Orange County Customer Experience Awards: Part 1

Over the course of the past couple weeks, I have been impressed by some local firms providing an exceptional customer experience. I’d like to highlight some of them over the next few weeks, and have thus begun the Orange County Customer Experience Awards. By the way, if you’ve recently had a great experience with a company, let me know. I’d love to hear about your experiences, and possibly highlight them here. PLEASE NO SELF PROMOTION.

While my experiences are with small, local firms, I believe enterprises should take note and evaluate how they might provide the same type of exceptional customer experience even if they are a $10 million, $100 million, or billion dollar company.

My wife and I recently had our second child, and after much research and online shopping for “dual strollers”, we decided to check out a local shop to actually see these modern engineering marvels that have ever bloated sticker prices, functions and features to see what all the hype was about.

We had been informally introduced to a local boutique firm called OC Travel Tykes that takes an expert consultative approach to strollers. I know, I know, it’s strollers for pete’s sake. But the captivating part was, once we arrived to meet Kelly (the owner and proprietor), she took the time to do a relatively exhaustive needs analysis on our lifestyle, asking a number of questions like “how often do we travel?”, “How often do we exercise?”, “How old is your oldest, and how often do they like to ride in a stroller?”, etc.

Once this initial conversation was completed, Kelly introduced us to each of the strollers that were candidates for our needs, and explained why certain strollers probably weren’t the best fit for our needs, ultimately allowing us to drive the conversation, while taking time to give background on each company, philosophy, parts and materials, frequency of returns, and pros and cons of each stroller.

The experience (regardless of the product) was one of the best I’ve been part of for quite some time. I kept thinking, “This is such a phenomenal experience. All things the same, I want to buy our stroller here.” A bit of perspective; This type of reaction happens in me about once every 4 years. Since I live and breathe CRM, I find myself being generally overly critical in evaluating vendors across the board.

Time passed, life is busy. Kelly politely placed a couple of follow up calls about a week apart.

Ultimately my wife and I stepped back into the “Stroller mindset”, discussed our options, cringed a bit at the price, and had made our choice. We planned on heading back to OC Travel Tykesthe following weekend to to pickup the stroller, but discovered that another major vendor was having a 20% off sale.

While I was impressed with the customer experience, I wasn’t about to pay a 20% tip for the experience. After all, customers are fickle, and though I hate to admit it, I fall into that category. I called Kelly and explained to her the situation. I wanted to buy from her. I would gladly pay a small premium, but I couldn’t justify paying 20% more. After some consideration, Kelly offered to meet the price, and candidly shared that it didn’t leave much margin for her since she operated on a relatively small volume, but that she was happy to do it.

THINGS THAT OC TRAVEL TYKES DID RIGHT THAT VERY FEW COMPANIES ARE ABLE TO DELIVER

1. Offered a unique value proposition
Strollers are typically offered through big box department stores with low wage employees with very little expertise is strollers. In addition, no one else that I am aware of offers the “life needs analysis” that we received.

2. Low Barrier to Entry
OC Travel Tykes offers “Try before you buy” options. I haven’t seen that anywhere else

3. Personalized Service and Flexibility
Kelly schedules one on one appointments the best that she can. This avoids the typical retail experience of talk for 2 minutes, and then off to help another customer. She also allowed price flexibility for a business case/proposition that made sense.

BENEFITS OF OC TRAVEL TYKES APPROACH

1. She earned our business
Now granted, she didn’t make a mint off of our purchase, but she did get compensated for her time and efforts. She moved one more unit for her vendor. Multiply that by dozens of customers and you begin to see meaningful profits.

2. She created a “Fan”
I am now blogging about my experience. Anyone who has been in sales and marketing will tell you that the best lead is a personal referral.

3. Free Marketing
Not only will I tell my friends and family, but also thought that this experience was noteworthy enough to write about it. I have no idea how many new strollers or associated products she might sell because of this word of mouth, but it is probably more than the one that I bought. Multiply this be a few others who comment personally or through social media, and one positive experience multiplies into dozens of sales

4. The potential for repeat business
The next time I need a stroller (God forbid we have triplets), guess where I am going to go first? OC Travel Tykes. They’ve earned by business. Depending on the longevity of the company, my kids could potentially buy strollers from there when they have kids. This is how great organizations are built.

Do you know of any other companies in Orange County (or elsewhere) providing exceptional customer experiences? Let me know. Share a comment.

How is your organization doing at personalizing experiences, providing compelling value propositions, and enabling raving fans to share their experiences through personal interactions and social media?

Sound off everyone!

Thanks again to Kelly and OC Travel Tykes for a great experience!

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