The trouble with customer service is that nobody thinks about it anymore. And quite often, it’s not thought about at all until it becomes customer recovery. By that point, it’s usually too late. Customer service makes your entire brand. Bad customer service guarantees you’ll lose customers regardless of the quality of your wares; good customer service means you can even have a subpar items and people come to you anyway.
I recently encountered an uncomfortable situation at a high-end Dallas store. I contacted a sales person I knew within the store and explained the situation. Not only did he handle it with grace and kindness, but he truly went above and beyond what was needed to remedy the problem. I know that I will encounter both sales persons soon, and I won’t feel uncomfortable. This is brand prides itself on it’s exceptional customer service, as well as it’s high-end merchandise and clientele. This situation won’t be revisited, and if it is, it certainly won’t be public. In fact, I daresay that my letter of thanks will go into a huge bucket of similar letters praising similar personnel and actions.
When you purchase something, do you expect that sales person to remember you the next time you come in? Does it depend on the amount of money you spend? Will they remember your face, your name, or even what you bought? I can tell you that I’ve had two experiences that I’ll never forget – so great that, though I may never have the opportunity to shop there again, I’ll tout their amazing customer service.
The first was when I first moved to Dallas. I came here straight from my undergrad at Texas A&M, so it’s safe to say that my Ford F150 and I lacked the polish and grace that characterizes most customers at Stanley Korshak. I walked in, gawking like a Beverly Hillbilly, touching every Valentino, Fendi, and Manolo I could get my grubby hands on. After several visits (and a few consultations with my wallet), I bought my first pair of “Dallas shoes” – they were designer on DEEEP DEEEEEEEEP discount (like $600 worth of discount). I got a thank you letter in the mail, congratulating me on my move to Dallas, my new shoes, and an open invitation to come “play” anytime. WHOA.
The second is when I won a bet with my husband and the reward was a pair of Louboutins. We went to the boutique, spent more time than was probably necessary, and I emerged with the most perfect pair of shoes that was ever created. The following Tuesday, I had a thank you card from the salon, congratulating me on my purchase, and welcoming me back any time to peruse. WHOA times 2.
When did it become en vogue for high-end salons to send thank you notes? Who knows. Granted, spending lots of money will garner you a certain amount of respect – but even the people I brunch with don’t send hand-written anythings.
The bottom line is: Customer Service is your business’ face. It can be pretty or it can be ugly and moley – it’s 100% up to you. The best book you can read regarding retail perfection, particularly when it comes to customer service, is Stanley Marcus’ Minding the Store. Written in 1974, it’s points are still relevant – if not even more relevant – today. Treat your customer with kid gloves. Whether it’s a browser, a dollar-bin peruser, or a big spender: they all deserve the same experience. (And, with the internet, they’ll let you know whether they got it or not!) I happen to have a wonderful copy of this book from the second printing in 1974 – and it’s signed by Mr. Marcus himself.
If you’d like to see an example of old-world attention and customer service, check out Masterpiece’s new show “Selfridges.” It’s “Based on the life of colorful retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge” (PBS.org) and a great look into the details that create a great shopping environment in 1909 (and still applies today).
[steps off of soapbox]