Customer Experience: Balancing High-Touch and High-Tech

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
When was the last time you personally thanked a customer? Sent a hand-written note? Last year Jack Mitchell wrote 1,793 personal notes to customers of his retail stores. That's about five notes a day, every day.

When was the last time you personally thanked a customer? Sent a hand-written note? Last year Jack Mitchell wrote 1,793 personal notes to customers of his retail stores. That's about five notes a day, every day.

Mitchell is CEO of The Mitchells Family of Stores, which owns several high-end retail stores, including Marsh, Mitchells, and Richards--and is author of Hug Your Customers. He spoke at the Conference Board Customer Experience Leadership Conference about connecting with customers on a more personal level.

Every touchpoint, every interaction, every detail--these are all opportunities to connect with customers in way that creates engagement and builds retention. "It can be something as simple as a smile," Mitchell said. "It's about making a human connection. Connections are 'hugs.' And hugs create loyalty."

So do great people, he said. Great product is a given; personalized service is where you can really make a difference. So the company looks for people who are honest, positive, competent, and nice, and have a passion to listen, learn, and grow. The retailer retains and engages it employees by using them in catalogs and ads, and by providing them with the product and customer information they need to deliver outstanding service. Also, there's no commission, which encourages collaboration. "It [all] helps to increase their commitment to customer service," he said.

A technology backbone is the third leg of the customer experience stool. The company has tracked every purchase by SKU since 1989, and as a result, has a comprehensive database of customers' product and channel preferences--and knows exactly who its top customers are, by spend. The company uses the information to create personalized mailings, send relevant event invitations (e.g., trunk shows), and the like.

This blended high-touch, high-tech approach helps keep customers right where Mitchell wants them--at center of the company's universe--because customer centricity, he said, is profitable. In fact, 72 percent of the retailer's merchandise is sold at full price. "Focus on what's most important," he said. "Customers."

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION