Posts Tagged ‘service’

Retail: The Point

September 19, 2011

The Point is when customers come in, we don’t expect them to buy, we don’t force them–we hope they desire or want what we have to offer. That is our relationship. Somewhere along the line, stores started to add ‘benefits’ to attract the customer. Great customer-service is one thing, slavery is another, but when you add in things like commission, then you begin to enforce this erred system. If people know you are benefiting from their purchase, they know you are worth ‘money’ to them. They know you must cater to them, please them, and find them just what they want to purchase, so you make money off of this. Even in situations where there is no commission, but customers perceive you to be working off commission they treat you differently. They get offended when you’re too friendly, because they think it’s fake. They don’t want to feel like you’re forcing yourself to help them, and they often take genuine help as a sort of contrary–you can’t actually be helping them because you want to, can you? This is how far the simplicity of The Point has gone.

We no longer live in the purity of a system where we provide something you desire, and thus you purchase. We live in a system of competition, most often aganst other companies, but always against ourselves. With modern-technology, we question how many people have visited our stores day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-to-year. We scrutinize numbers, believing them to have the answers, like a Holy Grail. If in the age of mystery, legend, and magic, we could not find the often symbolic, mythical Holy Grail, we will definitely not find it in number crunching. Sure, we can contemplate how to get more customers into our stores. We can consider how to get more people to buy things, but in this process have we lost the Point? In all truth, have we lost the true Holy Grail, which was a simplicity of terms and ideals. It was not mystery and complexity, it was truth hidden before our very eyes. The magic is the fact its not hidden at all, its hidden in plain view.

The technological-age has given us and companies the idea that privacy no longer matters, that customers aren’t just customers while they are in the store, but anywhere and everywhere. We can argue our customers are wearing our clothes, and thus carrying our store with them–as conceited as that may sound. We can argue customers are thinking about our store, and having an online brand is essential to fulfill their needs at any time of the week, day or night. Are they our customers while they browse our websites? Maybe. Are they just our customers the moment they press the buy button? Surely.

The moment we ask customers to fill-out a survey, giving them our name, we lose the Point. If a customer deems our service so commendable to actually fill-out a survey, that should be entirely under their purview. In all honestly, our society and the people whom live within it have only learned to use surveys and reviews for personal uses, often as their own complain box. The impetus for a customer to write something positive is far smaller than it is to write a complain. If we could scale it, I’d say positives are worth pennies to customers, and complaints are worth dollars. They believe in the power of complaint and the smallest irritation is more reason to complain than great customer-service. Ask yourself, to you remember more the salesperson who finds everything you want, and gives you great customer-service or the one who doesn’t do it? Do you remember it because you expect this level of service, that you feel it should always be met and reached? And in all honestly, how often do you even receive this level of service anywhere you go? Yet, it persists in your mind. Yet, you still believe in this level of superior service, and don’t acknowledge the fact it happens far less than it should. Some people say we believe in luck as long as it happens at least once, even if it is one in every thousand. Do we believe in great customers service being the norm, too?

The moment we ask customers to sign-up for a credit card, we lose the Point. I can say any time a store asks me for a credit card, I can just reply with, “Do you have a credit card with this company?” Odds are, they will say no. Odds are, they’re trying to sell something they only ‘know’ about by reading and training. These people aren’t selling something they understand or use. This isn’t like clothing, where you can wear, relate, and communicate to customers to sell in something you believe in. On the rare occasion someone offers me a credit card and has on, we can have a real discussion. Otherwise, this is yet another conundrum retail has created for itself.

The moment we ask customers for an e-mail address, we lose the Point. Sure this is a new age, and a new step forward. We can now send receipts to customer e-mail addresses. Now they can never claim it has been lost–unless it’s a gift, which they’ll solve or have already solved. In the long-run, this will save more trees and create less trash in a world direly in need of eco-friendly methods and ideals. Yet, customers also know this is a step into the ‘privacy’ of their lives–will the receive unwanted e-mails now? Will your store intrude into their personal lives? Sure, you think they’ll think about your store more. Maybe you’ll get more customers to come in. Yet, do you have to ask them to give their e-mail to you? There are many ways to get e-mail addresses from customers, it is how and when you do so which makes a huge difference.

