Keys to Creating a Great Customer Experience

Improve your performance without spending a dime 

By Janet Weyandt, YSN

Successful independent retailers have a lot of balls in the air and have to keep their eyes on each of them at the same time. But it’s just as important to step back occasionally and evaluate how well your strategies are working. 

One of the most vital components of success is how much customers like what you’re doing. The ascent of e-commerce has raised the bar for all retailers, who are now competing with perks like two-day delivery and fast returns. 

Accentuate Your Positives 

Daniel Abramson, managing lead of HRSource, AVB’s HR solutions initiative, talked about the importance of customer experience for independent retailers during his sessions at the recent 2024 BrandSource Summit

“People make a decision as soon as they walk into your store,” he said. “Everyone’s multitasking.”

That means retailers must know and capitalize on whatever it is that sets them apart. 

“We’re in the service business,” he said. “We don’t manufacture stuff so we’re in the people business. There’s lots of choice and clutter. You better have some unique selling proposition where people want to come to you rather than going someplace else.”

And what’s the most important — not to mention most doable and affordable — value proposition you have to offer? It’s the experience you offer your customers. 

“Customers don’t care about the staffing shortage,” he said. “Customers still want a ‘wow’ experience.” 

Note the Numbers

The numbers back that up: 15% of customers who leave you go because of the quality of your goods. Twenty percent leave because of a lack of personal attention and a full 50% leave because they had a poor customer experience. 

“Wowing is 80% attitude and 20% technique,” he said. “We often hire on skills and fire on personality, but you can’t teach attitude.” 

Here’s another equation Abramson shared: When a person has a good experience in your store, they tell eight people. When they have a bad experience, they tell 16. 

“If we do a good job, we earn the right to get more recommendations,” he said. “Good service elicits a positive feeling.”

Follow the Steps

If you want to burnish the customer experience your staff is offering, Abramson offered a few simple steps to help you do it. 

1. Hire A-Players

It’s no surprise to independent retailers that attracting, hiring and retaining good people is a major part of the program, he said, but not everybody knows the cost of not getting this part right. Bad hires and turnover are three times more expensive than salary. 

“If you have a $40,000 person, that’s a $120,000 mistake,” Abramson said. “Morale, retraining costs, lost business opportunities, bad PR — those are the costs. How do we get this customer experience thing right? By hiring people who have good soft skills. We need people with high EQ.” 

2. Differentiate Customer Service from Customer Experience

They’re not the same thing, Abramson said, and it’s important to know the difference and master both. Customer service — serving the customers, helping them solve problems and answering how to-questions — does not lead to repeat business.  Customer experience, or the overall impression buyers have during their sales journey with you, does. 

“Customer experience will get you referrals and recommendations,” Abramson said. “Customer experience builds referrals, recommendations and loyalty. That’s the business we’re in. If you just offer products and don’t provide a lot of extra service, you’re a commodity. In order for you to provide a service, you have to provide something that can’t be measured in cost.”

3. Understand the Four Levels of Service  

The four levels of service, in order, are: basic, expected, extras and “wow.” The first two are all about just getting your product or service into the hands of customers, and will not get you referrals, Abramson said. 

“To do extras and wow levels, you have to provide something that’s not measured in money,” he said. Some examples he offered include personal appointments and follow-ups, filling out rebates for customers, offering same-day delivery, calling the day after delivery to check how experience was, and sending a thank you card after a deal is concluded. 

4. Scripts and Rebuttals

Abramson said customers start making judgments about your store the second they step through the door. (Some would argue it begins in the parking lot.) That’s why being warm and personable is so important to creating a good first impression, and that leads to a great customer experience. Good lines to have queued up include “My pleasure,” as well as calling them sir and ma’am. 

5. Next Steps and Follow-Ups

Keep in mind the things customers like, including speed, consistency and convenience, and incorporate them into your interactions, Abramson said. Be personal and friendly with customers, follow through with timely check-ins and always follow up after a delivery or install to make sure everything is satisfactory. 

Abramson urged BrandSource members to raise the bar on the customer experience they’re creating.  “Why provide great service?” he asked. “It’s free. It doesn’t cost money; you just have to do it.” 

Protect What You Have 

Why is customer experience so vital? Conventional wisdom holds that it costs seven times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one.

“We don’t want to chase down new customers, we want to protect the ones we have,” Abramson said. “Referrals and recommendations (come from) good shoppers. If they come in on a referral, chances are they’re not coming to you on price; chances are they’re coming to you because they like the way you do business.”

For more information about customer experience or to get a script of suggested phrases designed to improve your sales staff’s interpersonal skills, contact Abramson at (540) 535-8484 or

YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.

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