Does Your Customer Experience Set You Apart from the Competition?

For the past couple months I’ve been working with a children’s apparel client on growing their business. Together, we looked at the number of online and retail competitors and use of pay-per-click ads. Competition as in most product categories is intense and there are often many more online competitors than brick-and-mortar because of the lower startup cost.

What has remained unchanged over the last 20 years is the fact that for most businesses, 50% to 70% of their first-time buyers never shop a second time. Also, many businesses don’t make money on the first purchase. As we all know, customers can now easily comparison shop online, becoming more price savvy and opportunistic.

As you think about your business, what are the answers to what sets your business apart from the competition in terms of customer experience? I had two great shopping experiences last week, both of which caused me to think about this topic. Let me relate their stories and demonstrate why each was memorable.

Great Customer Service from MasterBuilt 

My wife’s cousin came to vacation here this summer and loves the clambake we do each year. As a gift he bought a MasterBuilt turkey fryer fueled with propane so we didn’t have to cook it over a wood fire.  The clambake also featured chicken, veggies and sausage which take far longer than shrimp and clams to cook. Suffice to say the propane burned purer and much hotter than wood and food was baked to the bottom of the fryer pot. No amount of effort cleaned that pot.

When I called MasterBuilt customer service, the agent asked for the serial number on the propane burner, my name and shipping information and then told me it would be there in four days. Hey, wait a minute you didn’t take my credit card, or tell me what the cost is or charge shipping! Or ask for my receipt (bought at the local Ace Hardware). I could hear the smile in her voice when she said, “It is guaranteed for one year.” I replied, “Yeah, even against dumb mistakes!”

MasterBuilt made me a customer for life. According to its website:

“When someone buys our product, they aren’t just a customer to us – they become a member of our Masterbuilt community. We love to share recipes, product tips and even photos or videos of dadgum good food with our community.”

My immediate reaction was to go to the website to see what other products they have and to post on Facebook. It was definitely the most memorable customer service experience I have ever had!  Are you interested in the next customer only or in creating a community?

What sets you apart as a provider of a wonderfully positive customer experience? I realize you can’t generally give away products based on dumb mistakes but it’s worth thinking about your policies and service as compared to the competition. In every aspect of product selection, fulfillment and customer service, what creates a memorable customer experience and by extension, enthusiasm and loyalty?

Great Discount Pricing at Sportsman’s Wholesale

Morehead City, NC, a sport fishing mecca, has many good sporting goods stores. As I understand it, Sportsman’s Wholesale buys overstocks, liquidations and bulk items. For example, I bought two pairs of shorts with Gander Mountain labels. While they have a large assortment of saltwater fishing, hunting and accessories, they don’t offer product depth in all categories.

I was wowed by the low pricing. Not just a few items were discounted – prices were 30% to 50% off everything.  Many businesses advertise big discounts and some play games while others don’t use a large enough discount to move products quickly.  I’m a careful shopper but I found $171 worth of stuff I needed to have. Can’t wait to shop there again!

Back to my main point – as you view the competition, what sets your business apart?  How do you make it a consistently WOW customer experience for your customers? In my opinion that’s what makes Amazon such a formidable competitor. The above examples might not be what works best for you, but identify and leverage your particular “wow factor” and watch your loyalty and sales grow.

Curt Barry is Founder & Chairman of F. Curtis Barry & Company

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