We do not ask for anything from customers, we never should. Our relationship is clear as water. We provide merchandise, we help them find what they want, we help them desire it, and we help them purchase it. The intimacy of that relationship ends then and there. Yes, customers become living advertisements for our clothes. Yes, they can use word of mouth. Yes, they are the power, the electricity that powers and keeps stores alive. Yet, they do so at their own feeling. They tell people because they want to. They’ll wear that perfect outfit when they feel like it. Do you not see, some companies will think of ways to force customers to share their ‘love’ with their friends, they’ll find ways to make customers wear their clothes. This is the greed, the want and the desire of the company, without putting into consideration the customer. This is where the clear water becomes muddied, thick, and filled with grease.

Those who truly understand the Point, these people carry the Holy Grail. This is the Galahad you want by your side. You want someone who understand to just help the customer find what they want. This salesperson will make the customer love what they want, because they love it, not because they have to. Not because they receive e-mails about discounts, not because their credit score is now under your influence, not because you give them the power to complain about your flaws. No, your Galahad will fulfill the needs of the customer and that is all you need. You don’t need to force-feed people to make them happy. Imagine a company whose entire wealth of popularity and fame is based on it’s customer-service–not slavery–but service. They don’t ask anything more form the customer than to see what they have, and to hopefully fall in love with it, and leave with bags of love. This is the company which will not fail. This is the company which shall survive. This is the company which desires to be reborn.

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The Company Divorce

August 29, 2011

I was sitting with an older employee, at least one who has been with the company for far longer than I have. She was telling us about one of the worst customers she ever knew. This customer is a woman who they would always help, always give the best service to, and always ended with a smile. Then the woman would leave the store, and call the customer support line to complain about the store. She’d say how rude the employees were, how they didn’t help her, and how she felt so ridiculed and insulted by the service, and she didn’t want to ever shop there again. In response, the company would compensate her with gift cards, free purchases, or some other form of compensation for her terrible experience. Then the store would be called by the corporate-level and spoken to about how they treat their customers, get the sales training workshops, etc.

Eventually, the store manager caught onto this little game. The next time the woman came in, they gave her the absolute best service imaginable. They found everything she was searching for. They did all they could to please her. Then she left, and the store manager called the customer support line to tell them exactly what just happened, and the experience the woman had. Soon after, the woman called to complain about the service, and was caught red-handed. Because of all the ‘gifts’ she had received, she also left a paper-trail of all her ‘complaints’, which were unfounded. The company officially divorced her, and told her she was not welcome back to their stores ever again, and they would not appreciate her business any longer.

It is at least nice to know the customer isn’t always right.

Customer Types: The Complainer, Capitalist

I Wear It While Fishing

March 31, 2011

I’m minding my own business, meaning I’m doing something, and a couple comes up to me asking if I work here.

“Yes, can I help you?”
“We are looking for a cap.”
Obviously, my first consideration is a baseball cap, as it is the most general.
“No, we are looking for a fisherman’s cap.”
I obviously know what a fisherman’s cap looks like, as I work in the fashion industry. “I’m sorry, we don’t carry hats like that.”
“You do!” She yells at me suddenly.
“Yes, we used to, like two years ago.”
“You have them now! They bought one yesterday from your store!”
“We don’t carry anything like that. Are you sure it was our store?” Just great, I’m working with hearsay from people who may or may not know what a fisherman’s cap is.
“You have them! It is a wide-brimmed cap…”
“I know what a fisherman’s cap is.” I also know I don’t like being yelled at for no particular reason. I consider, perhaps they don’t know what such a hat is. So I show them fedoras, and no, they yell, a fisherman’s cap, glaring at me as if I don’t know what it is. Seriously? This issue of customers thinking they know more about fashion than people who work with it every day is getting a little taxing. Also, customers who suddenly know more about the product we carry than the people who work there is a little daunting, and excessive. I just tell them that no we don’t carry it.

