Why the Customer Experience Matters in Retail Banking, Pharmacies and Other ‘Captive Customer’ Situations
How can the retail customer experience matter when your customers are locked into buying from you? To get the answer, we need to back up a step or two: When you're a retailer, there are two possible commercial relationships you can have with your customers:
Scenario 1: Your customer has no actual need to buy what you're selling (although she may buy it anyway). Scenario one is your retail reality when you're selling:
- An item that, although perhaps lovely or delicious, is intrinsically unnecessary — a trinket or chocolate bar, for example.
- An item that your customer could buy any time. There's no urgent reason to buy it from you right now — e.g., a new pair of shoes when the last pair are still perfectly fine.
- An item that your customer can get just as easily online (and perhaps with a wider selection to choose from, a hassle-free returns process and possibly an unfair tax advantage).
Scenario 2: Your customer more or less has to buy what you're selling. Scenario two is your situation when you're selling:
- An item that's become an emergency due to timing: supplies from Staples for something the customer needs to complete tonight (e.g., homework or a bound report, supplies from Michaels Arts & Crafts for a project the customer's community group is expecting to work on that afternoon).
- An item the customer truly needs and can only, realistically speaking, get from you. For example, you're the pharmacy the customer's doctor called the prescription in to.
In retail scenario one, the customer experience is the entire point of, and the entire hope for, your enterprise. If your customer doesn't have a fabulous, pleasing-to-the-senses-and-psyche experience, she's not coming back to your store. (Or even more likely these days, when socially generated content predisposes customers to act or not act, she won't even show up the first time.) The value of the retail customer experience here is obvious: This is the classic scenario of "a man without a smile shouldn't become a merchant."