Retailers: Don’t ignore this year’s holiday “gift tae gie us”

The best advice I have this year for retailers is this: Forget for a moment about discounts and promotions, go to your stores anonymously, and see how your customers are being treated. If my anecdotal experience counts, it won’t be pretty.

In discussing differences that make a difference, a well-traveled Deloitte executive recently wrote that from airline to airline he sees, “differences in the demeanor of flight attendants, the quality of peanuts, and the predictability of on-time arrivals.” I’m guessing these differences are unrelated to those airlines’ ad campaigns or marketing materials. (These days, are these required reading for associates?) 

Since Thanksgiving I have spent a lot of time browsing in independent and chain stores, and similarly, I’m seeing a wide range of what passes for ‘customer service’ from the buyer’s side of the counter. I’m not impressed. And no, I am not talking about those stores where you know you can’t get service unless you stand in line at the customer service counter. (Even though at more and more of these stores, no one at the counter ever has the answer to any question more complex than, “Can I get this in a different size/color?)

So many people out of work and yet, many who are working don’t treat the customer with common courtesy, let alone attention.  At a fast good restaurant that promotes its speed and quality, I am served a bag of rotten apple slices and when I return them to the counter, no one says they’re sorry, and I don’t get the impression that from now on, they’ll look harder at the food before they serve it. And don’t get me started on the pricey women’s wear retailer whose website continues to collapse under the burden of poorly skilled IT professionals, bad web coding, and/or too many promotions. OK, they apologized but my loss of time and my frustration remain, and the problems persist. Sorry, but I am not going to spend another 20 minutes assembling an order when my last two simply vanished mid-purchase. 

Wake up, people. As Robert Burns’ quote suggests, you need to start seeing your stores as your customers see them and you, and then if you want to stay in business, do something about it.

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