Customer Experience: Building Trust And Excitement

Mohamed Amer

In talking to retailers, I often hear of a desire for deeper engagement with customers, a richer and more consistent experience, increased customer loyalty, and more ‘wow’ in-store and online.  All of these desires speak to what constitutes customer experience.

There is general sense of the need to deliver an inspiring experience along the customer journey.  I had two distinct customer experiences recently while traveling to Dallas, Texas to visit family.  Each had to do with the idea of customer experience and how companies from airlines to retail stores pursue it with variable success.

Excitement of the Wrong Kind

In order to visit my family, I first had to get from Los Angeles (LAX) to Dallas (DFW).   Although the flight portion of a journey is relatively short, much goes into the complete customer experience of getting there. You have to come up with the date and schedule, compare prices, select the airline and get your preferred seating.

Then there’s the logistics of getting to the airport and securing parking or livery (especially tricky during peak travel periods.) Then printing or downloading boarding passes, checking-in of luggage, and going through security. We’re not done yet, you still have to find your unoccupied assigned seat (hopefully) and room to stow your carry-on (remember, just two).

All this and the flight hasn’t taken off. Yet these are all part of the ‘customer experience’ and journey.  Surprises can lurk everywhere.  Weather at origin or destination can wreak havoc on the flight; as does airline overbooking policies, mechanical troubles, flight crew availability, baggage handlers, and so on.

You guessed correctly, I should not have been surprised (but I really was!) that a direct three-hour flight from LAX to DFW can turn into a 13-hour marathon.  It was full of cancelled flights, introduction of completely unanticipated airport transfers, surprise seating arrangements, plus a luggage-finding exercise (active RFID tag anyone?). The twists and turns were not just unexpected but also undesirable.  It was a distinctly unsatisfying customer experience.

The Right Kind of ExcitementCustomer Experience: Building Trust And Excitement

The second customer experience was at The Shops at Southlake (across from Southlake Town Square), a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth.  Your culinary tastes will not be disappointed with numerous choices in cuisine and price points (high and higher).  You can find almost any specialty retailer here and many luxury brands are well represented.  High expectations become the norm in this retail environment.

But I’ve been accustomed to tone down these expectations whenever I venture into grocery stores.  These are not normally known as models of good customer experience.  Although overly generalized, supermarkets are for the most part undifferentiated in layout (perishables along the perimeter and dry goods in center store) with the same packaged goods brands found up and down the aisles, and discount price tags flying prominently on every shelf.

Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Publix are immediate exceptions that come to mind in food retailing.  Each has differentiated the customer experience through multiple avenues.  These include unique product assortment and range, private label program, and inspiring layout and visuals while generating excitement and emotional connection in a sensory wanderlust.  Yes, these are retail stores engaging the aspirational culinary wants and needs of foodies and gourmet alike.

Enter: Central MarketCustomer Experience: Building Trust And Excitement

I had heard of H-E-B’s Central Market stores in Texas (total of nine as of 2012), and with one a stone’s throw from my sister’s house, I volunteered to help with the grocery shopping!

As soon as you enter and grab a shopping cart you notice a cheery person greeting you at the “Answers” desk (already gets you in right frame of mind).  A layout of the store hangs next to the desk, the store is divided into several rooms and areas like multiple markets catering to your daily needs.  Gone are the long center aisles replaced with intrigue around every corner. A promising start for a good customer experience.

Fruit and vegetables galore is the first “room” as you step through the threshold.  The colors are brilliant, attractive, and welcoming.  There was an amazing 26 types of apples on display, nine of which were organic!  Coming from California, the prices were very reasonable, but I got the sense that you could do better at some competing stores; but I doubt they can match the variety and freshness.

At Central Market the customer weighs and tags their own produce and fruit using the many available scales.  I saw one customer that was using her own re-usable bag and was sticking the labels on the outside of her bag for scanning at checkout.

Coming around the corner I found my day’s destination: the fish market.  From my list, I found Atlantic Salmon and Hawaiian Kona Kampachi fish.  The store associates were of course knowledgeable as to taste, texture, and cooking ideas.  They were also helpful in explaining about how the Kampachi was farmed (offshore in deeper waters, were not genetically modified, and without antibiotics or hormones).

And without even asking, they added some ice to keep the fish fresh until we finished shopping and the drive home.  I added exemplary customer service and knowledgeable employees to my list for a good customer experience.

