Why customer service makes all the difference

You’ve heard it all before – customer service is important. But how important?

Having read this article about a great experience at the US’s Best Buy:

While the Internet has forever changed how we shop, not to mention changing the pricing landscape, there is still much to be said for shopping in a real store, talking with real people who are knowledgeable about the products they are selling, and completing a transaction right then and there.

I searched for some examples. Some great reviews for a winery in WA included:

We only went to {winery} on the recommendation of another winery employee to find some port . We got to there at 4.35pm, just after they had closed the till and cleaned up. The owner and a couple of staff were just settling down for a wind-down glass of red. Nonetheless the owner asked if we knew what we wanted and had cash, if so he would let us back in.

The owner then proceeded to let us sample his red wines and port and – oh my God – they were awesome and so, so superior. Between two families we ended up spending $150+ and were so grateful for the recommendation! We will certainly return.

But then the same winery receives this review from a visitor from around the same time:

My partner and I had heard good reviews and were very disappointed. The wine tasting was terrible with the woman going through the wines in no particular order other than which wine was closest to hand. We were rushed in and out of the cellar door. As for the food, we waiting close to an hour for it to come out of the kitchen and when it did it looked like frozed food from the supermarket that had been deep fried and put onto a plate. The whole experience was aweful! I do not recommend.

A consistent customer experience is key. Online reviews or personal recommendations are great for your business. But they also raise expectations. And if one customers has a different experience to what they expected, naturally they won’t return..and will probably tell as many people as they can!

In this tough market, great customer service can make all the difference. As Choice blogged:

You will hear corporate types talk about “unique selling points” or “points of difference”. This is a fairly simple concept – work out what you do well and what differentiates you from your competition and emphasise it.

So what does my bricks-and-mortar store have that the online equivalent does not? Point of sales service: expertise, suggestions, even the ability to pay with something other than a credit card.

A classic example of this is the book industry. Yes, there are external reasons why major bookstores are closing down including the emergence of digital technology but there is something really satisfying about asking the small, independent bookseller about suggestions for books for an aunt who likes Jodi Picoult but doesn’t like Alice Sebold. They nod assuredly, rub their chin then go through a series of books that you’re sure your aunt will love.

So how do we create a consistent experience that leaves customers feeling valued, helped and properly advised? What is the ideal experience you want your customers to have? Define it and then train your staff to deliver it.

Anyone else have any suggestions or examples of businesses doing it right?



Is your visitor offering up to date?

Is it time to rethink what we offer to tourists? We think so.

There’s a growing consumer trend towards experience over things. It’s what trendwatching calls ‘Transumers’:

TRANSUMERS are consumers driven by experiences instead of the ‘fixed’, by entertainment, by discovery, by fighting boredom, who increasingly live a transient lifestyle, freeing themselves from the hassles of permanent ownership and possessions. The fixed is replaced by an obsession with the here and now, an ever-shorter satisfaction span, and a lust to collect as many experiences and stories as possible.* Hey, the past is, well, over, and the future is uncertain, so all that remains is the present, living for the ‘now’.


This post from Harbinger Consulting explains it further:

The visitor experience can be comprised of, or determined by:

  • Interactions with People
  • Product (broadly understood)
  • Sense of place
  • Perceptions, sensations
  • Market Position
  • Value for Money

Like customer or user experience, the intention of understanding visitor or tourist experience is to ensure that visitor expectations are met and that this will lead to either repeat or lengthened stays or stops. Because an experience is inherently personal and can engage or involve an individual at different levels namely, rational, emotional, sensorial, physical and also spiritual (Schmitt, 1999), expectations can often be subjective and difficult to gauge. Tourism Queensland’s formulation of audience segments provides some insight into the preferences of visitor types.

The framework developed for this project recognises that visitor experience is the result of many interactions and actions.

The intention is to enhance visitor experience by building:

  • A sense of place and local identity
  • Sustainable and viable tourism and enterprise (local economy)
  • Vitality and engagement

These outcomes will be of benefit to the local community and to visitors alike. This framework, while useful for developing our study, does not replace destination management planning and development, and is intended to anchor any ongoing destination management efforts.

Read the full article here: http://harbingerconsultants.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/study-visitor-experience

Need help redefining your visitor experience? We may be able to help. Contact us for a chat.

What’s new at the local experience

Well we’ve had a huge response to our kick off event – Fixing the Future. And now we have a poster to send around (feel free to download for your noticeboard, I’m sure it would make a great addition!).

Would you like to contribute to news on the local experience? We are always looking for the fab stories about how communities and businesses are creating customer experiences that work. Send your articles or releases to projects[at]thelocalexperience.com.au

Thanks for all the support. We have a few more projects up our sleeves, to be announced soon. Happy to hear about any needs you might have. And remember to follow us in facebook or twitter.

Do we need to close mainstreets?

The shocking number of empty shops in the UK has people asking if mainstreet centres need to be closed as they are just not being used.

From the emptyshops.wordpress.com website: ‘The latest Local Data Company report, entitled Too Many Shops makes it clear that we need to bring forward the prospect of alternative uses. Local authorities are already starting the process of turning empty shops into homes. And this week a Greater London Authority debate suggested councils would have to kill some high streets to save others.’ From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/the-northerner/2012/sep/21/manchester-salford-high-street-retail-mary-portas-shops

While Australia’s economic decline has not been so radical, empty shops are popping up. Does this mean we have too many shops? Are mainstreets just about purchasing goods?

I don’t think so. Mainstreets are where people meet up with others, they are centre of the community. They are places where you purchase goods yes but also:

–          Where you can eat, drink, meet, laugh, ie connect with people

–          View and respond to art – visual street art or the music of buskers

–          Access services such as optometrists, accountants and tattoo artists!

–          See and experience innovative new products and experiences

But as Alice Woodhead, Principal , Link Strategy, suggested, “The retail sector is suffering from a lack of confidence and confidence is required to innovate. We need to be positioning ourselves as a knowledge economy as opposed to just focusing on commodities.”

Can we innovate enough to keep Mainstreets alive and well? Yes! Of course you can do all of the things listed above in your home or other places, but every community needs a heart, a central place you know you can always go to find everything you need – products, people and experiences.

If your mainstreet needs help finding its niche, maybe we can help. Drop us a line.

And don’t forget to see how others are revitalising their local economies at our film screening event 7 November 2012.

Are you a retailer that needs a confidence boost? Here’s our encouragement. Feel free to print it and put it somewhere you’ll see it everyday!

Michael H Shuman on the soapbox

Great talk from localism activist Micheal Shuman at The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne recently. He talks about the campaign to introduce a ‘crowdfunding’ law in the US to ensure normal people can invest in local businesses. Inspiring.