Why now is the time to invest in enhancing customer experience

How to cope from the coronavirus crisis and emerge even stronger.

A man enters the main branch of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's biggest bank, in Tel Aviv, Israel July 18, 2016. Picture taken July 18, 2016 (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
A man enters the main branch of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's biggest bank, in Tel Aviv, Israel July 18, 2016. Picture taken July 18, 2016
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
 Dmitri Shulman
Gift Packages for Furloughed Staff
°The chocolate business started with my wife, Yulia, when she was giving birth with our second child. She was tearing into huge quantities of chocolate. So I decided to bring her and the medical team chocolate that I had prepared myself—and they went crazy for it. After a year we decided it was time to start making our own chocolate. We began from one square meter at home, and now, 16 years later, we have 500 square meters in Kibbutz Dafna, including a shop that sells different flavors of our chocolate, alongside other quality products from the Galilee region, such as wine and honey. We also have the only chocolate museum in Israel, with life-size statues, three-dimensional hollow dolls and more. I’m very particular about the raw materials that I work with—my chocolate uses only cocoa butter from the Netherlands and beans from Ghana, for example.
“Before the pandemic, we had ten employees in different departments—sales, production and the museum—but we understood that if we did not furlough them, we would not survive. After a week I prepared surprise gift packages of chocolates for each of them and drove to their homes to deliver them. As far as I’m concerned, they are still part of the family. The museum is closed at the moment, but the shop is open and only my wife and I are here. We started focusing a lot of our energy on media marketing, including Facebook and via friends. At the same time, I made sure to stay in telephone contact with customers.
“During the lockdowns, a few of the Moshavim and Kibbutzim in the area began to order gift packages from us—partly to support us and partly to cheer up their workers. So my wife put together the deliveries, and every morning I would go out to deliver them around the country. I racked up an unbelievable amount of kilometers, but that was the right way to ensure that every customer received what they ordered. We also had Valentine’s Day recently, with our unique products—teddy bears with hearts, chocolates on a stick, signs with romantic messages etc. Everyone needs love in their hearts—for their family, friends, employees and customers—it’s the only way to ensure a positive outcome.”
The writer is the owner of the Shulman Chocolate Museum, Kibbutz Dafna. Tel: 054-6777301
Yaakov Omedi
If You Don’t Have an Online Presence—You’re Not Working
“I opened my flower shop in Ramat Gan over half a century ago, making me one of the most senior business owners in the country. As all flower shops sell the same flowers and the same plant-pots, the difference comes down to the person selling them—their personal touch, their unique approach and their professionalism. The bouquets and arrangements they create with their hands. I prepare bouquets and arrangements of almost every kind, except for those for weddings and events, which I have never done because I cannot leave my store.
“COVID-19 had no negative effect on my shop. On the contrary. When the first lockdown began, my workload only increased. You see, when you close people off in their homes and they want to send flowers as a gift to someone, they call up a flower shop and order the delivery through them. I came prepared for the pandemic—I have two accessible and visually-appealing e-tail websites with lots of pictures that have been running for over a decade. I use Google to promote my website, which charges me per click, so the moment the customer clicks on my website via Google and calls me, I have already spent 7-8 NIS even if they end up not buying anything. That adds up to a lot of money. One alternative is to pay an SEO professional to move your website up the search rankings, but that is also an expense that must be taken into consideration.
“During the last lockdown, I continued with the deliveries, but I also placed a table by the entrance to the store, with a sign with my telephone number and a guide for customers: ‘Entry is forbidden—call the number and I will bring out your bouquets.’ 
The rest is via the internet, because if you do not have an online presence – you are not working. The lockdown ended recently, and we were immediately neck-deep in orders for Valentine’s Day. We offered our customers an option of adding little treats to their bouquets, such as quality chocolates, macaroons, teddy bears, balloons etc.”
The writer is the owner of Chen Flowers, 49 Hayarden St, Ramat Gan. Tel: 050-9742868.
Shlomi Lahana
Surprise and Excite Your Customers
Our need for experiences, excitement and surprises has not waned during the pandemic, and has even increased to a certain degree. As customers, we feel a strong urge to treat ourselves with little things during this difficult time. It is this exact itch that is scratched by the two businesses in this week’s column. Their challenge is clear—how to continue to excite and emotionally engage the customers in the current circumstances. My main suggestion to them is therefore to not be afraid to enhance the experience—to Dmitri I would recommend packaging his diverse range of quality chocolates in visually appealing wrappers and to add small dedicated notes to them. The need to invest in a website that enhances the user experience and draws in customers and encourages them to stop and order should go without saying. The same goes for Yaakov from the flower shop—you are to proudly display unique and unconventional bouquets, even expensive ones. The idea is to make use of any element that is capable of enhancing the customer experience, thereby distracting them—even if only for a moment—from the reality in which they find themselves at the moment.
The writer is a marketing strategy consultant and a lecturer in marketing at the College of Management
Liz Azulay
Preparing for the Day After
The experience of many small business owners during the pandemic has been a challenging one, defined by uncertainty. Those who decided to leverage the crisis and demonstrated flexibility and creativity adapted to the new rules and ensured they were not left behind. Businesses that previously worked with in-person sales alone adopted an alternative and began to sell via deliveries. In this way, they kept in touch with existing customers and even expanded their customer base to those not in their immediate vicinity.
With the outbreak of the pandemic, these initiatives came up as quick-fix solutions for maintaining income levels, but it is important to remember that it is not over yet. At this stage, it is clear that the changes that took place over the last year will stay with us after the pandemic has passed, and I would therefore recommend assessing how to upgrade and professionalize these quick-fix solutions. This is the time for a structured business plan that prepares your business as much as possible for the day after. Taken the plunge? Coordinate with your banker and keep them in the loop, so that we can assess the viability of any banking solutions we might be able to offer.
The writer is the manager of the business department of the Kiryat Shmona branch of Bank Hapoalim