I had a “wow” shopping experience the other day at Central Market, picking up ingredients for a salad. Since I have a serious tomato allergy, I’m not one of those people who picks up and tests each tomato before it goes into the shopping cart – in fact, I take care not to touch them at all.
A worker nearby saw me, and overheard my 9-year-old cautioning me not to touch the poison fruit. She walked over, noticed that one of the tomatoes in the basket I had picked was a bit bruised, and offered to handle the selection process for me. In seconds, she selected the plump, fresh tomatoes my husband loves, bagged and weighed them, then put on the weight and price sticker – and double bagged them before she put them in the cart.
For me, a produce department employee who took time on a busy Saturday to help a customer buying a few tomatoes was a “wow” experience. These days, when stores have slashed staff to the bone and beyond, I feel lucky when a retail employee notices my existence when I plant myself in front of them – and having one notice me before I tried to get their attention for 15 minutes was a rare occurrence.
A study published by the Wharton business school in 2009 reported that just 35% of shoppers reported an extraordinary — or “wow” — retail experience in the six months leading up to the report. The report said that in order to get to “wow”, retailers must deliver on as many as 10 different elements of the shopping experience simultaneously.
I work in the high-technology marketing business, and I would be shocked if anyone claimed that a software or hardware company could deliver that extraordinary buying experience in anything close to 10 steps. I’d put the number somewhere closer to 30 steps to a great experience, from product design and usability all the way through documentation, availability of help when it’s needed, pricing, after-the-sale support and every other “touch point” in between.
What constitutes a “wow” experience varies from industry to industry – and from consumer to consumer. It’s hard to know what it takes to deliver the experience without a thorough understanding of the customer buying patterns for a particular product.
But it’s easy to understand what happens when you hit the mark, and deliver that experience. Four out of five buyers will tell an average of three other people about a “wow” buying experience – and two of them will tell dozens, hundreds, or thousands of others about it by posting the positive experience on a social media site. Three of five buyers who have a “wow” experience will remain loyal to the brand for more than three years – unless a subsequent negative experience erases the memory of the original positive interaction.
What constitutes a “wow” experience for you? Is it product knowledge? Easy-to-understand policies and practices? A great product that delivers more than you expected? Employees who go out of their way to listen to you and understand your needs?
Or are you picky like me, and expect all of that plus great pricing and an intangible feeling of satisfaction, too?
I don’t have “wows” very often either. Rarely at supermarkets (even upscale ones), except my local Raley’s (a regional chain based in Sacramento). But I don’t usually need 10 to 30 steps to get a wow experience, and they still rarely occur. One really bad thing tends to ruin most of the good ones. One really great thing can make me overlook the so-so ones. So many companies just don’t care/don’t want to spend the money to improve the customer experience. And they hire people with the wrong personalities to interact directly with customers.
I maybe get one or two “wow” experiences a year. Some companies that I’ve had long-term relationships with, like Netflix, provide really great experiences from end to end, but I start to take that for granted over time (shame on me!). At least until I compare them with a competitor that doesn’t do things as well (I’m thinking about my Blockbuster Online trial here).
A great product is key. I especially feel let down if I buy a replacement from the same company and it isn’t up to the standard that the old one was. A terrible customer service experience will keep me away from a company for years (and I tell even MORE people about those than I do about good experiences).
BTW, what a clever grocery bag Central Market has! I just noticed your picture above and read the text. I can’t remember the last time a humble brown paper grocery bag made me smile.