Recently I was interviewed by a company asking to know what customers really think of their customer service: they asked for 40 minutes of my time, I gave them two hours 😀
(well, the lady doing the interview was so pleasant to talk to…and I had things to say!)
After I came home I realized I’ve had that talk so many times before with other ladies who were customers too, whether luxury or high street, and one thing was clear: nothing or close to nothing ever seemed to change. The ending always seemed to be the same: the company was providing the service, but you customer should be feeling lucky to receive it – despite being on the paying end. That didn’t even make sense from a business point of view, let alone to my busy bee mind, so a funny scheme started to form: The decalogue of 2.0 Customer.
1) The 90s concept: Pretty Woman all over again
Have you ever gone to a store and felt like Julia Roberts in the famous movie, just because the snobby sales assistants made you feel not rich enough / not pretty enough / were just plain mean? Well, I’ve had that. I’ve heard: “just a moment Madame, I am very busy at the moment” (and I have time to waste, apparently), I’ve had “The Look” that made it clear my casual attire was not up to the company standards (mind you, some of the richest people I know still stick to their Bill Gates look), and I’ve had the “perhaps you should try something different” where the “different” was dowdy, because hey, I’m not a model.
You name it, I’ve seen it. My answer to it?
I am very polite, anyone will tell you that. But being polite does not mean I am willing to be manipulated: a firm eye and expression along with silence after you’ve explained what you desire shall guarantee to make any SA worth their salt understand you’re not a cliche to be maneuvered. As long as you are polite, you are entitled to get what you want and the way you want it.
2) The Total Look Obsession
One of the funniest things I’ve had was in a big store during one of my first visits, when a zealous SA wanted to show just how much he understood me, and proposed a “you should really try our total look”! Aside from the fact that the intention was clearly to sell as much products as humanly possible, with no regard whatsoever of what type of customer I was, what I found hilarious was the proposal to make me a live, breathing billboard for the company. Remember: unless you are getting paid to do so, just don’t. There was a time when I use to do this because I truly liked the proposed looks, and despite having overgrown that phase, I still have to restrain myself from loving too many things from a brand’s collection.
The golden rule is: mix, mix, mix. Loyalty is not a factor in your personal style: YOU are.
3) Speed dating: evaluate your new love within 15 minutes
Oh, how I am passionate about this topic! You see, I always thought the people were key to the success of any company, if we take it as a given that said company has worthy products to sell. Normally, it will take me 15 minutes to evaluate whether a store is a place I would go back to: trust me, they are entirely sufficient.
In 15 minutes, look for the following: eye contact, smile, a polite greeting (I trust it you can detect a fake smile), the welcome (I love someone who can realize I’m dying of thirst on a hot day, discreetly materializing a cold drink in front of me while I wait) and the eagerness to provide just the thing you’re looking for.
If any of the above is missing, there’s a good chance I will not be returning. Why?
Well, it is not a matter of snobbishness: that is something I loath. It is a matter of not wasting any time: if a company has trained its staff to make you feel immediately welcome, you can bet anything that they will do good on you, and you will return gladly. On the first date, you want to make the best possible impression: if you don’t, well, bye-bye!
4) The One: finding your SA soulmate
The first time I walked into a very famous store I was told, “our company doesn’t treat people your size”. I was 2 sizes bigger than today – but that was no excuse to be rude, and that was a display of poor judgement on behalf of someone who was suppose to represent the company in that moment. Luckily, the store manager didn’t quite like the episode, and we became friends – but hey, I still remember!
Another time I tried to make it work with another SA who would tell me the history of the company when I displayed interest for any given object, and it just frustrated me: trust me, I’ve done my homework, you don’t need to sell the brand to me. Just take the fact I will always be polite and courteous to you, and make the effort to understand me, who I am and what I like – and we will have a beautiful relationship.
Finding the right SA sometimes can take time: if you feel the need to change, please do so. Being unhappy won’t help you, or the brand, and it will just lead to resentment.
5) Make it simple, but significant.
You, the customer, should be as clear as you can at any given moment: what you desire, what you do not like, and when you need it.
The Good Company should try and make the process as seamless as it gets: explain whether something is possible, when it can be arranged, and if necessary, do the research on their own. You do not need to know how something is obtained, you just want to see it done. (I can’t stress this out enough: with politeness. Nobody likes a bratty customer!)
