Merchants and craftsmen: unaware champions of relational management

In order to develop, or simply survive, craftsmen and merchants must compete in terms of customer experience. They have to reach high standards, like those of Apple or Amazon. Even if they do not always master the vernacular of this field, they can however sense its key subjects.

« Before, we baked good bread and pastries that people came to buy, but it is not enough anymore », recognizes Olivier Raybaud, standing in front of his white van, double-parked on Mozart Avenue, in Paris. It is 6:20am and the owner of the Flûte Enchantée (magic flute), baker just like his parents before him, is about to deliver food trays to the Europa Corp. Distribution team. They are shooting Valerian, Luc Besson’s blockbuster.
During the day, Stéphanie, his store director, and himself accumulate several professions: bakers, deliverymen, cashiers. After the morning clientele, already in a hurry, the 10am flow will follow and then, 400 customers at lunch time.
When we talk « big data » and « multichannel customer journey », Stéphanie answers in a smile: « customer experience? I do not know what that is. What I do know, is that we have to be faster and faster, fight with the cashing machine and process the special orders from the web. We were not too hopeful about it at the beginning, but having a more fluid website got us a lot of orders ».

A year ago, at the Expérience Client/The French Forum, John Cochet, a carpenter from the mountains of the Féclaz (Savoie), made everyone smile when he detailed the guideline he gives to his teams: « if a customer asks for something special, not planned in the order, just tell him « No problem ! » and then come see me». That is how John is customer-focused and how he highlights an obviousness: customers have become very demanding, informed, and reactions are needed in real time, without necessarily saying yes to everything. « Dudes sending you emails to ask about a price, I do not really take care of it. I call them, for nothing is worth a good talk to understand someone’s needs ». Multichannel and customer knowledge are no mysteries for this boss who intuitively practices them.

Two other concerns reunite Stéphanie and John: payment, that must be as fast as fluid, and the difficulty of finding the adequate staff. About the first item, major French banks associated to distributors are addressing the issue and test apps such as Wa! or Fivory, recently merged. About the second issue, it seems more complicated: sharing their requirements in customer experience with their teams is the new frontier for little entrepreneurs. « My joiner is a rare resource : in this sense, we are often working on a just-in-time basis », mentions John. Stéphanie adds : « sellers that smile and are motivated are the key to success, for in the end, when the waiting line becomes longer, the smile becomes the most important element».

Manuel Jacquinet