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Small Business

Managing Your Business

Customers crave the remarkable—can you compete?

Expert Ryan Estis inspires business owners on how to get and keep customers.

Fixating on your customer isn't strange—it's essential. At least that's what sales expert and Chase Business Insights Seminar speaker Ryan Estis recommends. In Culture Imperative, a Chase for Business series, Estis shows readers how to drive growth with customer obsession.

A few months ago, I received a phone call from the sales representative at a clothing store where I used to shop. He invited me to a cocktail reception they were having in store with a designer. It was a great offer, but I declined.

Why? I had already experienced Martin Patrick 3.

Martin Patrick 3 (MP3) is a men's clothing and home furnishings store just a few blocks from my home in Minneapolis's North Loop. It's an icon of the neighborhood, and Forbes recently called it "America's Hottest Retailer in America's Hottest Retailing City." The store has no e-commerce sales. They owe their success—and my loyalty—to a customer experience that's light years beyond their competition.

Customer experience is the longstanding battlefield of the retail economy. Today, customers crave expertise and customization more than ever. In response, businesses are shifting—or losing their audience. A recent Gartner survey of marketing leaders showed that 81 percent of respondents said that customer experience would be the primary source of competition for businesses.

Here's more on what incredible customer experience looks like and how to harness it.

Personalize your services

I really don't like shopping for clothes. The thought of a sales rack of dress shirts fills me with dread.

But at MP3, I never feel that dread. Whenever I make an appointment at the store, I arrive to find a selection of clothes my sales rep Todd has curated for me, along with a dressing room set aside for my personal use. Todd knows my style, my taste and just how far to push me outside of my comfort zone.

The elevated shopping experience at MP3 is a reflection of our own changing customer behaviors and expectations. Namely, the desire for customization, personalization and instant gratification. With just a few taps on your phone, you can have just about anything you want. You can order dinner, buy a pair of pants and binge-watch your favorite television shows. And if you're not sure what to select, a data-driven algorithm helps you decide.

Embracing customization is good business. In fact, research from Epsilon and GBH Insights shows that 80 percent of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience. The report, "The power of me: The impact of personalization on marketing performance," revealed that where personalization was once taboo, now "consumers expect brands to use big data."

Create memorable sales experiences

My time at MP3 begins with trying on my pre-shopped clothes. But that's not where it ends, because MP3 is about more than shopping—it's about the experience.

For example, it's not uncommon for me to eat lunch while I'm at the store, complete with a perfectly paired glass of wine from the company's top-notch wine cellar. They also offer to help with dinner reservations, pointing me toward new restaurants and new experiences. And when I'm finished shopping, I'm given the option of picking up my tailoring or having it delivered, free of charge.

Even the store's visual aesthetic is part of the customer experience. Every 30 days, the store is completely re-merchandised. It's difficult to communicate just how dramatic the store's appearance changes, but you feel as if you're entering into a completely new space. I often try to pop in once a month just to see the store's new look, just like you might visit a museum to see the latest exhibit.

By no means am I MP3's biggest-spending customer. But I feel like a VIP every time I enter the store—and I rarely leave empty handed.

Be consistently remarkable

In short: the MP3 experience inspires radical devotion because it's consistently remarkable.

Whether you're selling shoes or software, you can't afford to just give customers what they expect. Give the customer more than they expect. And do it every time. Remember that what's remarkable for you may not be that way for another person.

Also, never forget that every single touch point you have with a customer is an opportunity to add value and enhance a relationship. Forging that personal impression is the key to repeat and referral business you need to succeed and grow.

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