3 Cross Channel Marketing Lessons from My Retail Experiences

Even marketers can learn something about cross channel marketing by paying attention to how we are treated by other businesses. There is that old adage that you should treat others the way that you want to be treated, but what if you flip that around and treat others based on how they treat you.

I want to share three recent stories about customer service in retail settings. Each one of them demonstrates an important lesson about cross channel marketing and dealing with customers. While they all take place in physical businesses, the lessons can certainly apply to online businesses and the connection between the two.

I had been living in North Carolina and moved away for about a year and a half. Each of the following stories took place upon my return.

1. Make Friends with Your Customers

Since I was moving into an apartment I wanted a PO box where I could receive both my mail and my packages. On my last visit back to North Carolina before my move I went to the UPS store nearest to my apartment and leased a box. A man name Quinn helped me. He was very friendly. I’m sure I talked about moving back, and where I had been. I was in a talkative mode at that time and told everybody about my life plans, so I didn’t think much of it.

Two months later, I had moved back and went to check my mail for the first time. Quinn greeted me by name. Wow, I thought. This guy understands how to treat customers. He made me feel welcome on my first visit back. He’s not the manager. He’s not the only employee. But his greetings became infectious on subsequent visits. Because of how he greeted me, the other employees got to know my name, my box number, and they started greeting me too. Since I check my mail once or twice a week, I see Quinn and the other employees frequently.

Now he doesn’t just greet me by name, but he shakes my hand. Every time he sees me. And we’ve talked about my travels. I’ve shown him pictures and even talked about my kids. If there is anything that I need that they provide (packing, shipping, printing), you can guarantee that that’s where I will go. Because it’s no longer just about business. It’s about friendship.

What are you doing to connect with your customers in person and online to build those relationships so they think of you first?

2. Maintain Friendships with Your Customers

I used to go to the dry cleaners every couple of weeks. It was around the corner from my gym, so it was easy to drop by in the mornings before work. I became friendly with John, the owner of the cleaners. We talked about marketing, running a small business, and even family vacations. I was so impressed by John’s business, I wrote a blog post about it.

When I moved away I was sad to say goodbye to John. Really? He was my dry cleaner. But I was sad. And yes, he was someone that I told I was moving. In my new town I found a new dry cleaner. They offered me a discount because of my employer. John never offered discounts. After several months the woman working the register knew my name. And she eventually remembered that I liked my shirts lightly starched. But she was just an hourly employee and before long she was gone. After that it seemed like a revolving door at the register. This is a place of business where I went every couple of weeks and told them my name each time. And nobody learned my name. They were just hourly employees.

After moving back to North Carolina I had shirts that needed to be cleaned and I looked forward to seeing John again. He remembered my name and greeted me warmly. My details were still in the computer. He was happy to have me back as a customer, but I think I was happier to be back. It was great to see him and I look forward to taking my shirts to the cleaners. The difference between the two cleaners is significant. The other was a business transaction, while visiting John is about catching up with a friend. And he knows how I like my shirts.

What are you doing to maintain relationships with your customers so you remain top of mind?

3. Customer Records May Not Tell the Whole Story

And continuing with the mundane details of my life, I needed to get auto insurance. Sure, I could have just called any place, but I went back to my old insurance agent. I still have a policy with them on my house (long story, maybe for another time, or blog post), so it was easier to go in and change addresses and get my auto policy at the same time.

The agent who greeted me helped me. I told him what I needed done and we started going through the steps and policies one by one. It was a simple, straightforward process. My existing policies were in the computer, so that made it easy to pull up my information. But there was one piece of information that wasn’t there. I had been a customer of this agency for 25 years. Saying it out loud, or typing it, makes it sound like a long time. And it is. I have no complaints about my level of service, and I don’t know what he could have done differently, but when you work with a business for that many years, there should be a way to keep track of that. And acknowledge it.

A couple of weeks later I saw the owner of the insurance agency out at a local restaurant and I didn’t even bother to say hi. If the people in his office have no way to track my long-standing customer relationship, I’m sure he doesn’t hold it in his head. And since this is insurance, the thing you buy hoping that you don’t need it, it’s probably a good thing that I’m not a customer that stands out in his memory. No matter how long I’ve been with his agency.

What are you doing to maintain relevant records of your customers so your employees have easy access to them?

Make sure that you can connect all of your customer interactions, whether they happen online or offline by downloading the Modern Marketing Essentials Guide to Cross-Channel Marketing.

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