So to prove me wrong, obviously, they get their cell phones and call their friends. By now I am left to assume they didn’t go to this store, but another one of our stores. After getting off the phone, they instead decide to ask for the same hat from another, much newer coworker. At the same time, I ask our merchandising people if they know of any ‘fisherman’s hats’ that are supposed to be here or coming in soon. No one has any idea what they are talking about. And for some reason it turns back upon me to call another store to see if they carry this elusive hat. As the couple is standing there staring at us, I decide to go into the back of the store to make my phone call.

So I dial the number.
“Hello, thank you for calling, how can I help you?”
“Hello, I’m calling from another store. I was wondering if you could find an item for me.”
“Okay, what are you looking for?”
“A fisherman’s cap.”
“Excuse me?”
“A fisherman’s cap. It has a wide-brim.”
“We don’t carry that.”
“I know. This couple is here saying they bought one from your store yesterday. They said it was wide-brimmed. I showed them everything we have, like fedoras, baseball caps, military caps…”
“That’s the same things we have. We don’t carry anything like that. I’m sorry.” We both laugh a little, awkwardly.
I thank her for her time, saying I kind of expected this. She says to try the children’s department, which is where we have wide-brimmed hats for kids.

I find the merchandising person again, and we locate the children’s version of a safari hat, which is as close as you can get to a fisherman’s cap in our store. I try to tell the woman this is the only hat we have, but she only looks at me and walks away. So I have the merchandising person find her and show her the hat, since she’s obviously ignoring me now. So they talk, and the merchandiser comes to me.
“You know what she said?”
“What?”
“She said she’s looking for a beanie.”
Okay, sure. Because obviously, whenever I go fishing, I wear my fishing beanie–the wide-brimmed style. You know it’s all the rage among sports fishermen. I’m sure it was featured in a fashion magazine recently. Thank you very much. Shall we top it all off? Yes? She also signed up for a credit card! I swear to you, we promote the most irritating of customers to keep coming back to our stores.

Customer Types: Don’t Kill the Messenger, The Dumb, FashioNOTstas, Guessing Game, Lowered Expectations, The Riddler, Unapologetic

English 101: All versus One

November 11, 2010

Hello students, today’s lesson is an easy one, if you can read English. Are you ready? All is everything, all is everyone, all is basically all. One is singular, one is by itself, thus one stands alone. Got that? Good.

A customer comes with an older coupon, which is still good, giving her 25%-off one regular-priced item. I go through the transaction, and she’s buying three items, two are regular-priced and one is sale. We always give the discount for the most expensive regular-priced item. I tell her we actually have a special for today only–40%-off instead of 25%-off. She seems okay with this, but of course, you can never tell with these kinds of people. So I go through the transaction, and she stops me.

“Wait! That’s not right! That’s the same discount I’d get for 25%-off!”
“What?”
“You aren’t giving me any savings, it’s better with 25%-off!”
I blink, and wonder why I”m faced with such utter brilliance on a daily basis. I explain to her there is no way 25% is greater than 40%-off.
“No, it’s not a better discount!”
So I go back and I show her the discount, and I even pull out a calculator to show her the price of 25%-off and 40%-off. Obviously, in any world except for advanced mathematics, you can argue the 40% discount is far better. She’s still yelling at me, getting angry at me.
So I say flatly, “Fine, I’ll do what you want, okay? I was trying to be nice, but I’ll give you the discount you want. 25%-off.”
So I change it, watching the total increase as I showed her several times with the calculator. Then she yells stop again.
“What are you doing?!? Isn’t this for all items?”
I roll my eyes without rolling them. I point at the coupon, I want to say, “It’s printed in English.” At the very top, the first line, “25%-off one regular-priced item.”
“Oh, I thought it said all items.” She gets violent with the credit card machine, swiping it. I tell her to stop, because we have to get back to that screen, as I say, “So I guess the 40%-off is better.” There is silence. “Now you can swipe.” NO apology, just like there was no thank you I even offered to give her a better deal. This was my first customer of the day. Oh, be sure, be quite sure, she helped make the rest of the day FANTASTIC! Utterly fabulous, thanks lady.

