Customer experience: Put to the test during the holidays

December 12, 2011

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some retailers are being pushed to the limits as they try to meet overwhelming customer demand while still delivering on their brand promise.

Amidst increased foot and site traffic, retail brand customer experiences are being put to the test during the holiday shopping season. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some retailers are being pushed to the limits as they try to meet overwhelming customer demand while still delivering on their brand promise. Below are a few examples of how retail brands delivered.

The circle of trust
A visit to an Apple retail store in Manhattan can be chaotic and unwieldy at any time of the year. But now, arguably the most painful part of the retail shopping experience can be avoided: the line for checkout.

This November, Apple introduced EasyPay, which is a self-checkout app. It can be used in the store to purchase the lower-ticket items stocked on shelves. Customers are also able to leave the store without actually demonstrating to staff that they’ve purchased the item. It’s actually unclear what measures are being taken to make sure customers have actually used the app to pay for products before leaving the store.

For this reason, not only is Apple providing a convenience to customers, but also demonstrating a measure of trust in customers, which reinforces the relationship they have with the brand.

Not everyone can handle Cyber Monday
On Cyber Monday, Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft offered a 50% off sale, which led to overwhelming traffic and caused their sites to crash. Ann Taylor extended the sale through Tuesday to meet the demand of its customers, but apparently met similar challenges. Following the problem, Ann Taylor issued a formal apology accompanied with a coupon for its existing customers:

“Dear Friends,
This past Cyber Monday we launched a 50% off promotion which generated an unprecedented response. This made our LOFT and Ann Taylor sites slow and at times, impossible to shop. When we extended the offer to give you a chance to complete your orders, we encountered many of the same issues. We’re sincerely sorry…”

While the brand faltered in its delivery, it was flexible and earnestly tried to meet customer demands. Most importantly, Ann Taylor was transparent about the situation and held itself fully accountable by apologizing to customers. While the brand faltered, through its actions, Ann Taylor earnestly demonstrated that it values its customers.

Where everybody knows your name
Sometimes, you just need to exercise a company return policy. If you order an item online from L.L. Bean and decide to call their customer service number to exchange or return it, your customer service representative will address you by your name if you’re using the number you entered for your online transaction.

This CRM tactic can go a long way to set the tone of a customer service call. It’s a very simple practice, but it sets a very positive and personal tone for what is typically a cumbersome conversation.

If the red phone worked for Batman in the 60s…

The demand of holiday shoppers can take a hit on store inventory. If you want to take advantage of a sale at J. Crew, but your heart is set on something that the store doesn’t have in your size, don’t give up hope just yet. Go ahead with your purchase at the register, explain your predicament, and the staff will check the site.

If you’re in luck, they’ll ring up what you have in hand and seamlessly transition your transaction by walking you to a red phone, likely in the middle of the store. You’ll speak directly with a representative who can facilitate the rest of the purchase. If you just used a credit card, they can use it without making you read the numbers over the phone.

What would be an otherwise awkward experience is embraced by the J. Crew brand, and likened in importance to a call for the President or a caped crusader.

Have you witnessed a customer experience moment of truth?

Have you put a brand’s customer experience to the test? How the did the brand deliver? Feel free to share your experience by replying with a comment below.

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