I rush into my local Staples store to get some last-minute workshop supplies. I scan my card and after the little gate opens an employee walks up to me: ‘Sir, as you may have noticed (I didn’t: in a hurry and thinking about the workshop) we have been rebranded to the Office Centre. I see you still have an old pass, so let me change that for you while you do your shopping. And we have a nice discount for you as well!’
Great! He’s not holding me up with their administration and I get a discount. A double win! My mental shop-button has been pushed and (still in a rush!) I start to think what extra’s I could buy. You know: the things you don’t need but want because, well: free!
I’m looking at some random stuff when the employee is coming back to me with my new card and an extra paper card: ‘here’s €5,– as a welcome gift for you, from us.’ Excellent! I’m really pleased with the personal treatment and hey: a free gift card!
So I quickly glance along some other shelves, but time is creeping up on me. I reset my shop-button and decide to use the gift card on the supplies I came for in the first place. I hurry over to the cashier who, just like her colleague, is really cheerful and friendly. I give her my new client card to scan and hand her my gift card to scan as well.
‘I’m sorry sir, the gift card is not valid on this visit. Only for the next one.’
‘But, but, why?’ I utter. I quickly check the card, it doesn’t say so anywhere.
‘Well, I guess sir, ‘they’ want you to come back another time. It’s marketing, you know.’
Oh, indeed I know… My pleasant experience quickly derails. I could argue with her but I realise that she didn’t make up this rule. So I leave the store with a feeling of being reduced to ‘spending value’, instead of the human being and guest I felt when entering.
Get me right: it’s not about the silly €5,–. And I’ll likely come back anyway because they have the stuff I need and their employees are still friendly people. But boy: what a missed opportunity to send me off on the customer-high this excellent experience began with!
This was yesterday. I already don’t remember the employees’ faces and in a few months I certainly won’t recall exactly what I bought either. But this little feeling of ‘not being valued in the now but only for my next visit’, that feeling is now somewhere stored in my memory. Ready to be reloaded and relived when I come back another time.
And what do you think will happen if I meet an employee who is just having an off-day, the stuff I need is out of stock or some other random incident occurs? Right: a stronger confirmation that it’s ‘wallet first, person second’. That’s how a customer journey works, dear Office Centre: truly understanding and empathizing with the feelings of your visitors, from the only perspective that is relevant: theirs.