Customer Type: The Blind, The Dumb, Learn the Language, Unapologetic

Shoplifter: The New Kids

October 18, 2010

“Folded clothes will eventually be touched;
But buying customers are here right now.”

I might have been schooled today by young shoplifters who unknowingly played the stealing game better than I. For one, we’re having a big visit tomorrow, so many people were spending time folding–yet, as big managers have said before, “I don’t care if the store looks like a tornado hit, if there are customers, and you make money, I’m happy.” Who cares if you folded the entire store beautifully, if you spent the entire day ignoring customers? Seriously, I was working my butt off today, trying to make money–our store has been having trouble, people have been losing hours, and yet the people who could be helping coworkers earn more hours are just standing around folding.

This struck a huge chord once I realized there were shoplifters. One of the new coworkers later said, “Oh, I said hi to them.” AND? No announcement of their arrival? Not a care to keep an eye on them and treat them like customers? Shoplifters and thieves have a hard time stealing if there is actual customer service going on around them. I was amazed when I saw them casually walking in the back of the store with their bags full and they were smiling and having fun. Why? Because no one was around them, at all. I rushed by, because I was helping several customers at one time, and said on the walkie-talkie, “THERE ARE SHOPLIFTERS IN THE STORE! They are obviously enjoying themselves, because their bags are full!” Everyone else sprung to action, because they saw who I saw, and instantly recognized them as shoplifters. As I’ve said, it’s sad when shoplifters look like shoplifters. Even worse, there were four of them!

I tried to finish with my customers, but I was burdened with too many, while trying to keep an eye on these shoplifters–even though I’m not trained to deal with them, I’m expected to deal with them. So I’m searching for a bag to get the price, seeing three coworkers at the cash register as I groan to myself. I walk by the shoplifters swearing, saying I’m looking for a bag–which ironically, I know they picked up one of our bags and filled it with clothes. They started to talk to me, saying, “Whoa, you just swore!” I talked to them about ‘the bag’ and refused to leave the area they were in–it was quite obvious they wanted the clothes in the front of the store.

Eventually, I had to move. No one was helping me deal with them, and I actually had customers waiting for me in the fitting room. This always irritates me to no end. As I turn to walk away, they leave, with the bag. Here, they were in a win-win situation. There was no tag on the outside of the bag–they are inside–so I couldn’t say, “Hey, that’s our bag!” They can just say, “I already bought it!” Nor can I legally look into their bag, even if it beeped when they left–although, it didn’t beep because these bags had no sensors on them, nor did the clothes they stole have sensors. I was in a helpless position, and all I could do was stop them from stealing more clothes. Instead, I grabbed all the bags of the same type and put sensors on them immediately.

I then had to leave for my lunch break. In that time, they actually returned twice–with us communicating to all the other stores nearby that these people are shoplifters. I was amused to hear, they came and tried to steal something, but they beeped at the door. Later, I found they tried to steal another one of my bags, but threw it in a corner when it beeped. At least I saved that bag. It just becomes tiresome when I have to deal with these shoplifters, and work hard to sell to customers, while I have to watch other people walking around ignoring customers, folding, and generally not carrying the weight of their own paychecks. Retail is killing me.

Mean Old Woman

August 22, 2010

I go into the back to do a stock check. Soon, I come back out and this horribly rude, old woman comes to me and says, “Hello, can someone HELP ME, there is no one on the floor, obviously customer service is highly over-rated these days, unlike before.”

