Wharton research explores the key to great customer experiences.

In my younger, pre-journalistic days I held various jobs in retail and customer service. I’m glad I did, because much of what I learned about selling and the shopping/purchasing experience I learned from the likes of McDonald’s and Victoria’s Secret, two giants in the marketing sphere that know how to target a consumer and make them loyal customers.

Now a recent report through the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Institute confirms what I’ve been taught in terms of providing customers with a great sales experience. "Discovering 'WOW' - A Study of Great Retail Shopping Experiences in North America" points to five major areas that business owners and their sales people should deliver on in order to garner loyalty and positive feedback (referrals) from their clients:
  • Engagement: This means being polite, genuinely caring and interested in helping the customer. Acknowledging their problems and listening to them before selling to them is critical.

  • Executional Excellence: Your sales team should patiently explain and advise the client on his or her options. They should be knowledgeable about availability of stock and products, and have excellent product knowledge in order to provide “unexpected” company quality.

  • Brand Experience: For retail or showrooms, this means an exciting store design and atmosphere filled consistently with great products. In terms of service contractors, a clean, well-organized truck and well-maintained uniforms and manuals make customers feel they're special.

  • Expediting: Be sensitive to customers' time. Arrive within the window given, or call if there is delay. While on the job, be proactive in helping speed the sales process along. Anticipate customer concerns so you have a ready answer and reply.

  • Problem Recovery: CSRs and sales people should help resolve and compensate for problems. If management must get involved, streamline office communication so full details of the issue are known in order to ensure complete satisfaction.
“In all, respondents mentioned 28 elements of a great experience, such as salespeople who ‘immediately acknowledged you’ or ‘could easily explain a product to you’ or ‘seemed genuine’,” the study reported.

While no sales call is spot-on perfect and hits these dozens of customer touch-points, business owners can focus their energy on creating a "bedrock," or platform, based on the five major pillars of customer satisfaction listed above.

Do this, and it could increase the probability of creating the WOW experience. And, according to the research, four in five shoppers will tell an average of three other people about their WOW, gaining you the much-sought-after customer referral that service companies thrive on.

Read the full report here >>