A company that rose out of tragedy is now a leader in experiential retail. Painting with a Twist was started 10 years ago after Hurricane Katrina to give people a safe haven and fun escape during a difficult time. Customers flocked to the chance to enjoy an evening painting and drinking with friends to escape from their cares and worries, and one of the first experiential retail businesses was born.
Today, Painting with a Twist has more than 300 locations across the country and has created the sip and paint industry. The company encourages groups and friends to come together to paint a picture and enjoy drinks and snacks. Everything about the night, from the painting itself to the easy-going attitude of the artist instructors, encourages guests to let loose and have a great time. Aside from simply teaching guests to paint, the artists tell jokes and play games with the class. The goal isn’t to teach people to become world-class painters but rather to inspire them to have fun with the people around them and try something new.
One of the main target demographics are groups of women looking for a unique way to spend time together without going to a bar or restaurant. Painting with a Twist quickly learned that everyone can enjoy a carefree escape, even if they aren’t going through a tragedy. CMO Katherine LeBlanc says that focusing on why the company exists and delivering on a great, unique experience keeps people coming back because they feel relaxed and free to enjoy a great night with friends. The company competes against other entertainment brands, including movie theaters, restaurants and even escape rooms, but has built loyal customers by offering personal connections and a truly unique experience.
Painting with a Twist continues to expand its carefree experience with new offerings, including pop culture paintings of favorite movies and nostalgic TV shows. It also hosts birthday parties, family days for younger children and trivia programs. Franchises are encouraged to build partnerships with local businesses to make each store unique and reflect the local area. LeBlanc says the company is also developing partnerships to create new experiences, such as adding music with local bands or other pop culture painting options. All experiential retail brands can learn the power of creating an immersive experience from Painting with a Twist.
No matter if the group is a ladies’ book club, kids’ birthday party or corporate retreat, Painting with a Twist aims to deliver a unique and consistent experience and create an environment where people know they can relax and enjoy a carefree escape with their loved ones. Delivering on that promise creates an experiential retail brand with loyal customers.
Some companies let customer experience come together on its own, while others take a more intentional approach. At Slack, the thoughtful, intentional approach has made it leader in customer experience as it constantly evaluates and updates its experience to meet customer needs.
The thoughtful approach starts internally. Ali Rayl, VP Customer Experience, has been with the company from the beginning. As Slack experienced rapid growth, Ali and other leaders realized it was too big for one person to know everything. Slack customer service representatives now specialize in certain areas of the program and become specialized experts. Employees benefit from taking ownership over certain areas, and customers can be served more quickly by automatically sending their question to a specialist in that area instead of moving aimlessly through the service department.
Rayl encourages her team to start conversations with customers and facilitate seamless transactions. Because Slack is a workplace communication tool, customers contacting the brand offer the company a unique opportunity to showcase what the product can do and to highlight how easy and smooth it can be talk to someone at work.
The thoughtful approach is driven by data and analytics. Customer service agents track the type of questions and calls they get to understand who is asking for help and what questions they have. From there, the service department works closely with the product and engineering teams to look for ways to change the product. Rayl sees two ways to look at customer problems: to either manage them through the support team or to solve them through engineering. The key to a quality experience is to find balance. Some common issues can be changed through engineering, while it’s easier to simply manage other issues. No matter how their issue is solved, Slack wants all customers to feel valued and heard.
A thoughtful customer experience comes from more than just solving problems. At Slack, it involves listening to customer feedback and looping it back to make the product better. Involving the entire company and building strong relationships with customers turns customer experience into an issue that impacts everyone and that everyone can contribute to. A thoughtful approach to customer experience changes with customer needs but always puts making the customer’s life easier at the center of everything.
Is your company operating in chaos or clarity? The difference often comes down to creating a knowledge-rich culture.
Modern customers and employees want information on their own terms. In order to best educate employees and provide answers and tools to customers, many customer-focused brands create knowledge-rich cultures. These cultures pride themselves on offering learning and growth opportunities for employees while empowering them to solve customer issues. However, Dave Hare, principal consultant at ServiceXRG, says too many companies have knowledge-rich cultures in silos, which creates chaos and lost opportunities.
When knowledge is kept within departments and not shared with the rest of the company, it creates more escalations of customer issues. A customer could call the contact center with an issue that could be easily fixed by someone in the engineering department, but without that information being shared across the entire organization, the customer’s call is escalated and takes longer to answer. Hare says that companies that build cultures of knowledge sharing solve more calls on the first contact and do it faster with fewer escalations.
When silos are broken down and information is shared across the entire company, employees and customers benefit. Employees have the tools to help customers right away or know where to send customers to answer more technical questions quickly. That knowledge creates job satisfaction for employees and instills confidence in customers that the company knows what it is talking about. For customers, a knowledge-sharing culture creates less frustration as issues can be taken care of accurately and much more quickly.
Hare says one of the biggest aspects of customer experience is making the customer successful without regression or pain. That can only be done by instilling confidence in the customer that the employee is their advocate into the company. Employees, no matter if they are in the contact center, finance, engineering or anywhere else in the company, need to use every resource to resolve customer issues. That comes from building a strong culture of sharing knowledge.
Customer experience is the most powerful tool companies have. When customers sense chaos at a company, they will quickly take their business elsewhere. To turn that chaos into clarity, brands of all sizes need to build a knowledge-rich culture that breaks down silos and shares information across borders with employees and customers. Sharing knowledge and instilling confidence benefits everyone in the organization.
This episode of The Modern Customer Podcast is sponsored by Squelch.