I try to apologize, because I’m not a superhero, I can’t save the store, but she cuts me off, “I DON’T CARE, let’s save you time and save me time! I’m looking for jeans that actually sit at the waist.” She gestures somewhere just under her breasts, which aren’t pert. I tell her our highest denim sits at the belly-button, and she looks at me, scowls, and says, “DISGUSTING!” With a little bit of spit, flying at me, she turns and walks away. Surely, her spitting was a bit more disgusting than the height of our pants.

Customer Type: Capitalist, The Complainer, Don’t Kill the Messenger, FashioNOTstas, Tailor-Made

Denim Complimentary

August 20, 2010

There was a time I was an excellent salesperson. There was a time when managers and coworkers asked what my secret was, how did I make sales so easily? As time moved on, as more horrible customers appeared and ripped pieces of my soul apart, I became more rigid and I wasn’t willing to be open, helpful, or caring. Why be an evolved salesperson if your customers don’t care?

Recently, we watched a training video with sales scenarios which made everyone laugh. Yet, watching it, I often thought how much each of my coworkers do this, every single day they work. My philosophy is clear with sales, I believe I need to sell so we each get hours to work–no sales, no hours, no coworkers. The greater influence I am in making people buy things, the more my coworkers get to work–and basically do the bad things presented in the video.

Yet, after the video, I was willing to try. I helped a couple, they were both heavy-set, and the woman wasn’t really open to help at first. So I helped her boyfriend first. We slowly took time finding denim for him, a cut that would work, then a wash that would be cool enough for him, and make her happy. We went on to find matching shirts for several different outfits. Along the way, I also got her back into the fitting rooms to try on several more pants, because her first attempts were failures. I was actually excited, thinking, this is selling again, reborn. They both found stuff they wanted.

I left the fitting room helping another customer, and I walked back in seeing them turning a corner. So I decided to check their rooms, and I found everything still there. They bought nothing. I was disappointed. Then, I hear the manager ask for me. She comes to tell me the couple I just  helped, they felt so bad, so sorry they didn’t find anything; they might come back, but they wanted to tell her how I went above and beyond trying to help them find the perfect outfits, how patient I was and how helpful I was. My manager gave them a survey to fill out. I guess that counts for something, right?

Where Is He?

August 11, 2010

Who? Me? Yes, me.

I was helping a male customer find some clothes, but he needed his partner to come make decisions for him. Soon, he returned with his girlfriend, and I helped him find good colors and fits for him to try. After this, I needed to go in the back to meet with a manager.

Then, I hear on the walkie-talkie, someone asking for me. I ask what they need, and they reply I was helping a customer, and he only wants my help and my opinion on the clothes he’s trying on. I laugh, as the manager asks what the guy’s problem is. I just tell her, I’m that good.

So I go out, and I help him with his clothes, especially one shirt which was giving him problems. He couldn’t decide between two sizes–one was fitted, and kind of showed his curves a bit too much; the other was a little looser, but still fit well. I told him to go with the larger size. Then, I ran back to my manager to finish my work, since I was on a deadline.

The funnier part, after I came back out, my coworker said he still picked the tighter size. Well, you can’t win them all, but it’s nice to be appreciated once in a while, right?

Customer Comment: Do I Just Go Into Any Room?

July 24, 2010

There are customer comments that irk me to no end. They seem like a social norm, as so many people say it to me so often from so many different cultures. They walk into the fitting room, walking by me as if I don’t exist, then they turn around and ask, “Do I just go into any room?” Well, you just walked by me like a wall, why stop now? What am I doing in here, being paid to be a statue? Of course, I enjoy standing around and all I do is clean after you people, like you’re grown children who have to return things inside out, with deodorant stains and lipstick marks.

