Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Retailers - what are you selling?

I browsed and shopped in a major shopping centre yesterday and something really struck me. Retailers seem more and more indifferent to their customers than ever and customers seem less and less bothered. The reason I say this? It's all linked to customer service - or the lack of it. So many places I shopped or observed had long queues, tills that could have been opened and staff in the shop floor. But none ventured to connect the three and put the extra staff on the tills to reduce the queues. In fact on more than one occasion there were team members chatting to each other (whether it was work related or not I couldn't say) while very near to the queues at the tills and did nothing to either halt their conversation nor to deal with said queues.

What is the problem? Is there a problem? Has retail moved into a new phase?

I think that there is a problem because the customer deserves better when there are resources available. I have worked for and with retailers for a very long time  and it has always been a huge focus on serving the customers waiting at the till. If every retailer develops the attitude that this isn't important at the same time then the customer loses out. But if only the slack retailers develop this attitude then the smart retailer can win.

Lack of management presence
I see a real lack of management presence on the shop floors of UK retailers and it creates an issue. Wether this is a change in strategy or the fact that management teams have other priorities I don't know but I do see a large movement away from supervision and this leads to self-supervision. People will often make the decisions that makes life easier for them and not necessarily the customer. What I witnessed yesterday was people finding shop floor tasks easier than serving at the till and abandoning customers. With a management presence on these shop floors this wouldn't be allowed to happen.

I think that contrary to popular belief there is a need for middle management to look after the relationship between shop floor staff and their customers. This protects the company's bottom line far better than cutting costs.

Cost control isn't everything
There is a drive with many retailers to keep down the costs and reduce waste. While I applaud this general idea there is more to retail than this. If you cut one cost too much (particularly if it is staffing) then you lose the balance between price and service and your customers go elsewhere.

It all comes back to the initial question of "what are you selling?" I don't believe that a store is simply selling the stock on their shelves. They are selling emotions and thoughts-

  • The feeling that tou have the latest fashions
  • The feeling that you offer great value
  • The feeling that you are on-trend
  • The feeling that you only sell quality products

But this isn't enough without the customer service to back up the proposition. I queued for 10 minutes  yesterday to but two T-shirts from a quality and hugely popular clothing retailer yesterday because the staff on the shop floor didn't react to the queues. In fact I'd say that the store is proud of its queues because they rarely work hard to reduce them. I won't shop there again.

Do you have a pet hate when it comes to retail? What would you change instantly? Let me know I'm the comments below.

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