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Lora LaPratt of Shopping Girl XOXO: “It’s all about authenticity”

It’s all about authenticity: Creating a real and trusting connection with your client will be the foundation of a long-lasting relationship. Getting to know your clients on a personal level will help you to be able to customize the perfect experience for them and get them excited about continuing to work with you in the […]

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It’s all about authenticity:

Creating a real and trusting connection with your client will be the foundation of a long-lasting relationship. Getting to know your clients on a personal level will help you to be able to customize the perfect experience for them and get them excited about continuing to work with you in the future. Reviews like these two remind me it’s all about the personal connection:


As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lora LaPratt of Shopping Girl XOXO.

Lora LaPratt is the CEO and head stylist of Shopping Girl XOXO, a Chicago-based personal styling business. She has clients nationwide, and she prides herself on getting to know them on a personal level to bring out their style derived from their interests, body shape, coloring, and overall way of life. Lora also specializes in working closely with local designers and boutiques. She supports shopping locally, before all else. Lora enjoys conveying her client’s styles to help them look and, most importantly, feel amazing in their newly elevated and personalized wardrobe.

Since she was a teenager, Lora has been styling friends but began her business over 13 years ago. She has a degree in Fashion Merchandising, a BA in Organizational Communications, and the education and experience necessary to find what best fits everyone. She has close connections with department stores and “hidden gems” of boutiques throughout the Chicago area. Lora is also the fashion editor for Fête Lifestyle Magazine and has been a featured as a style expert on ABC7 Chicago, WGN-TV, Comcast, The Health and Wellness Forum, WGN Radio, AEWheelhouse, The Key Magazine, The Real Chicago, Voyage Chicago, Huffington Post, Randolph Market’s Choice for Charity, Chicago View, Xoobies, Healthy Living, Glamhive, My Daily Find Chicago, CRAVE, Chiguide, Stef In The City, Monday Morning Jolt, Cheeky Chicago, WCIU-TV’s You and Me In The Morning, Central Lakeview Merchants Association, Chicago Woman, The Examiner, and Fab-U-Wish, among others. Lora has written numerous local blogs, and she hosts styling events in and around the Chicago area regularly. Shopping Girl XOXO was selected as one of the Top Woman-Owned Businesses in 2016 by Chicago View. Lora loves getting to know her clients and bringing out the best in them through unique and customized styling experiences.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Growing up, I was always into style and experimenting with fashion. As I got older, my friends and family began reaching out to me for shopping and styling advice. I quickly realized that I loved helping women feel confident and beautiful in their skin through fashion, so I decided to get a second degree in Fashion Merchandising and began my styling business as a part-time job for fun. That part-time job quickly became a full-time dream job as my client base grew. In those first few years of my business, I realized my passion for supporting local designers and boutiques when styling my clients.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Oh my goodness, thinking back on how it all began, I have many hilarious stories that have served as steppingstones to continue to build my brand. I remember the first consultation I had with a potential new client was in a Starbucks in Wrigleyville, and I was so nervous about everything. Most of all, I was incredibly worried about what I was going to wear! I wanted to make the perfect first impression, and somehow, I settled on my grandmother’s full fur coat over a very fancy dress and ALL the jewelry. It was 13 years ago, and styles have changed a lot since then, but I cringe just thinking about how fake it felt. One of the biggest takeaways I learned from that moment is how people are looking for an authentic connection with someone they can trust. All of the bells and whistles are nice, but what is truly important is that you know what you’re talking about, listen to the clients’ wants and needs, and have a genuine connection.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have always had the most supportive family. When I decided to start this business, everyone was behind me one hundred percent. My husband has been by my side every step of the way. I joke that he is my unpaid assistant, but he wears way more hats. To this day, he pumps me up before new clients, calms me down after long stressful days, talks me through new business opportunities, bounces ideas around with me, lugs clothing to and from the car, takes over at home during the busy season, and most importantly, has always supported me and my crazy ideas, no matter what! I absolutely could not have done everything I’ve done without him.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

I mean, that’s really is what it’s all about, right? As a personal stylist, my goal is to help my clients have such a fantastic time working together and trust me so much they want to come back to me for future styling needs. I want them to feel special, pampered, and like they are hanging out with their best friend. If I can give them one hundred percent, they will be a return client and refer others to me to experience the joy of working with Shopping Girl XOXO. My goal in life has always been to love what I do, and I think the best way to reach that goal is to walk away from every client knowing that I gave my all, and they had an amazing time.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

I think it boils down to passion. If you are passionate about what you do and the help you provide to others, that will shine through in your work. If you don’t have passion, it will also be evident and turn people away as quickly as they arrived.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

Sure, I believe that competition can pressure companies into working on their customer service, but customer service is such an innate quality, someone can rarely force it. It goes back to being authentic and having a real passion for what you are delivering. However, I think the ever-evolving world of social media puts competitors on display. Everyone has to keep up to ensure they don’t fall behind when it comes to what is available for marketing their business.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

One of the first pinch-me moments was early in my business when I worked with a new client for the first time. We were in the SGXOXO Showroom, trying on clothes. We had been together for about an hour, and she had just put on a dress for the first time in years and felt terrific-looking in the mirror, and then she started to cry. I was so worried something was wrong, but she quickly explained that she was just so happy! She had always struggled with her weight, and shopping was never a fun experience for her, which I knew from our in-depth consultation. What I didn’t realize was a few months before hiring me, she had worked with a stylist at Nordstrom and spent the afternoon crying in the dressing room because of how awful the woman had made her feel about her body and how difficult it had been to find things in her style that fit. Within that first hour of working together, her whole attitude towards shopping changed, and I watched her confidence grow immensely in the few hours we worked together. We enjoyed champagne and cookies, and she felt special and HEARD. She left, knowing she would be excited to get dressed in the morning to take on the day! I’ve continued to work with this client and so many more like her over the last decade. It is why I do what I do!