6) Taking the relationship to another level
It’s fairly easy: in luxury world, the highest level of a good relationship between a client and a brand is reached when the people working with you understand what you want / need before you even know it yourself. This is possible when you’re a returning client, and when the person selling to you realizes the potential of foreseeing the future needs.
In other words, if you manage to understand me enough to realize who I am, what I like and what kind of style I have – you will get my attention.
This is where when we return to a point above: you have to be clear about what you like. I’ve had endless stories of friends who felt intimidated and never spoke up for themselves, not wanting to try a dress on out of shyness or feeling inadequate to be asking of a shoe/bag/ or whatever else crossed their minds.
Whatever your spending power, you should get the opportunity to evaluate things you like and desire to purchase. But please, speak up! Nobody reads minds!
7) The IT factor
Another golden rule: do not pursue things just because of their momentary “IT” factor.
The classical situation is being swayed into buying the “it” item just because some celebrity has it, or because “its the bestseller”. You’re building your personal style, not a monument to the trends of the moment.
Same goes for the companies: do not push. It is a strategy that doesn’t pay off in the long run, produces resentment – and yet somehow I keep seeing it everywhere!
Train your staff: selling thousands of “IT” products can backfire, when a customer really needed something else and was pushed into mainstream. There’s a fine line between an advice and a push, and it’s crossed way too often.
8) The But factor
What I truly find gold-worthy is the post-sale assistance. Despite the craft and savoir-faire sometimes things will get damaged, and/or will break.
There is NOTHING I loath more than the phrase “Yes, but…”
Under the condition that your requests are reasonable (nobody can answer for your own negligence but you!), the post-sale service is crucial. When you buy a luxury product, you want to know you will have somewhere to turn to if something should happen. There is no “But”, “If” or “Let’s see”: it doesn’t require rocket science to understand that an upset customer will not magically feel reassured with those words.
Deal with it for me: it’s as simple as that. Make it seamless, and under no circumstances imply it was the customer’s fault.
Recently I’ve had some heels trouble with a huge, world-known company. The heels were new and yet the leather on them somehow retracted on both shoes, exposing the metal – and mind you, I’m very careful with where I put my feet on the street. The company provided no answer as to what happened, just asked me to pay for the repair. I got angry, sent a cold email asking for an explanation – and magically, the repair was offered, the shoes were sent back – yet no explanation was provided.
I don’t know about you, but I take responsibility for my actions: yet in the event I have a problem and the company leaves me with just a bill, well – the company loses my respect and my business.
9) That don’t impress me much, Shania Twain use to say
It’s fairly simple: if you want to impress me – stop trying to impress me!
There is nothing worse than bragging, on any side: I won’t brag about my life, but please, don’t brag about the things you could potentially do for me.
Either you do it – and surprise me – or you don’t. There is nothing in between.
Announcing something but failing short on making it happen is ridiculous other than insulting: do I look easily impressionable to you?
10) Lemme feel the love
The key to any successful relationship – and shopping is not different – is to make someone feel loved. When conditions are met (politeness, remember? at all times!) you expect pampering, you expect signs of attention. I’ll be honest: for the life of me, I will never understand the companies who invite friends, “influencers” or “celebrities” only to their fashion shows, events etc. Most of the time those people will come, wave and smile in borrowed or gifted clothes, and move on to the next show. But your clients and generally people close to the brand are the ones to focus on, because they can make or break your sales – and your company’s livelihood.
If you value your clients, you will show it: a call of courtesy (not just to inform me my shoes have arrived), some flowers for a birthday, Christmas cards, events, the options are endless.
This might sound entitled to you – but it’s a fair exchange, really. If you’re a good customer, that needs to be recognized. I will never forget a time when I was invited to a fashion show of a huge company – and then left entirely alone to take care of myself. Not even a phone call of the manager to see if everything was well! Stark contrast to other experiences when I was almost embarrassed to see the lengths a brand went to, just to make me feel appreciated – and I wasn’t even the biggest of clients.
At the end, it all comes down to this: why would you want to be in a relationship where you’re being taken for granted? 🙂
Thoughts? Experiences? Shoot away in the comments 🙂