Recently I attended an Atlanta Customer Experience event at Pirch. This was a collaborative effort between the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) and the Retail Design Institute.   Attendees were given tour of the showroom and served a delicious breakfast prepared by Pirch chefs.  Afterwards, Pirch CEO, Jeffery Sears, shared the Pirch story and the Pirch philosophy.

In case you haven’t heard of Pirch, visit their website and search Google for their mentions in the news. Pirch is a premier kitchen, bath, and outdoor appliance store selling lifestyle and joy.  Over the past 6 years they have been breaking retail tradition by providing a fresh, new, customer-oriented buying experience.  Their focus on a customer-centric company culture infused with employee passion has raised the bar for customer experience in the retail setting.  All industries should take note of their accomplishments in this regard.

Great customer experiences don’t just happen… they are designed.

CEO, Jeffery Sears, proved this point several times over.  First of all, baristas (not cash registers) welcome guests into their store.  This is by design and there is some science to it.  The want us to sit down, relax, have a drink, and enjoy the atmosphere before we start looking at products… and it helps to pulse the traffic through the showroom.

The staff made me feel like a highly anticipated guest…not just a visitor or a shopper.  

I felt like I was walking into a reception or social gathering hosted by a good friend or business associate….and I was the guest of honor.

As I toured the showroom, beautifully styled and designed vignettes invited me to look at the products.  Museum quality informational plaques described the setting, appliance and specs. These vignettes drew me in and enticed me to look closer and learn more.  Each was unique and combined the aspects I like from online shopping with the ‘touch and feel’ experience of shopping in a physical store.   I could see different colors, styles and shapes perfectly arranged with modern, eye-pleasing displays of specification and product use information.

I felt like I was in a touch-screen, virtual experience… but it was live in HD and I was there.  Every shower head sprayer and sink spigot could be observed or experienced. Every oven, stove and grill could be tried… or if preferred, a top Atlanta chef was available to consult, give opinions or event demonstrate the use and benefits of the various kitchen appliances.

But what was most impressive was the staff. They know their products and

The people are in love with their brand.

This doesn’t happen by chance.  Enabling a culture like this starts with hiring the right people.  I wanted to know their secret for identifying the right people during the interview process, so I asked.  I was told they look for best people in the industry – the cream of the crop – and are not bashful about recruiting them.

I also learned that Pirch also sends every employee to a week of culture training before they start work.  Yes!  They train their people on company culture before they train on the products.

Pirch has changed the retail paradigm and raised the Customer Experience bar. The gauntlet has been thrown down for other retailers and customer-facing business to take up the challenge.

As CEO Jeffery Sears shared his vision and philosophy for his company and the retail industry, he said something I found quite inspiring and even profound.

“Technology should amplify, never replace, human contact and interaction.” 

Just rest on that a minute. How many times do we throw technology at a problem? Is it always the best solution?  Should we have solved the human dynamic or issue instead?

Sears also shared some of his perspectives on the reason for the major shift in consumers to online purchasing.  The pain of the poor quality experiences in brick and mortar environments was the culprit.  He is passionate about changing this.

Pirch is selling the experience of buying

And it’s paying off in sales and loyalty.  Pirch is inviting customers to enjoy their space.  They want us to sit back and relax and experience their excellence, passion and brand.  The experience is so good that when you are ready to leave the store you want to buy something even if you hadn’t planned on it.

In a world where everyone is selling online, Pirch boasted over $100M in revenue in 2014 which was a 95% increase over the previous year – none of it was online.  Pirch’s website has no option for buying online.  The revenue boost is not due to price increases, either.  Pirch does not charge more for their products; in fact they will match competitor pricing.

If your retail sales are dropping, think about your customers’ experiences when they visit your store.

What are their pain points?  What are the barriers?  The customer is looking for more from you as a retailer.  Let the customer touch, taste, see, smell and feel your product.  If you own a restaurant, give some free samples.  If you own a spa or salon, demonstrate your products on customers or let them try them out.  Make it special.  Make them feel special.  If you own a gym, give some free personal training just to give them a taste of what they could have.  Don’t make it a big ordeal.  Just do it because you are the best, you have the best and it’s what you do.

Great customer experiences don’t just happen… they are designed.  Bottom line: Love your brand.  Know your product.  Sincerely welcome your guests – they are not visitors. Invite them to feast at your table with no obligation. .

Today consumers can go anywhere to buy anything.  They don’t have to be loyal. 

Retailers who want to be around in the next 5-10 years need to take several tips from Pirch.

  • Transform your company culture
  • Invest in the culture and your employees
  • Listen to the customer and to your employees and take action
  • Ignite passion in your employees
  • Move away from pressuring employees to sell $xx per hour – let them relax and sell your brand and experience

What are you doing to improve your customers’ retail experience?  How are you innovating? Please share your ideas, successes and challenges.

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