Andrew is interested in helping businesses achieve sustainable performance improvement and for him that's all about PEOPLE and PROCESS.

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CUSTOMER SERVICE - IS IT STILL A RETAIL USP?

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As we headed to the shops yesterday, (armed with significant cash - Christmas has been generous!) we thought the high street would be able to offer us something the Internet could not - personal service.

So what was it that we could not just purchase online? Firstly, we wanted an SLR camera bag. Nothing too complicated in that, except that in additional to the camera and usual paraphernalia, it also had to house 1 very large telephoto lens. We'd looked online but the technical descriptions were just not enough to be certain if all the items would fit comfortably. We also wanted an electronic remote control for the camera too.

Finally, we wanted to buy 3 TV’s. Again, nothing complicated here either; we just wanted to be able to buy the TV’s with suitable mounting brackets and have the retailer fit them for us.

So, laden with camera and assorted lenses, we headed off to the high street in search of said bag……sadly we were to be disappointed.

The bag fixture at the “specialist retailer” was less than impressive, with more gaps than a badly knitted jumper, and many products labelled with the wrong description and price. Eventually we spotted a possible candidate and so, wedged in between a bank of digital photo processing booths and the bag fixture, we juggled with the proposed contents to see if they would fit. Sadly not, so we went to the counter to see if they stocked the larger version of the bag (we had seen one online during preliminary investigations), however "No" was the best answer the assistant could muster. And no attempt to offer their “specialist retailer” advice to identify other options.

On to the electronic remote control. No better; he returned from the fixture armed with an old fashioned camera remote cable; not quite the same! “Do you not have the electronic ones?” we probed, only to be met with the same automated response “No”.

End of photographic shopping experience!

So, off we go to buy TV’s! Following a couple of unsuccessful visits to smaller independents, who simply did not have what we were looking for, we headed out of town.
 
Store One. Bingo we thought. The right product; right size, right features and at the right price…..can we see it in action please?

Thirty minutes pass before an assistant becomes available; he presses some buttons and the TV screen springs into life. Stood admiring it in silence we ask for the sound to be turned up - not possible he says, the shop is not set up for sound!

He tells us that the best thing to do is to go to the shop next door where they will have it set up for sound! In a moment of what must have been punch drunk madness on my part I ask about fitting; “We don’t fit tellies if they are less that 32 inches” he says. I reminded him that we would be purchasing 3 TV’s but he was not going to budge….off to Store Two.

Result; the same TV is on display - switched on so we could see it….and the sound worked too…….and the price including brackets was slightly cheaper…..BINGO!
 
Even better a beaming assistant is on hand to help us. We explain our requirements: 3 TV’s and 3 brackets; all fitted, and she heads off to check things out. She returns - fitting is £100………per TV.  I asked what they would offer for fitting 3 TV’s…….£300 she said….but they can discount by £45 if we take out product protection! Unusually, words fail us.

After some thought (including where we have stored our hammer drill)  we decided we could fit them ourselves and that we would go ahead with the purchase - how better to start the new year than with a bit of DIY?!

Further investigation finds that they only have the display model instock, and the brackets would have to be ordered in too ….and by the way the shelf edge tickets for the brackets show the wrong price.

So what was the end result? We've purchased the 3 TV’s and the brackets and we now await a phone call within the next 2 weeks to advise when they will be available for us to collect………ermm thinking about it we could have done that online and had home delivery!

In a world of multi channel marketing it strikes me that while we are focused on all things technology we are losing sight of what sets the retail shopping experience apart. How many people were like me yesterday, armed with their Christmas cash and with a real desire to make substantial purchases only to find that shops are just not prepared to help us spend it.

If the high street, and out of town outlets for that matter, are going to survive, now is the time to turn the “we offer great service” mantra into reality.

It’s all about people and process!

(Originally posted December 2011)

Posted 335 weeks ago