Make sure your staff/team all have the same goal — Your staff/team should all believe in your vision for your brand because they are usually who interacts with your customers most therefore they will ultimately be responsible for making the customers experience unforgettable.
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 Qiana Allen.
Qiana Allen is an African-American, Chicago based entrepreneur who’s extremely popular plus size clothing boutique “Culture’s Closet” and makeup line “Red Sorbet”, both located on the southside of Chicago, were hit hard by looters during the George Floyd protests that rocked the nation earlier this spring. She almost lost it all, and even contemplated not moving forward with a new business idea. But instead of giving up, Qiana decided to launch a new enterprise that will make her community feel a little sweeter.
In August 2020, Qiana launched “Munchiez”, a novelty candy store and cereal bar located in the historical Beverly area of Chicago. This black woman owned, family based business is bringing fun, innovative and tasty treats to the south side of Chicago. The beautiful space will attract tourists and localists from the Northside or Loop area to venture out to the Southside where there aren’t many options for families to enjoy a place like this.
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?
Thank you guys for this feature! I’m a Southside born and raised Serial Entrepreneur and mother of 2. I started my entrepreneurial journey when I was 12 years old, opening my 1st candy store. I have never wanted to be anything other than an Entrepreneur so working for someone else just never satisfied me. I quit my corporate job in 2009 and never looked back. Since then I’ve opened and launched several successful businesses including Munchiez, Culture’s Closet, and my lipstick line RedSorbet.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I first started out I felt as though I had to make a sale by any means necessary, even if that meant changing my prices because a customer didn’t want to pay what I had it listed for. I did this for about 3 months until I realized that my profit was minimal. I went to a vendor event and there was a woman selling some of the same items that I was selling at the time. Her prices were almost double my original prices and she had the longest line at the event. At that moment I knew that I was cheating my business and from that point on I vowed that my prices will always be my prices. I also realized that the customers I changed prices for just weren’t my targeted customers. Looking back now I can laugh at that mistake but it was necessary for me to become the businesswoman I am today.
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?
HELP is an extremely important word to all successful Entrepreneurs. Building anything great takes more than one person alone. I’ve been greatly blessed to have not just one person in particular to help me get where I am today. My team is the best! When we meet and I tell them what my next move will be they’re all eager to know what their roles are and how we can all work together to get it done. I can admit that some of my ideas may be outrageous at times. For instance, due to COVID-19 we had to cancel our fourth annual Culture of Curves Fashion Show. After thinking long and hard, I decided to move forward and do the show virtually (which we’ve never done before). I told my team we only had 3 weeks to pull this off and on top of that we had just successfully opened Munchiez less than a week prior (during a pandemic). The looks on their faces were priceless. My best friend and IT Manager blurted out “here she goes again” and we all started laughing. We all made sure that our laces were tied, we took off running and the show was a huge success!
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?
Making sure your customers have an excellent shopping experience whether in person or online is the most important part of being in business. If my customers enjoy their shopping experience they’ll run and tell someone and if that customer has a great experience they’ll run and tell another. This is what I call the word of mouth chain. This no cost marketing strategy can make or break a business. If those same customers have a horrible experience then they’ll run and tell the negative which is why I stress the importance of great customer service to my team daily. It’s also imperative for customers to feel important so that they’ll continue to patronize the business. Being a consumer myself I know how I want to be valued where I spend my hard earned money and this magnifies my desire to give my customers the best service possible.
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?
Companies who do not make customer service number 1 fail due to lack of staff training and or lack of understanding their consumer. With all of my businesses I want my customers to feel connected to the brand and us to the customers. When you can relate to your customer and vice versa making sure they feel at home and that their dollars are being well spent won’t be a daunting task at all.
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?
Absolutely! More competition could potentially mean less revenue. If a competitor that offers the same or nearly the same items or services I offer can provide a better shopping experience than my company, the need to patronize my businesses is null. There are definitely other external pressures that can play a role in forcing a company to improve the customer’s experience. One of the biggest right now is COVID-19. This pandemic has forced us all to readjust EVERYTHING and shopping experiences have changed so much that making sure that customer service is top notch should be the driving force to make sure that customers are completely satisfied during this difficult time.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
When customers come into Cultures Closet we greet them of course but we take it a step further by pulling several items for them to try on and then we tell them we’re gonna have a fashion show and they’re the model. One time in particular we did this with a customer who had recently experienced a tough breakup. We helped her get dressed and showed her how to “strut her stuff” in front of our huge antique mirror. After she tried on everything we pulled she was so happy that she purchased everything and she told us this was her first time shopping with us and that she would definitely be back. She said that she felt like a new woman, that she hasn’t felt this good since the breakup and that she’s on a self love journey and we just showed her how to love herself even more.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Yes! Now we offer this same experience to all of our customers. The way she felt after the “fashion show” solidified my reasons why. Since day one I have always wanted to show plus size women and the world that we are beautiful and that the love that we have for ourselves can outweigh anything that life brings our way.
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.
- Be relatable — When customers can envision themselves in your product or receiving the service you provide half of your work is done.
- Make sure your staff/team all have the same goal — Your staff/team should all believe in your vision for your brand because they are usually who interacts with your customers most therefore they will ultimately be responsible for making the customers experience unforgettable.
- Know what your competitors are doing — Staying abreast of what the competition is excelling or lacking in will keep you ahead of the game.
- You may have to be a therapist — When in retail sales or offering a service the consumer may want to vent while shopping or receiving a service so it is important that you be a listening ear so that the customer feels important.
- Remember you are someone’s customer — Remembering how you felt the last time you had a Wow! Customer Experience should inspire you to make sure that all of your customers feel the same way when they patronize your business.
Are there a few 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, offering a customer referral system is one of the best ways to make sure customers share their experience with others. Google reviews are also another great way to get other potential customers to want to experience what your business has to offer.
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. 🙂
I would have to say creating jobs for the homeless. The first thing people usually want to do is to feed the homeless which is a great movement overall but as an Entrepreneur I’m always thinking in the future. Feeding the homeless is a quick fix but creating jobs for them can last a lifetime.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Readers can find my businesses on Facebook @Curve Culture Boutique and @Munchiez on Instagram @CurveCulture and @Munchiez_Store
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thanks again for having me! I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity.