I’d been meaning to buy a new outdoor table and chairs for my backyard to replace the set I’d inherited from my mother 18 years ago, but I kept procrastinating.
An elegant and simple email promotion (20% off Outdoor Furniture) intrigued me enough to look at the Crate & Barrel website. The link took me right to the relevant page. I saw several options that looked great. Five follow-on emails kept the sale visible to me but it wasn’t until a visiting friend wanted to order a couch that I finally made it into the store.
As soon as we walked in the front door, I saw a set I liked. My friend and I chatted with a sales associate who was ready to greet us and answer questions. We rearranged different color chairs and tested them for comfort. The associate explained how the table folded up and gave her opinion on my desire to mix two different colors of chair seats.
I walked through the rest of the store looking at alternatives. There were lots of lovely designs but the first set seemed the best fit for my small pergola. The sales associate who’d been helping us used her point of sale iPad to confirm the pricing, checked the inventory on the computer at the register (the table was in stock but the chairs had to be ordered), and processed the sale. She personally tagged the table in the storeroom for pick up, gave me both a printed receipt AND emailed me a duplicate receipt.
A few days later, another person called me with a message that the table and chairs were ready for pickup. When I called back to say that I already had the table, the sales person told me all the chairs were there and apologized for the misunderstanding. I forwarded the email receipt to my husband who went over to the store but they only had two of the chairs.
I called them again. Now at this point I might have become annoyed. However, the saleswoman was extremely apologetic, took responsibility for the miscommunication, offered to deliver the other chairs at no charge when they came in, and thanked me for my business. A few days later, she called to say the other chairs had arrived and did we want them delivered? When I said it was easier for us to pick them up, she again apologized for inconveniencing us, and said they would offer us a gift certificate towards a future purchase. As a result, I am a very happy satisfied customer who will recommend Crate & Barrel and the specific store to my friends.
Ten lessons for the utility industry
I’m currently working with DEFG and ten utilities that sponsor the UCRC (Utility Consumer Research Consortium) to develop a new customer satisfaction metric that complements those in widespread use. We are building on techniques used in other industries to create a CX-Effort Score tailored and actionable for a range of utility operations. My experience with Crate & Barrel is relevant to that endeavor.
- Uptake is higher when a choice among options is offered*—There were several alternatives that allowed me to choose a product to fit my priorities: design, comfort requirements, price point, and space limitations. (*SGCC ED Patty Durand, in Smart Grid Today discussing their Empowered Consumer research)
- Multiple touch points contribute to adoption—It took one email to drive me to their website, but multiple contacts before I actually made it into the store. In general, good integrated marketing campaigns reinforce different perspectives on key messages so when the “right” trigger occurs—in this case my friend’s request which was not controlled by the seller—it will prompt action.
- Motivations vary—The discount was a bonus but it wasn’t the compelling reason to close my sale.
- Provide two-way conversation and guidance—The sales associates answered my questions about how this product would work for my specific situation.
- Good systems improve the experience for customers and employees—It was easy to process my order, send receipts via my preferred channel, and track the outstanding items and pickups (i.e. it was easy to do business with Crate & Barrel).
- Follow through—In this case, a metric like First Contact Resolution (FCR) would not give a useful assessment. They could not fulfill my order when I visited the store and had some miscommunication in secondary calls, but by the end of the process they resolved my issues to my satisfaction.
- Take responsibility and apologize for errors—their staff never said to me “I’m sorry you feel that way” which seems to be a frequent customer service response these days. They acknowledged they had made mistakes, which removed my annoyance and transformed a negative into a positive.
- Communicate you value the customer’s feedback—They let me know they valued me as a customer and cared about my opinion. I was able to express my appreciation in my own words VOC (Voice of the Customer) on an issue that might not appear in a general survey and give them feedback via a card that solicited open comments.
- Satisfied customers are more like to sign up for other offerings—Because I was having a good experience in the store, it encouraged me to purchase other items that I might have put off.
- It takes a great customer journey to encourage someone to recommend a business to others—Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a commonly used metric that is not always relevant to monopoly industries. However, it is relevant when focused on specific transactions and how the company resolves the issue. Based on this experience, I will definitely speak positively about Crate & Barrel to my friends.
If you would like to know more about the UCRC CX-Effort Score as an alternative customer satisfaction metric and would like to be part of the initial benchmarking effort, please let me know and I’ll introduce you to DEFG.