The economy sucks. We all know that. Gas is expensive (relative to historical American pricing, at least), the housing marking is awful, and the rising prices of oil are only surpassed by the rising unemployment numbers. You'd think with such tough economic times that stores would refocus, regroup, and reinvigorate their customer service.
Now is not the time to receive underwhelming service. Having a good bit of retail experience, I know firsthand that the atmosphere in a store that seems to constantly have a growing sale rack isn't exactly the greatest. It's not exactly heartwarming to hear a steady stream of customers gawk at the price of this season's coveted Gaucho bag by Dior. No matter how good the market or how strong the economy may be, customers will always search out a deal. Why spend $599 on the iPhone, when you can wait a few months for the better, cheaper version?
Yesterday I took a quick shopping trip to the Town Centre. I was in the Gap for nearly 10 minutes. Not one associate offered to help, let alone even greeted me. I happily took my potential business next door to J. Crew. Not that I needed any help at the Gap in the first place, but knowing I couldn't have it was not what I wanted to experience. And you wonder why everything there was so heavily marked down, with an additional percentage off all previously reduced items.
It makes smart business sense to reduce items that aren't selling, and offer additional discounts on sale items to entice more customers. Reducing the cost is one thing, but reducing the customer service is a complete different story.
At Dior, our better customers are offered beverages while they shop. The low cost of bottled water, or even the not-so-low cost of champagne, yields such a high return on investment. It's the little things that mean the most. I know not every retailer is able to do the same, but all stores can provide great customer service. Associates should greet every customer. Smile. Let the customer set the pace of interactions (don't be pushy, but don't be too hands off either). Offer assistance, but give your customer space. Be mindful of your clients, wrap up purchases quickly. Thank them for their purchases, and invite them to return soon.
Furthermore, having good associates is just as important as being a good shopper. Again, I draw on my experiences with Dior. You have no idea how difficult it is to "not prejudge customers" when nearly 90% of the people who walk in your store are "just looking" or are coming to the boutique as though it was a museum. With that said, after a few brief moments of interaction, it quickly became obvious who the associate needed to spend time with, and who you could let free to roam the store on their own time. And so as a customer, if you know that you are "just looking" when you enter a store, especially a store with associates who work on commission, be kind and let them know immediately of your intentions. If you're just looking - you don't need anyone's help in doing so. Additionally, be mindful of the store's ambiance. If the store is quiet and formal, leave the snacks and mindless banter on your mobilephone outside.
It pays to be kind to sales associates. They often can notify you of private sales, can assist in locating speciality items or sizes, and often will go out of their way to help make a sale. Plus they can always invite you to fashion shows and special events.
So next time you're shopping, just remember - "can't we all just get along"?