Having made my ‘assigned’ purchase, I was primarily tagging along with other family members as I explored the store.  I found some handy “short-cuts” between rooms if you wanted to make a quick exit to the checkout counters.  So despite a room-type of layout, customers weren’t forced to navigate these if in a hurry.  I spent some time in the bulk nuts and candy area and was delighted that I can make my own fresh peanut or almond butter at the press of a button (and knowing that it’s 100% peanuts or almonds).

I found the bakery astounding in the variety and the hub bub of activity behind the counters late in the day.  The cheese department was another busy area with lots of choices.  I picked up some feta cheese, only to discover they carried not one but five different varieties.  The olive bar was extensive and the deli hot foods make for convenient and healthy alternative to cooking for time-starved shoppers.  I added unexpected excitement and choices to my list for memorable customer experience.

Many people would be surprised not to find a lot of “major” national brands on the shelves.  Instead you’ll notice lots of private label goods with smaller brands and some from overseas.  This was reminiscent of Trader Joe’s (carrying almost exclusively all private label goods) strategy or Wegmans.  With those two retailers, it’s about trusting the store brand for quality, taste, and value.  It’s also about trusting the skilled workers in the stores to know their products and to make timely and relevant suggestions.  So something similar must be happening at Central Market.  Trust made it into the customer experience bag.

My Take AwayCentral-Market-3

The folks at Central Market found a way to make for a memorable customer experience out of buying groceries.  The layout, the products, the store personnel, the smells, the visuals were all fantastic.  I wouldn’t go there to fill up on my cleaning supplies and paper products necessarily, but for that unique meal that is sure to impress, Central Market hits the spot.  There wasn’t the usual push and shove of carts, but a more casual and friendly strolling for culinary ideas.  Customers chatted with each other and with the store associates.

Shopping wasn’t a painful event, these customers appeared to enjoy being at Central Market!  They turned customer experience into desired customer behavior (exuberant fans). So what happened here? What did Central Market do that was different? I think there are a few key themes that helped Central Market redefine the value for money formula in their market:

  • Simplify her life.  Reduce shopping complexity for your customers. Planning a meal can be a complex activity, especially for the hurried working couple or busy mom.  Store layout with meal ideas and associated items in same proximity make it easier to find what you need. Now couple that with knowledgeable store employees, and you’re ready to be chef for a day.
  • Trust and consistency. Central Market earned the trust of their customers by delivering consistently on value (quality, taste, price) using private label, unique products, and a store full of helpful employees. Central Market also shared that trust by letting customers weigh their own produce, bulk nuts, etc. Together these build a “shopping culture” of trust.
  • Excitement. There’s a genuine and contagious excitement about food in empowered store employees.  Everywhere you turn you can find evocative food visuals that invite you to try new foods, find answers, share opinions.  There’s a sense of energy as you move around the store.  It’s infectious!

To make this happen, design (really experience) how a customer engages with the company throughout her purchase journey.  Customers want their specific needs met, they desire convenience and a personalized experience.  This journey is not linear and for grocery, discovery and decision can happen very quickly. Your store employees have influence along the way.

This customer journey pushes and challenges how you traditionally plan and market as well as sell and service your customers.  It necessitates a fresh approach of design thinking that takes a customer perspective to all interactions and supporting processes.  It requires that the organization builds the right capabilities, trains and empowers their employees while investing in the right set of technologies to deliver on the design and the brand promise.  The customer experience is at the heart of it all and it is not limited to affluent customers only.

Do you know your customers’ experience with your brand?

Follow me on Twitter @Bizuser

A modified version of this post originally appeared on the SAP Community Network and has been republished here with permission.


About Mohamed Amer

Living in Southern California, Mohamed Amer joined SAP in 2003 as owner of the grocery solution offering. He has since led teams in Retail Supply Chain and Field Services. After three years managing initiatives and programs involving BPX/SCN, User Groups, and Executive Councils for Trade Industries, is now in a Strategic Communications role in the Retail IBU. Prior to SAP, Mohamed was co-founder of start-up internet supply chain company. He also held leadership positions in management consultancy, Kurt Salmon, and general management roles in the office products distribution industry. Mohamed held a commission in the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant Commander in naval aviation and as an intelligence officer. He has earned BA Biology University of Minnesota, an MA in National Security Affairs from U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and an MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. You can follow him on Twitter on LinkedIn and read his retail blogs on SCN.


awareness , CXO , Featured

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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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Amazing Digital Marketing Trends And Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015

Sunny Popali

Amazing Digital Marketing Trends & Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015The fast-paced world of digital marketing is changing too quickly for most companies to adapt. But staying up to date with the latest industry trends is imperative for anyone involved with expanding a business.

