One element of the overall customer experience in retail includes getting to know the people who walk in the door. Regular patrons create a loyal base of returning customers who are responsible for maintaining sales each month. Customer recognition happens when employees say "Hello" or "Welcome back" every time the same person walks inside. Unfortunately, many retail establishments drop the ball in this aspect of service.
Micah Solomon of Forbes magazine borrows the example of Danny Meyer, the founder and CEO of Shake Shack, who said customer recognition is the main reason guests wanted to return to his establishments. Restaurants, much like any other retail business, thrive on repeat patrons. When workers get to know the people who sit down and eat, those customers feel welcomed in the restaurant. It shows that the restaurant's employees value their guests and realize how important they are to the establishment's success.
One example of customer recognition comes from online retail giant Amazon.com's interactions with a customer. Solomon interviewed a regular customer of a local, brick-and-mortar retail bookstore who said Amazon.com knew who she was, but her local bookstore did not. The frustrated customer said that employees at her local bookstore were too busy texting, talking among themselves or simply failing to acknowledge that she had returned to the store. The customer said she had made around 20 trips to the store, recognized many employees herself and bought several pricey items. Somehow, all of these purchases and frequent visits were not enough.
The problem with the retailer wasn't the presentation of merchandise, the goods in the store or even high prices. The difficulty was a lack of customer recognition, or at least inattentive employees who did not feel like acknowledging one of their most important assets. Amazon.com's customer service employees knew this customer better, and did a better job acknowledging how important she is to the company, over brick-and-mortar store workers who see her in person. Customer recognition led to a customer experience that was more enjoyable through the computer or over the phone than it was at a nearby store.
Interactions between an employee and a customer may determine whether the customer returns at a later date, even if there is a problem with a product. Employees can turn a negative situation into a positive one by making personal connections with people who buy the company's products or services. If another retail establishment carries similar items for the same price, what drives this customer to return time and again? Customer recognition could lead to greater sales streams as you build a stronger customer base.
Acknowledging someone who returns to make more purchases shows that employees, managers and owners value loyalty. Improving the experience over last time increases the chances that this customer comes back again in the future. When these returning consumers enjoy their time with the retailer, they tell their friends, and that's how a customer base grows.
Photo courtesy of nursdurkin at Flickr.com