Thursday, 15 December 2011

When the Red, Red, Robin of Customer Service Stops Bop, Bop, Bopping Along!

I've just spent a day in Brisbane coaching a Sales Cat in the field. This company sells into retail so I spent a lot of time in Northern Brisbane shopping centres. About 20 days out from Christmas, I had mixed expectations of the day. Kids, mums with babies in Santa’s arms did come to mind!

But something far more sinister became blatantly clear as the day rolled on. If retail selling and customer service continues down this path a much larger online Armageddon will result. 

Shop after shop, stocked to the ceiling, poorly laid out and lacking any good or helpful displays. Grumpy, dismissive staff, too busy to serve let alone notice you've entered their store. 

“Sale”, “Discount”, and “Reduced” signs of panic and desperation are everywhere, accompanied by the wails of “the internet and economic environment is to blame”… Bullshit!

Sure these factors are having an effect but they are not to blame. Not recognising the one clear sustainable competitive advantage of the bricks and mortar retail store – customer service – is crippling them more so.

In one day I observed many young, untrained staff doing ‘their job’. That’s right, their jobs! Stacking shelves, collecting orders, panicking and being busy. Rarely did I see anyone openly ‘engage’ customers to persuade, develop and encourage emotional or at least inspirational purchasing. 

Modern retailing requires them to do more than just their jobs. They have to ask questions, care, and be present in the moment. Be cheerful, energetic and most of all proud and enthusiastic about the brand’s store. Just give a !@#% would be a start!

While sitting at The Coffee Club I decided to prove a theory to my trainee. Across from us was a store named Robins Kitchen. 

“Let’s see what happens if I walk into that store shall we,” I said, and to his enjoyment, did!

I walked in, walked around and passed the counter twice!
Past four staff with no response!
I did another loop with still nothing!
I walked out and towards my now gasping with shock observer.
Robins Kitchen with its impressive store layout, cool products and Red Robin brand was not bopping along. It is heading for a very cold winter.

The point of my test.
If all you do is stack ‘stuff’ on shelves in one of Westfield’s halls and offer no service without any element of customer orientation or care the internet will win every time, without fail!

If all customers need to do is buy then the shoppers in us will stay home and purchase online. Shoppers want help, care, smiles, product knowledge, and guidance, to be engaged by well-trained and happy people. I hope Robins Kitchen reads this and adapts first!


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