How to deliver stand-out customer experience

28 Aug 2020

In an industry shaken up by COVID-19, the customer experience is now more important than ever. How can a brand create meaningful relationships with customers during a crisis? What new opportunities has it created for emerging brands?

To find out, we sat down with Drew Stadler, Head of Happiness at Bombas; Julie Anderson, Former Head of Global Community for Lululemon and AWAY; and Dr. Chris Gray, Founder & CEO, Buycology. Together, we learned what brands can do to build relationships that last.

Stay true to your brand values

Nowadays, more brands are being held accountable to their brand values. While many choose to stay silent, it’s the brands who are true to their values that strengthen their customer base. With experience as both a relationship counsellor and as a consumer psychologist, Chris knows how key maintaining trust is: “If a company says that they value equality but remains silent in the face of important moments, the customer starts to question everything. How can they trust anything you say? Living your values as a company is so critically important.”

Julie cited the rise of social media as the force behind this new demand for transparency, but also as a platform to promote your brand’s values: “In the past ten years, the landscape of how we interact with our customers has totally changed. From the beginning, you need very clear brand values. We’ve come to the time where your brand has to meet the moment, there is action that’s required. Being true to your values will create a sense of loyalty for customers.”

Know your strengths

If you’re a small business, it can feel pointless trying to compete with the customer service of big brands. Things like next day delivery aren’t achievable for most emerging businesses, so how else can you provide stand-out customer service? Chris had some great advice for this: “Look at what you can do that the Amazons of the world cannot. Think about customer service beyond overnight shipping, look at things like personalisation, creating warm and welcoming experiences that people want to return to. Understand where bigger companies have weaknesses and where you can then step in.”

Drew revealed that despite scaling to a larger company, Bombas still tries to communicate personally with customers as if they were a smaller business. “It’s impossible to keep up with huge brands, so we don’t try. We can only be ourselves. Communication is where a small brand can stand out, especially if it’s an operational or fulfilment issue. If you notice it first and reach out to customers proactively, they feel like a part of the brand.”

Empower your team

“When you take care of your people, they’ll take care of your customers,” Julie told us. Our panellists agreed that to deliver world-class customer service, you need to give your team the freedom and the power to act autonomously and do right by your brand. “You need to give the people on the front lines the ability to make decisions,” Drew told us, “You can use each interaction as an opportunity to bring our customers closer to the brand.” As an example, he recounted how he once travelled 100 miles to deliver a pair of socks.

He also stressed the importance of protecting staff, as well as empowering them: “We place the highest premium on respect to our customer, but we also want that from our customer in return. We are quite happy to break-up with a customer that puts our people in uncomfortable or unsafe places.”

Build a community within your brand

All our masterclass speakers agreed that building a community is key to deepening customer relationships. Feeling part of a community won’t just encourage repeat purchase, it will bring people together in times of crisis. “People don’t buy brands, they join them,” Julie told us, “Lululemon has over 350 stores, and every one of those has local ambassadors. They listen, they ask questions, they want to make their communities a better place. This is where the relationship with the customer can grow – you can’t put an ROI on how people feel close to your brand.” Chris agreed with this: “Even if you don’t have an ecommerce presence, you can draw people to your physical space by creating experiences, which can be really memorable.”