Great customer experience is invariably about substance over style, and that is where a well-known cosmetics brand recently got it wrong during a shopping experience.

Last weekend I had a busy Saturday planned, but I dashed to my local mall to one of the make-up outlets to replenish my lipstick collection. I was shopping for some new shades to try out, so I took advantage of the expertise of the very well-turned-out shop assistant to help me make my selection. She was great at advising me about the tones that worked for me, and I eventually selected my two favourites.

I asked her to bag them up for me, but after much scratching around in the stock drawers, she discovered that neither of my selected shades was actually in stock. I wasn’t very interested in going back to the drawing board – particularly as I had no guarantees my next-best selections would be in stock either. Besides, the next-best-thing isn’t as satisfying to buy.

I asked the shop assistant why they insist on having a full range of sample lipsticks in their display if they don’t actually have them in stock. How irritating for both customer and sales assistant to go through a selection process only to find the stock isn’t there. Surely the right thing to do would be to not display the ones they don’t have to avoid disappointment?

‘Oh, noooooo!’ she said, ‘We aren’t allowed because it would look untidy.’ They are instructed to keep a pristinely organised station at all times and have all products available at point of sale.

What’s the point of having an item on display if you can’t actually sell it though? Am I missing something?

I think it’s Lancome who are missing something, and they aren’t alone – this little Saturday morning inconvenience got me thinking.

For so many businesses it’s too much about form and not enough about content

For #Lancome, it’s obviously more important what their sales environment looks like than how functional and easy it is for their clients to make a purchase. If symmetry really is the most important aspect of your display, what about a little black sticker or a cover for the products that are out of stock, or even a key behind the display, so the shop assistant would immediately recognise that there was no point wasting the customer’s time with that option.

This is a prime example of a small detail that matters to the customer being totally overlooked because the organisation are looking at customer experience from the wrong angle. They are thinking ‘how do we look’ not ‘how does it feel to buy from us’. A transaction should be designed with ease and fluidity in mind, and aesthetics as a secondary aspect – even for a cosmetics brand!

After so many years in this line of work, I am still amazed that big businesses don’t listen to or engage with the frontline staff who are interacting with customers daily to find out what needs to improve. If businesses want to excel at CX they need to take their blinkers off and go looking for trouble.

nlighten are customer experience experts who provide research, strategy, training and more to help you unlock the potential in your customer relationships. For more CX insights, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 Image: Pixabay

View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Customer Complaints

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