Remark-able Customer Service
posted by Stuart Cumming ~ 05/02/14
Category: Retail
Plenty has been written about how the internet has changed HOW consumers buy. I'd like to advance the somewhat more radical thought that it will likely change WHAT they buy. Unless bricks and mortar retailers lift their game.

I can put a piece of quality steak with vegetables on the plate for around the cost of a burger, fries and drink.Yet the trend is to pre-prepared and pre-cooked. It's clear that convenience rather than price is a large motivating factor these days.

Does it makes sense for non-food products?

If the only quality available is "cheap and cheerful" but it is delivered in a convenient manner, will customers settle for that rather than go anywhere near a store or a mall?

Especially when you add on BOPI (buy online, pickup in-store), which is really the equivalent of "drive-through."

It's no secret that the only way for retailers to maintain relevance is by making the store experience something to be celebrated.

The question is how?

It means, in part, a serious investment in staff training and customer service that Australian retailers generally don't want to undertake.

My wife Robin tells the story of buying shoes at Macy's Union Square store in San Francisco a couple of years back. Not only was there someone in attendance (note to DJs and Myer), the guy really knew his stuff.

More importably after a couple of minutes, he knew HER stuff.

By observing her picking up shoes that caught her eye, he arranged a portfolio of options, including other shoes in a similar direction to those Robin was attracted to.

This wasn't just any shoe salesman; this guy loved his job and loved pleasing his customers.

It transpired that Macy's sent him to their Herald Square, Manhattan store twice yearly for a week to learn the new season styles. And he really made use of that training.

It speaks volumes for Macy's commitment to staff training and customers experience.

Robin still tells the story over dinner with friends. But her experience shouldn't be that remarkable; it should be the expected normal level of service.

The fact that it's not the norm is a contributing factor to why many of our local retailers are faltering.

And why dinner party conversations these days are seldom about what a great in-store shopping experience anyone has had.

Which means Australian retailers still have a great opportunity to surprise, delight and stand out.
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