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Whether you’re a manufacturer, distributor or retailer, ensuring your buyers enjoy the experience is crucial, especially in this digital age.

One of the biggest changes in the way anyone purchases products over the last decade – whether consumer or trade buyer – is the rise of the internet.

Why travel to a trade show, a manufacturing facility or even a bricks and mortar shop to buy the products you like when it’s so easy to log on to a website and, within a few clicks, you’ve got just what you wanted?

That’s great – but it’s not very personal. And one thing the tackle trade has always been good at is relationships – between each other and the end user. Indeed, at trade events, through marketing and in-store, we spend a fortune on creating a dream that fuels demand.

So why not leverage that goodwill, aspiration and promise and use it to produce a great customer experience, one that’s far more exciting than a couple of lifestyle images on a two-dimensional website?

Devising – and implementing – a great customer experience is a brilliant opportunity to engage with your buyers. Not only that but companies which focus on customer experience typically reduce the amount of ‘churn’ (customers who stop using you) and increase revenues, which leads to higher profits!

Service versus experience

At this point you might be thinking: “my customer service is great, what is he talking about?”

But customer service and customer experience are not the same thing. One is a single touchpoint with your brand, while the other impacts on so much more – feelings, emotion, in fact, the whole customer journey.

In most cases, a customer’s first point of contact with a company is usually through interacting with an employee, whether by visiting a store, speaking on the phone or even via email. This gives you the chance to deliver great customer service by responding in a timely and helpful way.

For example, if you book a holiday on the phone and the person you are speaking with is friendly and helpful, that’s good customer service. However, if your tickets arrive early and the hotel upgrades your room, then that’s a great customer experience.

Research by credit card giant American Express recently revealed that a staggering 60 per cent of people are willing to pay more for a better experience surrounding your shop or your brand.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience is, quite simply, defined by interactions between a customer and an organisation throughout their business relationship. An interaction can include awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy, purchases and service.

It’s a simple idea – a positive experience with your business or your brand is more likely to result in a repeat and loyal customer. Happy buyers will continue to do business with you.

By definition, then, if you treat your customers poorly and put off their questions or requests, then they are more likely to leave.

So, when someone shows up at your exhibition booth or drops by your shop, it’s no longer enough just to be pleasant, have the best prices on hand and explain the benefits of the product.

Can they get a decent drink while browsing? Is there somewhere pleasant to sit down? Can they try the product for themselves? Do you have any samples to give away? Is there a sweetener or a deal you can offer?

Technology truths
It would be tempting to suggest that your ‘great customer experience’ is all about getting personal and have face-to-face interaction with them but that’s not necessarily the case.

Although the implication above was that customer experience can trump the internet, the reality is that the two can actually work together!

Like most other things in today’s market, customer experience has changed – it’s more than person-to-person service and, thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever for companies to connect with their customers.

For example, using CRM (customer relationship management) software, you can understand a customer’s purchase history and predict future needs even before they realise what they might require.

Predicting the future in this way will help you be proactive and appear attentive. You will be able to suggest related products based on purchase history, create and deliver targeted email campaigns and gain a better

understanding of how your customer thinks – and buys – than ever before.
This ‘new’ way of enhancing the customer strengthens relationships while making the most of the latest technological know-how.

Thinking ahead
It’s great to be able to bring in new business but, if you already have a decent level of buyers, the name of the game is retention as much as acquisition. Indeed, it can be argued that finding new business is much harder in the current climate than encouraging existing customers to continue buying from you.

So make them feel wanted with not just superb customer service but an amazing customer experience.

Top Tips

1. Create a clear customer experience vision and communicate these principles to your team, embedding them in the culture of your business.

2. Understand who your customers are and what they want. Build up a profile of the typical buyer, even giving them a name and what their other interests might be.

3. Create an emotional connection. If there are any issues, don’t just resolve them but offer something else – an extra product, faster turnaround, personal attention

4. Capture customer feedback. Do this in real time, at shows, while they are in your shop and so on – then follow up with a call or email. Now they are part of your community.

5. Check your ROI. Is this making a difference to your bottom line? You can easily measure customer experience via a Net Promoter Score (NPS), which collects valuable information by asking a single straightforward question: “Would you recommend this company to a friend or relative?”

Customer expectations are higher than ever and word of mouth travels fast. In this day and age, with so much choice – much of it at their fingertips – customers have been empowered like never before so use this to your advantage by making them ambassadors for your brand.

If you want to find out more about implementing some of these ideas, get in touch with us.