pets in an environment that encourages exploration and learning.

Playmakers: Engaging a community

Playmakers, the Okemos store dedicated to all things running, does an outstanding job engaging with customers by creating a sense of team. Through their organized training groups called Team Playmakers, they offer runners of all levels the opportunity to build community and train with others striving for the same goal. The ubiquitous red and black training gear can be seen on training team members around town. It’s a great way to take the experience out of the store, while cultivating the customer devotion that most companies only dream of.

Cravings Gourmet Popcorn: An interactive experience

Cravings Gourmet Popcorn owner Chad Jordan understands to the very core that customers love to be included, and he offers an interactive experience that takes the in-store customer relationships online. He is constantly testing, tweaking and adding new flavors to his line of addicting popcorn snacks. So how does he inform his flavorful decisions? By asking customers what they want via social media. Creating a back-and-forth conversation makes customers feel that he’s designed a product line just for them.

Customer service is the true retail differentiator and the only surefire way you can deliver something your competitors can’t. If your experience doesn’t cultivate strong customer relationships, it’s time to rethink how you serve your customers. And if you are a customer who had an amazing retail experience, let the business owner know what they are doing right.


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