How many times have we walked out of a store having found everything we needed but somehow not completely satisfied with the experience? On these occasions, we leave feeling like something was missing but unable to exactly pinpoint what. For me the problem lies in lack of attention by frontline employees. Especially in the past weeks, as stores got busier in the run-up to the holidays and salespeople were trying to divide their time between more people than usual, it's easy to feel as if they don't really care about you and are simply going through the motions. On such occasions, even a successful shopping trip fails to make us feel completely satisfied.
The difference is felt when we go into a store and a sales person goes out of her way to be helpful or when they remember us from previous visits. This attention elevates a shopping experience and makes it feel more intimate.
For the past two weeks my husband has been stopping at a small deli in Harlem to get a cup of coffee before we both catch the train to Connecticut. When we went into Q&N Food last Thursday, the lady behind the counter simply turned around and without asking my husband what he wanted, prepared a large coffee with milk--his usual order. Her attentiveness is even more astonishing since we had only been going to this place for a short time, and turns a mundane transaction into a great experience.
It is probably impossible for salespeople to remember all their customers and their preferences, even when these are regulars. However, frontline employees have a great opportunity to improve their customers' experience by treating each one as an individual, sometimes even just by asking about their day and trying to get some information about them. For example, a sales associate helping a customer find a new dress can engage the shopper in a conversation about the event for which she's buying the new outfit. By trying to get to know the customer better, the frontline worker can tailor the service to her and improve the overall experience.
Organizations should also leverage technology to deliver the intimate shopping experience that was a norm in the past. For example, by linking a customer's credit card to his profile, they will know what he's bought in the past and can make recommendations similar to what we get from websites like Amazon, and turning a shopping trip into a truly personalized experience.