Designing the Customer Experience

Designing the Customer Experience

by Danny Summers

Here's an important question... Are you Designing Your Customer's Experience?

By designing I mean have you spent time to objectively look at what your customer (guest) currently sees and feels when they walk through your gates or doors? Obviously, I am not referring to this week with you in winter mode, but in spring and throughout the year. What they experience helps form their attitude about your Center. Let's look at a few things to consider when Designing Your Customer's Experience...

The First Impressions... It really begins at the moment of first impressions. It could be as early as finding your Center's website or Calling Your Center to ask about a plant, product, or service. How that impression is formed can make a great impact on whether that customer ever walks into your Center the first time or the next. One interesting note from our Total Group of Mystery Shops in 2022, upon calling the Center before the visit:

Only 73% of the time did the Team Member INVITE THE CUSTOMER TO COME IN!

First impressions can also be at street level and continue all the way inside the Center. There's a lot to consider here. Sid Raisch crafted a whole Blog Article on this back in July. It was titled A Better Facility = Better Marketing. Sid's message extends far beyond the street and front gate and should be a must-review for your Team if they haven't already. You can review it HERE.

Another area to consider when Designing Your Customer's Experience is one that most Centers do very little... Lighting.

Admittedly, the greenhouse is a totally different environment for how you want to control (or don't) lighting. You certainly may control portions with shade cloth for different plant needs, but maybe there are areas such as end-caps or featured areas that really could benefit from additional or special lighting.

I remember one really wow impression of lighting I experienced at Terrain's Devon location. The main room had a regular roof but featured several large skylights to supply natural light. They also had some perfectly placed additional lighting to spotlight important impression-building areas such as their green wall seen in this photo.

One activity to consider is taking your Team to visit some other retailers outside our industry. If you have an Ikea close by it would be a worthwhile experience. You will experience small vignettes with the perfect lighting applications. Obviously, the more you are open in early morning or evening hours, Lighting is even more important.

Another consideration is Sound. While many retailers have music playing to set the mood of their customer experience, for Garden Centers, doesn't it make more sense to have Sounds of Nature as the chosen sound? A number of Centers have used the sound of water to create the experience they are designing. But there are even more. Maybe adding the sounds of a forest or woodland area with birds, crickets, and other sounds of nature would help create an authentic feel. This reminds me of Florence Williams' message in The Nature Fix book. It seems reasonable the more a Center can build a "Nature Experience" the better the Customer Experience will be and the more they will want to come back. (By the way, we still have a few of The Nature Fix books available for free – just ask.)

Let's do a simple test... Click on the image below to spend some glorious minutes (or even an hour) listening to nature. See how it makes you feel. Then discuss with your Team how you could add either just sounds or sounds with video to help Design Your Customer Experience. The one featured below is 3 hours long on YouTube!

Oh, speaking of YouTube, one thing I really didn't like when uploading a video to YouTube to then embed in one of our WebSystem pages was the ads or other videos that show up at the end. Do you know there's a way to eliminate those? Send me a note and I can share what I have discovered.


And finally, what do you normally think of when we say "The Customer Experience?" Yes, of course, it's people! It's your Team and the huge part they play in creating the impressions for every customer who walks through your gates or doors.

I think overall, our Centers do a wonderful job of creating a high level of customer service. It is typically miles ahead of most other retailers. But the larger you become the harder it is to maintain the desired level of customer-focused care and service you really want and need to provide. So Designing the Customer Experience is not a once-and-done process; it requires periodic evaluation or refinement.

Designing the Customer Experience must involve everyone on your Team. Everyone has a part to play. Returning to the Total Group Mystery Shop Reports scoring for all shops in 2022, we see our Total Average Score continues to be at 87.8%, and while most are in the 90% range (see below) there is one area that holds us back from breaking into the mid to high 90's...

Specific Employee Attitude & Skills. The old saying "You are only as strong as your weakest link" is in full display here. This underscores why every Team Member must be involved in Designing the Customer Experience!

Here are a few more excerpts from the 2022 Mystery Shop Total Summary – Specific Employee Attitude & Skills Section:

Did the employee take you to the product or did the employee tell you where the product was? Score... Only 67.5% of the time took the customer to the product.

Did the employee seem interested in learning more about why you requested the product? Score... Only 66.78% of the time answer YES.

Did the employee suggest other products either related to your request or items in other departments? Score... Only 47.15% of the time the answer was YES.

Designing the Customer Experience takes time and this time of year is the best possible time to make the effort. Create a unique experience that showcases Nature's Best and make sure your Center is at the heart of their thoughts when they need more!

Group Centers can access the 2023 Group Mystery Shopper Program and scheduling forms in The Group WebSystem, in the Clients-Only Menu, and down to The Group Mystery Shopper Program link. Want more details, please call, text or send me an email. We are happy to help you in Designing Your Customer's Experience!

Happy Designing!


Sharing is at the heart of The Group and your ideas are very important. If you have any trouble logging into The Group WebSystem, please let me know. Are you and your staff all subscribed to our eLists such as GroupEs, Retail-Grower, Retail-Landscape, Owners-Only, and a number of others? Need help subscribing? Let me know so I can show you how you can sign up.

Thanks for sharing!

Danny Summers
[email protected]
Tel: 678-909-7770
Cell: 678-761-7145

REMEMBER: Your interaction (by phone and email) with Group Service Providers such as Tim Quebedeaux, Sid Raisch, John Kennedy, Jean Seawright, and of course Danny Summers are included in your retainer!

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