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How to deliver an engaging customer experience

How to deliver an engaging customer experience

We've all had the experience. The checkout operator asks, “Did you find everything OK?” but the body language shows total disinterest. As a customer, it just feels insincere and makes us feel unappreciated.

As a retailer, the overall customer experience of such interactions defines the brand far more than advertising, so you need your employees to engage in a genuine way. But it's hard to do. On the one hand, if you try to use scripts the employees come across as insincere. But on the other, relying on simple exhortations to be “engaging” leaves employees wondering, “What does that really mean?”

The most effective way I've found to achieve this is to describe to your employees what you want customers to say about the store.

For example, when I was at Tesco, employees always knew that they were expected to come down on the side of the customer. But they weren't clear what this really meant. So we described what we wanted customers to say about the shopping trip in five phrases, including “the aisles are clear,” “I don't have to queue,” and “the prices are good,” and then focused the business on achieving them. This unleashed a wave of energy in the stores, and significantly improved the customer experience.

The approach worked for three reasons:

  1. It gave employees accountability. They were now responsible for driving the outcome (what customers say), rather than just implementing a process.
  2. It provided clarity. They now knew what they had to deliver for customers.
  3. It allowed them to be themselves. By not handing out scripts to follow, individual employees could engage in ways that felt natural to them.

Of course, there's more to this approach than just the phrases. It needs to be backed up by training that defines boundaries of acceptability. Metrics need to be put in place around what customers actually say. And job descriptions need to be built around the outcomes, rather than around tasks.

But with retailing more complicated than ever in today's connected world, it seems an even more relevant approach to delivering a consist and engaging experience.

What other approaches have you tried?

Simon Uwins is a former CMO of fresh&easy and Tesco UK, and author of Creating Loyal Brands (2014). Find him online at

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