You know, people in fitting rooms have different duties, and depending on how you actually treat them, you might find out what they are. Many fitting rooms with attendants aren’t just there like a restroom attendant handing out towels waiting for a tip, while thinking about topics for the next American novel. Workers in the fitting room can actually help you find sizes, help you build an outfit, offer you suggestions, and a multitude of other things. If the first thing you do when you walk into their work-area is ignore them, then ask, “Do I just go into any room?” you’re already losing many opportunities for real and actual help. Many times you create the world you live in–if you act like a jackass, people treat you like a jackass. Think about it. In the end, so many of my coworkers seem used to these “Do I just go into any room?” customers, that they stand there and waves vaguely at a wall of doors, while saying, “You can take any room.” In actuality, they should be helping you to a room, saying they’ll help you, already offering suggestions, and trying to help the store make money.

Maybe the next time you walk into a fitting room, you can ask to try the clothes on. It’s not like retail workers are already demeaned in so many other ways.

Shoplifter: How to Spot Them

June 1, 2010

Recently, some have challenged me, questioning how I can point out shoplifters–especially professionals. There are certain things you need to be a good shoplifter, partly I get this from observation, understanding, and my background in Psychology.

One of the most important things you need is a bag. You cannot steal unless you have a bag. I often give these people the opportunity to take off the clothes, mentioning it isn’t in the fitting room anymore, so I’ll save the room for them to finish changing. (Although there are some who will put on clothes and then walk out, but if you are aware in a fitting room, even on the sales floor, it isn’t hard to notice something isn’t right. I have also seen shoplifters walk out with entire piles of clothing. Once, a District Manager found her staff being lazy, so she actually moved an entire table out of the store, hiding it, then asked them, “What’s going on here? Why is there a table missing?”) I do not say people steal only with bags, but regardless, it is far easier to walk out of a store with stolen merchandise in a bag–unless it is a holiday or the salespeople are lazy, ignorant, or partially blind. I actually would think it’s disgraceful to steal from a blind person, but that’s my personal feelings.

As for bag-people, if they ask for a bag, you have zero-obligation to give them a bag unless they’ve made a purchase. Yes, I’ve made a shoplifter buy a pair of socks for a bag, just ensuring that he use his bag to steal from other stores than my own. A majority are left with the bags they have, which are generally easy to access with wide openings. Backpacks, yes, are left unzipped. Yet, others use shopping bags which are used and recycled far more than they should be. Others purchase special purses and bags for this purpose. Regardless, they should have a wide opening for easy access.

Secondly, a shoplifter has to know where you are. This is more crucial. If a salesperson is standing right next to a shoplifter, they can’t steal–and they can’t steal if they don’t know where all the salespeople are. (Once more we do have the blindness aspect, but that’s just crude.) This is one reason I move so quickly and randomly on the sales floor–you never know where I am or where I’ll appear. As some have told me, “You think there are people who generally don’t steal, but when they see no one is around, they are tempted to steal?” If no one is around, it’s our fault–or the fault of the staff on hand.

Shoplifters must pay as much attention to the salespeople as they do to the clothes, most often, they’ll spend more time finding out who works here and where they are located, before they can start stealing. Most customers don’t even see me coming, since I approach them from behind, surprising them with a greeting. Even shoplifters who are professionals, and know only to look for salespeople right before they steal something already catch the attention of a good salesperson–because that look almost always means, “I need help, where is a salesperson?” Giving the ‘look’, and then saying, “Oh, I’m just looking,” is already a warning-sign. If they are just looking, but not just looking at clothes, they have issues.

There are others who distract you by making you look away or get something for them. In this situation, it isn’t hard to ask someone else to get the item, while you wait with the shoplifter. I don’t know about everyone else, but I use my peripheral vision more than my center of gaze when looking at anything. One time shoplifters have distracted a coworker in order to walk out with a pile of clothing–literally, an entire pile walked right out of the store.

Shoplifters cannot help but act in a very particular fashion, even if they try to hide it. There are essential, basic needs they have in order to function, once you understand this, you understand the shoplifter. In the end, I still believe in the main idea–Treat Everyone Like Shoplifter. Give them good service, pay attention to them, watch them shop and help them by seeing what they look at, what interests them. Shoplifters can’t steal easily if you’re helping them the entire time.