A few weeks ago, I had a discussion with my manager at work about the importance of customer service. He was trying to impress onto the new employees how vital it is that we provide the best possible service to our customers, in order to encourage them to return to our store.
There seems little doubt that it is prudent, now more than ever, to encourage customers to visit stores time and time again. Not only are retail stores competing with other shops for business, they also have a new threat to contend with. The onset of the online shopping revolution is creating quite a stir in the retail world. Several major chain stores have closed down recently, and many are pointing the finger at online stores for leeching their customers.
Retailers can take a number of provisions in order to entice shoppers away from their computer screens and back into the store. Shops can reduce their prices or offer exclusive deals that aren’t available online. However, the fast-paced nature of the virtual market makes these steps a bit moot, as online stores are quick to match special deals and prices. Stores can offer home delivery and personal shopping services to make shopping easier, but you can’t really go past the convenience and instantaneous appeal of online shopping. However, there is one factor that real-life stores have that online stores simply cannot replicate. Online stores are not able to offer the same customer service as actual shops.
If you’re shopping online, you only ever interact with words on a screen. A computer screen can’t smile at you or give you helpful advice about your purchases. You can’t try on the products in an online store, or have a salesperson help you select exactly the right product for your needs. Retailers seem to be capitalizing on the human experience of in-store shopping, and are doing their best to ensure that their staff are well-versed in good customer service practices. It seems that retailers are relying on the desire for good customer service to entice shoppers to return to their stores.
That’s all well and good, and it’s a good tactic to an extent. I’d much rather shop in a store when I know that I’m going to get great service. I’m more likely to return to a store where there’s a friendly face behind the cash register. I have a handful of favourite stores where I am happy to spend my money not only because the products are great, but because I know that their staff will make me feel fantastic.
It’s true that I’d much rather shop in an actual store than an online one. However, there are times when I’m drawn to shop online. The reason for this isn’t the cheap prices or the convenience. It’s not because I’m tired of dealing with terrible service in shops or rude staff. In fact, I actually find it difficult to recall the last time I visited a store and wasn’t treated to good customer service. The thing that deters me from shopping in real-lie stores is my fellow shoppers.
I’m a fairly positive person, and I also pride myself on having good manners. I was brought up in a household where behaving in a courteous and considerate manner was valued very highly. I hold politeness and courtesy in high regard. While there are some fantastically well-mannered people out there in the world, the majority of people in the crowd at any given shopping centre seem to be rude, pushy and self-centred. It’s the behaviour of the shopping masses, not the store staff, that drive me towards my computer whenever I want to buy something.
Why would I go to a store where I’m going to be shoved out of the way and stepped on when I could shop in my own bedroom? I couldn’t tell you the number of times in the last year that somebody has cut in front of me in line or shoved past me in a store without so much as an “excuse me”. I’ve been slammed into from behind by a hot-headed moron wielding a baby stroller more times than I can count. I’ve been shopping on a quiet Sunday afternoon when some nasty woman barrelled into me and knocked me to the floor and then continued on her path to the change-rooms like a juggernaut, leaving a cloud of heady perfume in her wake. She didn’t even turn around to apologise. I’ve had bratty kids wipe their greasy hands on my skirt while I was waiting at the checkout because their parents were too busy yelling at an employee who wouldn’t give them a discount to notice that their spawn were running amok in the store. I’ve been browsing through bookstores, and thrown a polite smile at a young lady who seemed to be looking my way, only to have her sneer at me and mutter, “slut”, before shuffling over to the next display. Why would I want to go out and shop in a place where people treat their fellow humans like shit when I could shop at home, curled up in front of my laptop in peace?
There really isn’t much that stores can do about impolite, pig-headed customers. There isn’t much that anyone can do to rectify this situation. The only behaviour we really have any influence over is our own. I think that the best way to make the world a nicer place is to strive to treat other people better, to smile at everyone you meet and behave courteously. You don’t have to go out of your way to become a perfect Miss Manners, but a little bit of consideration for others and a friendly smile goes a long way. If everyone made a little effort to be a tiny bit nicer, I can assure you that it would be a lot more enjoyable to head out into the world and participate in the human race, and that fewer people would be drawn to shop from the safety of their computers.
What do you think is the reason more and more people are choosing to shop online? Would you prefer to shop online or in a store? Do rude customers deter you from in-store shopping?