The role of technology in making your customer experience a respect-delivery machine

By | 4 minute read | April 29, 2019


Here’s what your customers want. They want options that respect their time, their preferred methods of communication, and their constantly changing mode for interacting and transacting with companies. Sometimes they want retail, sometimes they prefer to engage and buy using the internet.  Sometimes they will engage in retail and online or chat at the same time. And they, of course, want the companies who serve them to know them, and have that information at the companies’ fingertips.

To be “customer-centric” in today’s marketplace, companies must have the capacity and robust technical solutions to serve customers where and how they want to be served. They must have the information to know customers and then trust those on the frontline with that information. They must deliver relevant offerings. They must be able to put the customers in the driver’s seat to choose what is right for them.  And that means building out and knowing customer needs and desires, then operationalizing and enabling them with “high tech” to enable relevant and impactful “high touch.”

I call this building a “respect-delivery machine.”

Here are what I think are customers’ required components for your respect-delivery machine:

  • Respect their desire for service options
  • Respect their need for relevant communication
  • Respect their need for ease of experience
  • Respect their need for (and sometimes a “rescue” from) self-service
  • Respect their requirement of a fast turnaround on service
  • Respect that you know them, and their value to them

Sephora is a company I’d like to introduce as a master of the respect-delivery machine.

It is almost omnipresent in the lives of its zealot customers. But somehow, it does this without invading. And that’s no accident. By blending technology with deep understanding to deliver relevant and respectful experiences, Sephora understands its place with its customers is to give them the information, options, education and choice they desire– without the selling and sales tactics that traditionally have defined the “beauty” experience.

It’s been proven that shoppers who buy using an “omnichannel” approach that includes both in-store and online have the highest lifetime value.[1] This Sephora achieves without customers ever really feeling like they are “shopping”–but instead, as if they’re on a beauty carnival ride they can’t stop riding.

To its customers, made up mostly of an audience skewing younger and with mountains of beauty advice from YouTube, Pinterest and others, it is Sephora’s generosity that makes it stand out. It wants to show up as playful, helpful, fun and always available. Its intention for growth is to generously give to jibe with the lives of its customers.

Sephora uses an innovative mobile app to orchestrate a playful conversation with customers. This enables customers to opt in or out based on their choice. Most important, it knows customers want to try before they buy. And for its customers who consider this job one in “putting together their face,” they can’t help but want to play around with the tools Sephora offers. For example, the “Sephora Virtual Artist” mobile app lets customers scan their faces to give them a “Color IQ”–a number for easy access to the right products for their skin tone. Or customers can access “expert looks”–a bevy of professionally done faces to emulate. And they can save those they want in the “my looks” section of the app–easily shareable with friends–something key to the company’s community-centric customer base. Sephora Flash finishes the sale in a jiffy (think Amazon Prime for beauty).

Sephora’s in-store experience extends the fun and generosity. Again, blending technology into the respect-delivery machine is key to helping create this experience. Together, data and technology deliver information to customers specific to the store they most frequent. In-store appointments with free stylists are confirmed with the Facebook Messenger chatbot. Once in the store, the fun continues, where customers can take both “before” and “after” pictures in a mobile app their stylist updates in real time with information on how they made the magic happen.  And the fun, no-pressure conversations continue after each visit, as customers receive personalized emails with pics, tips and products to buy.

Impact: Who can resist all of this generosity and play? Not many of Sephora’s customers, based on its growth. Sephora enjoys nearly 2.5 million Twitter followers and over 500,000 Pinterest followers as of this writing. Its Beauty Insider Community chatroom has 40,000 to 70,000 people logged in at any one time. According to Sephora’s most recent report, generated U.S. $1.2 billion in net sales in 2017, following a growth of 24.4% in 2016.[2]  Through continuous innovations, Sephora now has over 10 million customers.

How far along are you in building your “Respect-Delivery Machine?”

Check out Wüstenrot, another company innovating to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Does your experience show up as a “respect-delivery machine?” 

The most advanced customer experience companies show up as a “respect-delivery machine” because they give their customers options for service, communications and delivery that jibes with their lives.  Sephora knows what its customers want and knows all the different versions for how they like to receive goods and service. It respects all of these needs, translating them into multiple options for service, sales, experiences and communication.  Sephora’s over 10 million zealot customers return again and again. To deliver a “respect-delivery machine,” ask yourself:

  • Do we actively give customers choices in how to interact with us?
  • Are we delivering relevant communications?
  • Do we make it easy for customers to engage with us as they choose?

Jeanne Bliss is not an IBM employee and her views are her own.

[1] Source: Q1 Global Commerce Review, Criteo. Link:

[2] Source: – Online Store Report, September 2018.