Dogs have long been touted as man’s best friend. Loyal, playful, and always eager to greet their owners when they return home, these animals are incredible sources of joy for people around the world — well, unless you’re a cat person.
For people struggling with mental or physical health issues, therapy animals of any species take those comforting feelings a step further. These pets are trained to enter hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other places to provide emotional relief to those in need.
But what can therapy dogs — or any therapy animal for that matter — teach us about customer experience (CX)?
Consumers deserve a comfortable environment
Did you think that humans were the only species attending the 2019 Modern CX conference? There were dogs, and one therapy cat, too — furry, friendly, four-legged conference goers who were assigned the task of being therapy animals for attendees who may feel anxious or awkward around strangers.
“People say, “Why are [these animals] here?” says Sue Grundfest, Founder and President of Pet Partners of Las Vegas / Love Dog Adventures. “We’ve had everyone come up to us, who either misses their home or is nervous to be with a crowd.”
While you (unfortunately) may not be able to stock your physical stores with therapy animals, focus on making your shoppers’ experiences more comfortable. This can easily be achieved by offering comfortable seating or playing ambient music in store.
You can’t just exist; you must interact
Do therapy animals make you feel good by simply looking at them? No — it helps to interact with the animals by petting them or spending time with them. According to UCLA Health, doing this “lowers blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health”, among other physical and mental benefits.
The same need for interaction is vital to CX. While we don’t recommend allowing your customers to pet your sales staff, we do suggest designing real-life experiences where they can interact with your brand in person.
Retailtainment, which is the process of creating relevant entertaining experiences for consumers, is the perfect opportunity to harness the lesson from therapy animals about interacting with your customers.
Great CX comes from practice and training
To become certified as an official therapy animal, the pets must go through an extensive training protocol and prove that they put in hours of practice and preparation to whatever therapy program they choose to work with. The American Kennel Club (AKC), for example, requires 400 separate visits before appointing the AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished title, and these dogs still first must be evaluated by a therapy program to qualify.
Perfecting CX isn’t something that happens for brands overnight, either. Customer experience strategies will be developed, tweaked, tested, and altered again and again. Personnel will need to be trained on ways to keep customer satisfaction at an all time high, or how to handle a customer service mistake.
But by constantly working at it, brands will also be easily distinguishable from their counterparts because of their customer experience improvements.
Make your customers feel calm
Grundfest says that therapy dogs have the “ability to interact with people regardless of their mental or physical states.”
Good CX is also has this same ability. Customers approach your brand with various wants, needs, and emotional states. If you can meet them where they are with everything from fast shipping to intelligent chatbots to regular ol’ one-on-one communication with your sales staff, you’ll be able to make them feel at ease.
For more interviews and insights from ModernCX 2019, visit smartercx.com/moderncx.
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