Customer experience doesn’t have to be high tech to be good. As we navigate all the different ways of interacting, remembering the retail basics of personal touch, makes all the difference, not just in terms of experience but also in terms of sales.

Research indicates that 95% of customers (Zendesk) share bad experiences with others, and 65% are frustrated by inconsistent experiences across channels (Accenture). Customer focused retailers are working hard to improve these statistics by combining online booking systems with in store experiences.

Part of improving customer experience in store, is the in store appointment.

Customer sees something online, thinks I’d like that but will it fit/ look right on me and so makes an appointment at lunch time/ after work to try it on, knowing that the item and a team member will be ready and waiting for them on arrival. Apple have been doing this for years, for support. So have makeup counters, and we are seeing it more now with clothing and footwear. Like click and collect, it allows customers to save time and to take control. It’s convenient and definitely suits in the increasingly time stretched shopper, but there is still some room to improve.

I made an appointment to have my makeup done at a counter at Myer, and was running late; there was an online booking system (but updates had closed as it was close to the appointment time). There was only a switch phone number, making it difficult to let them know I was running late, I hoped that they would call me when I didn’t arrive, but they didn’t. I arrived, late but hopeful of being accommodated anyway.

Makeup departments are bright and busy, and a bit intense, especially late on a Saturday afternoon.
I tried the counter where I had made the booking, after some time standing waiting for the sales associate to at least make eye contact, to let me know that she could see me (even though she was busy with another customer), I decided to wander and see if anyone else could help.
I asked at one after another with no luck and was just on the verge of walking away after a particularly passive aggressive ‘sorry, not sorry’ type exchange with a makeup artist when the manager of the store asked me if she could help me with anything else. Yes, I’m actually also looking for ‘x’ so we looked at those and she suggested that they might have space for makeup at their sister store and offered to call for me. No luck, but just the offer was so much nicer than the ‘sorry not sorry’ that she left me feeling better. She offered to call me if her next appointment didn’t show, so I said I would wait for a bit.
She called 10mins later, there was no room at her store but she had found me a place at another counter. The point of the story is that this was not high tech. She walked around to the counters and asked if they had space. Both a personal and helpful approach.

I bought product at her store and also with the lady who helped me.

If I had just left her store after the ‘sorry not sorry’ interaction, then I would have spent nothing. The difference between nothing and helpful in this particular case was $160. Probably not the biggest sale of the day, but here I am writing about her.
What can retailers take from these experiences?
Reflecting on this experience I would say that customers make appointments in store to save time and to take back some control. That said, things still happen outside of our best intentions that means customers miss appointments.

Some things retailers can do to improve the instore appointment experience:

  1. Make it easy for a customer to contact you and say ‘I’m running late/ can’t make it anymore.’ It reduces the stress on the teams in store and then lets them know that they can spend the time helping someone else.
  2. Implement a follow up, if the customer made the appointment in the first place it may just be that something unexpected has happened. It never hurts to ask – did you want to reschedule?
  3. Train your store teams to look for what else can be done. “Sorry I can’t help” is understandable but definitely something that needs to be delivered with care rather than flippancy. If you can’t help the customer with ‘x’ what else can be done, is there anything else we can help with (they always ask at Telstra)?

I know it gets tiring looking after customers who expect everything done yesterday but looking to genuinely help yields results in terms of spend.
Taking a personal step makes for a memorable experience. Whilst the lovely woman in my experience was not able to sort it out in her store she sorted it out for me.

Will I go back there now? YES!

Have you had a great experience with in store appointments? Would love to hear about other experiences – leave a comment below, or share with me on leoniem(at)6r(dot)com(dot)au