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

Absolutely! I realized a long time ago, my job as a personal stylist was so much deeper than putting clothing on someone and making sure it fits. It’s so much more than that. It’s about the whole experience from the moment we meet during our initial consultation to the ability to be on-call for them when they need last-minute help getting ready for an event. It’s listening to them, understanding them, energizing them, and gently pushing them out of their comfort zones. It’s the little things and big things and everything in-between that build that trusting relationship that turns into a lifetime client and friend!

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

1. It’s all about authenticity:

Creating a real and trusting connection with your client will be the foundation of a long-lasting relationship. Getting to know your clients on a personal level will help you to be able to customize the perfect experience for them and get them excited about continuing to work with you in the future. Reviews like these two remind me it’s all about the personal connection:

“This was all new to me, but from the second I met Lora, any anxiety or worry was washed away, and only confidence and excitement about my “look” and my wardrobe remain.”

“Working with Lora was the therapy I needed. She is the best friend you need to clear your closet and leave you feeling better than you’ve ever felt before.”

2. Treat every client as if they are your one and only.

It is essential to give your all to every client because you never know what connection or referral that individual could be for you down the road. No matter how busy you are, it is vital to leave no stone unturned when preparing for every experience a client has working with you. I always make sure I do everything I can to prepare for a client before they walk in the door.

3. Build a memorable experience and be consistent.

Any time a client is hiring you for something, they want to feel pampered and special. Be creative when it comes to your signature experience and be consistent. Of course, you can continue to build upon and tweak it as the years go by, but make sure you treat all of your clients to a unique experience when they work with you. That is what will get them excited about coming back and spreading the word of your services to others.

For example, I offer free, initial consultations in the SGXOXO Showroom and always have tea or lemonade out on a fancy tray to deliver as soon as they enter. My business has a signature color that is consistent throughout my branding. I send out personalized postcards to check in on VIP clients throughout the year. I always offer sparkling Moscato and cookies, but I ask before our session if they have dietary restrictions and meet those needs accordingly. I have branded gift bags full of goodies after styling sessions to surprise my clients.

4. Go above and beyond.

Your clients want to feel like they are getting the very best service out there, and they want to be confident with their choice in choosing you. Sometimes this means doing extraordinary things to show your gratitude, or it can mean being on-call to help them with last-minute advice. Know that sometimes these extras can go unpaid and may be time-consuming, but they can ultimately ensure return clients for a lifetime.

I always tell my clients to feel free to reach out to me with any questions when getting dressed. Yes, I’m often texting with my clients during their day, but it makes me happy to know that they feel confident in their style and trust in me to help them make the right decision.

Another example of SGXOXO going above and beyond is our annual holiday party. This year will be the 6th year to host a holiday party for our clients, local designers, and boutique owners to thank them for making our dream job a reality! It is so much fun to be able to show my clients some extra special love outside of styling sessions, and it’s an excellent way for them to be able to meet the designers who have made some of the pieces they wear and the boutique owners from where I have pulled their clothing.

5. Follow through.

Just because your client walks out the door does not mean your service is complete. Nurture that relationship without being overbearing. It’s essential to continue to check in on your clients and remind them you are there and ready to work with them whenever they need you.

A few different ways to do this are through emailed blogs that are informative and offering something, through personalized letters or thoughtful gifts to treat VIP clients, or through a simple text when something comes up you think might interest them. As a personal stylist, I will often come across something great for a particular client while I’m shopping for others and send a quick email or text to show them what I found. Doing this is one of the easiest ways to reach out to a client and let them know I’m thinking about them and there to help them with their styling needs.

Are there things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

Yes, I do a few special things to inspire my clients to refer others to me. After a full day styling session with a client, I always give them a little gift bag with a bit of bubbly and sweet treats to kick their feet up and relax after our long day of trying on clothes. Included in this gift bag is my referral package information, where I offer clients discounts when they refer a friend. It’s a great way to inspire referrals while also getting them excited about the next time we work together! I also include links to Yelp and Facebook reviews in my follow up emails to remind clients that this is one of the best ways for new clients to understand how beneficial working together can be.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Right now, I think it’s all about supporting small businesses, minority-owned businesses, and bring awareness to the local companies that have been hit hard this year due to the pandemic. I believe it makes shopping local so much more meaningful when you can put a face and story behind the goods. I started a weekly interview show on IG Live, where I chat with a new small business owner every Wednesday at 6 pm CST called “Shop Talk with Lora” @shoppinggirlxoxo. I know it’s a small step in the big scheme of things right now, but if we all do our part to spread the love, that will impact our future!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

INSTAGRAM: @shoppinggirlxoxo

FACEBOOK: @ShoppingGirlXOXO

TWITTER: @ShoppingGirlXO

Photos:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/7fll4suocrohpbp/AABkrS1VFeXFcJMeVMyVVhb6a?dl=0
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