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How one bad customer experience almost destroyed my relationship with my favorite store

 
September 16, 2016

As Warren Buffett said, It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, youll do things differently.

 

It only takes the improper actions of one partner, employee or associate to significantly damage a store’s brand. That’s what happened in a recent experience at my favorite retailer.

I had purchased a bottle of pricey moisturizer from one of the beauty product counters. When I tried to use it the next morning, the pump was broken and could not dispense the moisturizer. When I returned toexplainthe situation, the store associate held up the bottle and said, This feels really light. (The product came in an opaque bottle, so you were not able to see how much moisturizer it contained.)

I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly. So I asked, Excuse me, what did you say? She again replied, The bottle feels really light.

It took a while for her words to sink in. Was she really implying I was trying to return a product I had used up? I asked her to check a new box to see if all the bottles felt light. Instead, she gave me a few Q-tips and told me I could use them to access whatever moisturizer was left in the bottle.

I was furious. I left in utter disbelief.

I’ve been a loyal and frequent shopper at this store for many years because of their great customer service and the quality of their merchandise. The store is known for their generous return policy, although I rarely return things. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve returned items over the past 20 years.

After many years of excellent service, one bad customer experience threatened to change my perception of the store. In addition, the associate involved in the interaction was not even a store employee but rather employed by the beauty product line. Still, unfair as it may seem, my frustration was directed at the store.

My experience made me realize how challenging it is for brands to protect their reputations. It takes a relentless focus on the quality and consistency of the experiences they deliver. It requires close scrutiny of who they partner with and who they hire as employees. It involves setting clear expectations about the kind of behavior that is required and communicating that to every individual and partner. And, it takes ongoing engagement and dialogue with customers to ensure they are happy and will remain loyal.

Fortunately, new technologies, applications and tools available today can help retailers curate consistent, exceptional customer experiences across channels and multiple brands so customers never should have to experience the frustrations I did.

Customer analytics software can help retailers deliver the most relevant and differentiated services, products and experiences in real time across every touch point of the connected customer journey. Machine learning, statistical algorithms and data from all relevant sources can be used to create and continually update customer personas in real time so retailers can deliver personalized customer experiences and respond quickly to changing customer needs — even capture insights that could flag their frustrating experiences and proactively resolve them on the spot.

My story has a good ending. I ended up going back to the store and talking with the manager. I was treated with great respect, felt heard and action was taken to remedy the situation. I am still a loyal customer because of this managers attentiveness and response, but it may not have ended this way. Savvy retailers will find ways to leverage customer analytics and other new technologies so a damaging brand customer experience doesnt happen in the first place. Or when they do, they’re resolved in real time.

When a retailer can do that, they’ll not just defuse a brand-harming situation. They’ll deepen customer loyalty, reinforcing the most valued attributes of their brand.

Additional information: Key Success Factors for Digital Transformation in the Retail Industry

Kathleen Holm is Marketing Director of the TCS Digital Software & Solutions (DS&S) Group. She has more than 25 years of experience marketing technology software and services to enterprises worldwide. She leverages her extensive background in enterprise software technology to help organizations develop effective marketing strategies, create targeted messaging and positioning, and implement effective go-to-market plans to improve corporate performance. Prior to joining TCS, Kathleen was a Senior Principal of technical product marketing for Oracle Fusion Middleware where she was responsible for defining the marketing strategy based on industry maturity and customer trends. She also held positions at IBM including Market Manager for WebSphere Developer Programs, Market Manager for Tivoli Integrated Service Management and Tivoli Brand Specialist. Prior to joining IBM, Kathleen worked with four high-tech startups.