The big box store. A retail creation that has transformed how we shop. For better or worse, more and more Canadians are purchasing what they need, and sometimes all of it, at one store. Whether it's Costco, Walmart, or the latest Canadian entrant Target, we definitely have choices. And that's just the retailers who offer everything. There are also the specialty big box retailers like Home Depot, Winners and Best Buy.
So, why are we so taken with big box shopping? And how good are they at delivering a great experience?
On their own, the above suggests it is worthwhile to shop exclusively at these retailers. But, let's look at the bigger picture - for those of us seeking a great customer experience, it will be harder to come by...
Where does this leave us? Simple. If you are looking for a one stop shop and don't care about being wooed by a great customer experience, than big box retailing is absolutely for you. Moreover, they provide affordable options and are accessible to pretty much everyone. Therefore, it's hard to argue with their success.
I, on other hand, crave the EXPERIENCE, so I choose to shop elsewhere, when I can. I prefer a place where I can relax, enjoy the environment and be well taken care of. Even if I have to pay a bit more to get it. Of course, unless you live in the city core and don't mind spending a bit more money, there aren't a lot of alternatives, especially when you're shopping for food, electronics or home improvements. But I chase it anyway!
I would challenge big box retailers no differently than the grocery store chains to see how they can improve the customer experience without veering from their priorities of price, choice and accessibility. And as a suburbanite even I can admit to a new found big box dependency - I'd just prefer that be by choice instead of need.
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One of Canada's longest serving and most reputable companies comes through in the clutch. Thousands of Torontonians were without power due to a recent ice storm that devastated the city. While several customers waited hours to purchase generators to heat their homes, a downtown Canadian Tire stepped up.
Generators were expected to be delivered by store closing and had not yet arrived. So what does CT do? How about treating everyone for dinner across the street?! Wow! Customers ate, relaxed and got their generators a couple of hours later. Talk about above and beyond service and right before Christmas - A heartfelt and warm thanks to the CT store staff for being so bold, creative and compassionate under difficult circumstances.
Canadian Tire is an institution and has been serving Canadians for over 75 years. I am sure this is not the first time they have done something exceptional and that it won't be the last. Congrats on making such a difference! Click CDN Tire to read the full story in today's Toronto Star.
Customer Service Simplified would like to wish all our readers a terrific holiday season!
In part one, I talked about the grocery store experience and soon after posting, I read that Loblaw’s had renovated a few stores and incorporated some of the very suggestions I talked about. Thank you Loblaw’s! Visit the newest renovation at Bathurst and St. Clair (in Toronto) to see what they’ve done to distinguish their customer experience. And yes, their plans were laid well before my blog!
Today’s blog is all about clothes, something I have a particularly soft spot for. Considering that we all have varying tastes and budgets, it will be difficult for me to cover everything so instead, I’ll break things down into the following categories:
I’m not a big fan of the big box store. While I get why they are successful, for me the experience falls a bit short. The space is big, a bit impersonal and finding help isn't always easy. Check out times can be painfully slow and I don't often feel like my business matters. That being said, prices are great and everything you need is one spot.
While I understand that they compete on price and convenience first, I challenge them to improve their customer experience. Aside from Nordstrom's, whose service is renowned, the rest can be better. Take a cue from Loblaw's and start finding ways to be a bit more creative and surprise your customers.
This one is easy and most mainstream retailers get it right. They strike a nice balance between quality, price, convenience and service. Translation: a good customer experience. The Gap is a great example. I’m greeted as soon as I walk in the store and shortly after someone asks me if I need help. Things are merchandised well making it easy for me to find what I want, and I’m offered a fitting room as soon as I have an item in my hands. Also, check out is generally quick and efficient (holiday period aside).
If you are looking for clothes that are reasonably priced (but more than big box), provide value for your money and you don’t mind shopping at multiple stores, mainstream is for you.
I think that this is the group of retailers with the most opportunity for improvement. Ironically, these are the retailers I visit most often but, I know going in that if I want to be fashion forward I need to forgo the experience. (Beauty is pain – or in this case, a pain!) What I am assured of is good looking pieces that are reasonably priced. My challenge to this group is to get better at the basics! Say Hi when I walk in, ask me if I need help or if you can get a change room started for me. A smile is also nice!
There are countless options for stylish consumers but much like the grocery store chains there is also room to improve the customer experience. The question remains, who believes doing so will translate into increased sales? I would argue that those that do will soon realize that they need a fresh approach to set themselves apart in a fiercely competitive industry. Price, value and convenience may be enough for a number of consumers but it definitely doesn’t meet the needs of all.
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Stay tuned for part 3, the final part a three part retail series on the customer experience
West Jet has redefined what it means to go above and beyond - Click here Compassion Redefined to read this outstanding tale. Let me also say that I have given much love to South West airlines and for good reason, based on their industry leading employee engagement/customer experience, but this story reminds me that we have one pretty terrific airline right here. And as a frequent traveler, it is my airline of choice for customer experience.
Here are a few things I like about West Jet:
And CLEARLY, when the time calls for out of the norm compassion they have reset the standard. Congrats to West Jet for doing something really special here. You are well deserving of this recognition and to the West Jet employees who managed this extremely difficult situation, you are all stars!
A big thank you to Mike for sharing his story.
Let's begin with this question: does any grocer deliver a consistently GREAT customer experience? With all due respect and in my personal opinion, NO. This doesn't mean that most of my needs aren't being met, because they generally are. I can find what I need, I don't have to wait an inordinate amount of time to pay (unless it's Saturday at Walmart!) and I get decent, quality goods for a reasonable price.
So, can grocers do more? Absolutely! Imagine the revenue potential for any grocer who decides to start creating a distinguished experience. The opportunities would be limitless, especially when considering how competitive the marketplace has become. From what I see, grocers are competing on three things, price, rewards and convenience. Not service. And in light of increased competition from pharmacies, big box retailers and expanded convenience stores, we can shop at more and more places. We can shop virtually too.
So, who is ready to distinguish their experience?
Here's my challenge to all grocers: Get out of the box and dare to be different - here's how:
Some of what I suggest here does happen, just not consistently, and it varies greatly by chain. For example, at Longo's, I see a Starbucks as soon as I enter. It's set up right there in the store. The location is perfect and implies that we should stay a while and enjoy the experience. Leveraging a coffee company who redefined the coffee experience is a great start - they also commit to speed and rarely is there a long line at the cash.
Whole Foods, in my opinion creates the best customer experience with a terrific focus on sustainability. The staff are also the most friendly and helpful of all the chains. In this case, you will pay a bit more because of their organic selection and things can still be better. Again, someone please ask if I need help :). Whole Foods also offers a great lunchtime atmosphere with lots of tables nearby and great food choices (decent prices too).
I don't find there is much to distinguish between Loblaw's, Sobey's and Metro - they are all good but just don't standout as far as a distinguished customer experience. I do love that PC line though! The lower priced options, Food Basics, No Frills, etc. are terrific for basics and for those of us trying to spend less. Of course the customer experience is sorely lacking. Those line ups at the cash can be painful.
Grocery shopping will always be an essential and often mundane task but being surprised along the way can be a good thing. As consumers, surprises are welcome, especially when it makes for a more fulfilling experience. And on that front grocery stores have room to improve. The question is, will they?
Stay tuned for part 2 in our retail series...coming soon!
We are Customer Service Simplified! Visit us at www.simplifyingservice.com