Here are five trends that have shaped the industry this year and that will become more important as we move forward:

  1. Email marketing will need to become smarter

Whether you like it or not, email is the most ubiquitous tool online. Everyone has it, and utilizing it properly can push your marketing ahead of your rivals. Because business use of email is still very widespread, you need to get smarter about email marketing in order to fully realize your business’s marketing strategy. Luckily, there are a number of tools that can help you market more effectively, such as Mailchimp.

  1. Content marketing will become integrated and more valuable

Content is king, and it seems to be getting more important every day. Google and other search engines are focusing more on the content you create as the potential of the online world as marketing tool becomes apparent. Now there seems to be a push for current, relevant content that you can use for your services and promote your business.

Staying fresh with the content you provide is almost as important as ensuring high-quality content. Customers will pay more attention if your content is relevant and timely.

  1. Mobile assets and paid social media are more important than ever

It’s no secret that mobile is key to your marketing efforts. More mobile devices are sold and more people are reading content on mobile screens than ever before, so it is crucial to your overall strategy to have mobile marketing expertise on your team. London-based Abacus Marketing agrees that mobile marketing could overtake desktop website marketing in just a few years.

  1. Big Data for personalization plays a key role

Marketers are increasingly using Big Data to get their brand message out to the public in a more personalized format. One obvious example is Google Trend analysis, a highly useful tool that marketing experts use to obtain the latest on what is trending around the world. You can — and should — use it in your business marketing efforts. Big Data will also let you offer specific content to buyers who are more likely to look for certain items, for example, and offer personalized deals to specific groups of within your customer base. Other tools, which until recently were the stuff of science fiction, are also available that let you do things like use predictive analysis to score leads.

  1. Visual media matters

A picture really is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and nobody can deny the effectiveness of a well-designed infographic. In fact, some studies suggest that Millennials are particularly attracted to content with great visuals. Animated gifs and colorful bar graphs have even found their way into heavy-duty financial reports, so why not give them a try in your business marketing efforts?

A few more tips:

  • Always keep your content relevant and current to attract the attention of your target audience.
  • Always keep all your social media and public accounts fresh. Don’t use old content or outdated pictures in any public forum.
  • Your reviews are a proxy for your online reputation, so pay careful attention to them.
  • Much online content is being consumed on mobile now, so focus specifically on the design and usability of your mobile apps.
  • Online marketing is essentially geared towards getting more traffic onto your site. The more people visit, the better your chances of increasing sales.

Want more insight on how digital marketing is evolving? See Shutterstock Report: The Face Of Marketing Is Changing — And It Doesn’t Include Vince Vaughn.


About Sunny Popali

Sunny Popali is SEO Director at Tempo Creative is a Phoenix inbound marketing company that has served over 700 clients since 2001. Tempos team specializes in digital and internet marketing services including web design, SEO, social media and strategy.

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Is Digital Business the Answer to the Climate Crisis?

Kai Goerlich

By Kai Goerlich, Michael Goldberg, Will Ritzrau

Among the studies of climate change that indict human inventions and activities for the ecological damage done to the earth, there is a hopeful glimmer that digital business can bend the curve to reduce carbon emissions. According to #SMARTer2030, a study by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Accenture Strategy, it is possible, during the next 15 years, to hold worldwide carbon emissions to 2015 levels by digitizing business processes and applying data to decisions about resource use. That would represent a valuable contribution, according to the research, in decoupling economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions, thus helping to solve the tradeoff between the two.

SAP looked at a subset of companies in six major industries that are currently using business software such as enterprise resource planning, data analytics, supply chain, logistics, production planning, resource optimization, and remote access. Then SAP did their own analysis to estimate how applying these technologies to emerging digital business models in these industries globally would contribute to reducing carbon emissions.

The “Business as Usual” Scenario

The heat is on. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world body established in 1988 to assess the impact of humans on the climate, notes in its most recent report that “business as usual” practices would lead to temperature increases between 2.6°C and 4.8°C by the end of the century—beyond our expected ability to reverse the damage.

More IT = Less CO2

By rolling out information and communications technologies (ICT) across the global economy, total emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent could be cut 12.1 gigatons by 2030 and help forestall temperature increases, GeSI research has concluded. GeSI is an ICT industry association working with, among others, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to improve its members’ sustainability performance and promote technologies that foster sustainable development.


About Kai Goerlich

Futurist and resource optimization thought leader

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