August 10th 2011 @ 12:32 pm

Where is the Bar of Customer Experience?

Did the bar of a great customer experience slide with the stock market?  After 2008 it seems that the excuse of "the economy" could be used to rationalize taking away the small niceties like coffee, tea & cookies in the waiting rooms, and in many cases even the most necessary things like a cashier to pay for your goods! Understandably, economically some triggers must be pulled to remain profitable and stay in business.  However,  while there are some who found ways to stay true to their brand since the rough waters of 2008, there are many who took the easy way out, stripping the dollars from their balance sheet, resulting in poor customer experiences and putting a big question mark on their brand, possibly forever.

For those that made those short sided decisions they may not reap all of the benefits they could have with the most recent news in consumer spending.  After a three year lull in luxury spending is up, and up in a significant way! BMW doubled its quarterly profit and sales rose 16.5% year of year, Tiffany's sales were up 20% to $761M, and the list goes on, as reported in the NYT recent article, Even Marked Up, Luxury Goods Fly Off Shelves,. This is great news!  Hopefully this not only brings back the trickledown effect in reviving our economy with buying power; it raises the bar in our pre-recession expectation of customer experience.  Of course, this doesn’t mean everyone is going out and buying a BMW tomorrow.  “This group is key because the top 5 percent of income earners accounts for about one-third of spending, and the top 20 percent accounts for close to 60 percent of spending,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. “That was key to why we suffered such a bad recession — their spending fell very sharply.”  That leaves many still struggling with the current economy.  However, just as the luxury group’s buying habits can dictate the retail economy in the trickle down fashion; it can dictate customer experience expectations for everyone.

Various small businesses in the suburban area of St. Louis where I live, along with major chains such as Nordstrom, Ruths Chris, Ritz Carlton, Williams Sonoma and the doctors’ offices of Dr. Kaylea Boutwell and Dr. Matthew Bayes, whose office provides a spa like waiting room, that have kept their eye on the customer and involved their employees to think of creative ways to provide experiences that keep me brand loyal and coming back – bad economy or not.

Recession or not, customer expectations and employee moral should always be in the forefront to insure the eye doesn’t come off the ball on the critical factor for success and profits – creating personal, emotional connections to your brand, product, service or business that results in brand loyalty.  Customers, no matter where they fall in the economic scale should demand and command a great customer experience.  Competition is at an all time high and there is no better time to raise the bar!  

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