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CHICAGO-Sometimes more than what they’re buying or paying for a product, customers often care about the experience of shopping for a brand, says Chip Bell, founder of the Chip Bell Group consulting firm here at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Fall Conference. “It’s about experience, the kind of experience that you make,” he says. “It’s the experience you create every single day at every single touch point.”

Companies that have the experience down, says Bell, who is based in Gun Barrel, TX, are Starbucks and Harley Davidson motorcycles. Both of those brands sell products that transcend coffee and transportation.

One key is to make sure that shoppers are more than satisfied, as 75% of consumers will choose to shop at a different venue if they don’t have a higher degree of excitement. “Expectations change all of the time,” Bell says.

One way that a retailer can make the customer experience passionate is by listening to what the consumer wants, he says. “It’s the ear to ear, the face to face. It’s about being connected.”

The best brands on the market are also very consistent about the products they have to sell and the message they get across, according to Bell. “Great organizations are crystal clear on the experience they want to create and they make sure it’s consistent,” Bell says. “We’ve got to learn to see it through our customer’s eyes.”

Honesty also helps. It never hurts for a business to tell a shopper if it is having problems in a particular area, “we need your help.” Bell says, “an empowered customer is one that feels in control. The one thing about service is that customers don’t expect us to be perfect. They expect us to care.”

The Fall Convention is taking place at the Hilton Chicago Hotel Downtown, and will last through Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 27. Check back on GSR Ticket for more coverage throughout the week.

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