And the Survey Says…

It’s that time of year, where I take to shopping for something special. I’m one of ‘those people’ who do not have any real idea what to get some people, so I do an awful lot of browsing – both in-store and online – looking for something cool to buy. So, during this time I have much more interaction with retail environments and sales associates. But even throughout the year, I make a point to pay attention to who does well, and who does not. My favorite thing is to play ‘stump the associate’ where I ask increasingly in-depth questions until I get far enough to stump them. Here are a few great service examples:

Macy’s – was shopping there and had bought some earrings for my wife, when I inadvertently laid the bag down to try on a shirt, then some shoes and then a jacket. When I got home I realized I did not have the earrings. I called the store, and the associate who took the call in men’s apparel could have just said ‘if we find it we’ll call you.’ But, he chose to instead say, “OK, you were at the jewelry counter. Where did you go next?” And then he proceeded to re-trace my steps in the store until he found my abandoned shopping bag. I took HIM a Christmas present.

Bass Pro Shops – I went in to buy a lightweight backpacking stove. Of course, it was the night before the big hike, and I was running short on time. When I arrived in the camping department; the sales associate was a (no disrespect) blue-haired lady who looked to be in her 60’s. I thought to myself, “Great, I really wish there were someone here that could help me…”. But, I gave her my trust, and what I found was that she really knew her stuff. Finally, I found one question she could not answer, but she immediately said, “but John over here actually uses these stoves, let me get him.” Of course, I bought a stove.

Bose Outlet Store – This one takes the cake. In the store, we got the most thorough tour of electronic products I have ever had. The store was ‘designed’ for this tour. When we were done, my wife (the frugal one) wanted to buy the whole home theater setup. On our way out the sales associate thanks us for our time, and to call with any questions. We ate lunch and went back to the store, and we only bought the audio system (Bose Lifestyle) and three (yes, three) Wave Radios. But, the story does not end there. When I got home, (40 miles away) I realized I did not have a certain cable. When I called the store, and they realized how far away I lived, they offered to ‘meet me’ where I would only have to drive about 5 miles and┬ádeliver the cord. Then, when the guy messed up the system, and online tech service could not figure out the problem, they just shipped me a brand new unit, no questions asked. That kind of service builds loyalty.

So why in this day of fierce competition are retailers not stepping up their level of service? All indications is that service is getting better. Seems like this would be the least capital intensive way to boost sales, and build loyalty. Most designers would say ‘you have to design a new brand.’ I say you have to start with the relationship you have with your customers. Which really starts with the relationship management has with the staff. In store, online or remote customer service – they all have to be good. No, not good, they have to be GREAT.

Do you really want to know how good your service is? Send some people in to ‘stump the associate’ or call and ask someone to search for your lost bag. Or, tell them the cable guy messed up your audio equipment and see what they say. If you REALLY want to know, I will personally shop your business to find out where the weak links are.

In the meantime, you can read here about the current survey regarding sinking levels of customer service in retail environments.