The Rise of Great Customer Experiences in the Fashion Sector.

Whether or not you are a freelance designer, retailer or international brand, your success lies largely in how well you serve your customers. And in today's rapidly evolving world of globalization and consumer awareness for how clothes are made, paying close attention to the consumer has never been more important.

Customers are precious and need to be guarded like precious stones.

Over the past decade, I've been involved in helping organizations striving to deliver great customer experiences as a strategic differentiator. They've seen that this is their only true point of differentiation because delivering a great customer experience has such an impact on others because of the rapid viral spread of stories about these experiences. Within minutes stories can reach thousands.

The Anatomy of Word of Mouth (WoM) Stories

We've all done it. Told others of our great or crappy customer service experiences. Right now someone is sharing their story about your brand. About their experience in your store. About their experience of your returns policy and how it worked or didn't. Or about their experience as a student on your course.

Every interaction with a customer in any business is a chance to influence the WoM story.

 

With social media and the plethora of review sites, stories are so easy to share. Here's an example taken from one such site. I've changed the name of the offending brand to XYZ.

"Placed an order on line (the situation). They took my money then canceled my order without informing me!!! You can never get through to them on the phone and when you do they just put you on hold as they don't have a clue what they are doing (what happened). My shopping experience with XYZ is the most awful service I have ever received. I felt so angry with them (customer emotion). Service and customer care appalling !! (the outcome).

See how it works?

The Three Landscapes That Challenge Fashion Businesses

The cost of product differentiation is becoming more expensive. Copy cat time frames are becoming increasingly shorter as technology enables almost overnight adaptation and replication. And there are other serious factors bearing down on the fashion business landscape. For example:

  • We still have prolonged economic uncertainty especially with international relations changing with startling frequency e.g. BREXIT.
  • Our customers are demanding more as their expectations rise.
  • We see less loyalty and more choice with aggressive competition everywhere.
  • Product and service offerings are very similar.
  • Constant pressure to reduce costs and improve profitability by management and owners and with the big brands the perpetual focus on growth, market share and ‘bottom line’ is always present.

And all of this at a time when the customer is more aware of their rights, more informed about sustainability, ethical trading and the impact their choices are having. And the customer landscape is an equally challenging terrain to traverse. 

  • Our customers expect more than just the product, they want experiences.
  • They no longer tolerate being treated as numbers but expect to be respected as individuals.
  • They seek the ‘feel good’ factor from the stores they buy from and the people that serve them whether face to face or online.
  • They have never been so educated in the history of commerce over their options regarding price, value for money and their consumer rights. And when things go wrong they are less forgiving and more critical than ever before.
  • Technology has become their best friend helping them to research, buy what they want and need and get served expediently.

The good news is that customers are seeking ways to be individuals and therefore we buy into specific brands as means of differentiation, giving hope to brands to continue to connect and find ways to build loyalty through emotionally charged experiences.

But the backbone of a great customer centered organization is the culture that employees work in. Which means we need to focus too on the employee landscape where there's enormous change afoot too.

Just consider these factors for a moment and see how many resonate with you.

  • Employees expect more than ‘just the salary’ and seek both extrinsic value and intrinsic reward too.
  • They expect to be valued as ‘individuals’ in the workplace just as they do as customers in the marketplace.
  • Increasingly they want to be involved and to contribute to something more than the tasks they are hired to execute and so they seek good employers and cultures that offer these opportunities.
  • They are conscious about their employee rights and have access to easy legal support and advice via the internet.
  • Poor management and sloppy leadership is tolerated less especially with Millennials (or Gen Y: Born 1977 to 1995) and Centennials (or Gen Z: Born 1996 and later) as they work for a better work/life balance and different career expectations than their parents.
  • They are more likely to speak out than ever before and share their experiences and willingly online to shame poor employment practices.

If the Customer is King, then Culture is Queen

So developing a customer focused culture is critical for the long term success and prosperity of any fashion business. If the customer is king then culture is queen. Whether your organization employs three people of 300 hundred, developing a winning culture is a business survival imperative.

One of the key factors in making this happen is helping employees connect the dots between your vision and their efforts. They need to see the 'red line' that connects them with their team, their boss and the efforts of the organization to serve the customer. And the bigger the organization, the more people you employ the bigger the challenge you face.

No matter how you tackle the issue though, at some point you need to educate individuals so they get that connection.

In our consultancy services when working with clients we find that there is often a disconnect between what the CEO thinks is happening, and what is actually happening. Middle management is normally the disconnect point that shares only the good news or at worst news that has been sanitized.

Beginning the Process in Your Workplace

One way to begin the process is to develop a common understanding amongst managers of the issues surrounding improving the customer experience. Many businesses struggle to do this effectively. They throw together a few meetings to discuss improving the customer experience without providing a baseline understanding of the bigger picture, of culture and employee engagement, of making change stick and so on.

We have helped hundreds of managers reach that point of common understanding by running two-day workshops that enable them to see differently by walking in their customer's shoes. This gives them a common language and a baseline to move forward with and from.

We have taken that approach and packaged it into a ready-to-use training package for you to use with your own teams using your own trainers or facilitators. This dramatically reduces your training development costs and gives you immediate access to a program you can run as is or can edit and localize to meet your particular needs.

So if improving the customer experience for your fashion business is on your agenda then click here for further details of the package. It contains everything you need. Just add your trainer, participants, and a venue and you'll be ready to run your first workshop in no time at all.

We are here to help you "be famous for your courses" whether you deliver these online or face to face. This ready-to-use package is just one of those ways. If you have any other training needs for your fashion team please call me on +447843284310 or email me at [email protected] for a free consultation.

Mark Gregory is the Founder of The Fashion Student Hub, a marketplace for selling online fashion courses, and We Teach Fashion teaching fashion subject experts how to create and promote their own online courses, generate revenue and serve the growing need for online education in the fashion sector.
 

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