Being the customers choice

If you want to be the company your consumer chooses, then be the company they’re looking for first.

You attract what you personify in the same way our bodies project a certain message by our unspoken actions, (otherwise known as body language) in which case we push away customers when we fail to give them a smile, or be in the slightest willing to go the extra mile and check the stock room for whatever they may require – especially when we know it’s in stock.

The stock room doesn’t mean this post only relates to those in retail, or warehousing now – the stock room can be the treasure chest of please, thank you and how are you today? Don’t ever underestimate the power of an honest kind word.

The biggest changes are born out of the smallest number of steps; so take a step in the right direction today and choose to be the company you would want to shop in. Leave making a fast buck aside because when it’s all said and done money that comes fast, leaves fast.

River Island: Guilty before charged.

River Island, Dublin, Ireland
Picture supplied by vivido of Flickr.

Before publishing this post, I swayed in the direction I would take this post’

1. From the frustrated shopper who had just experienced another disappointing service from retailer, River Island.

2. Taking the objective point of few, sympathizing with retailers who, perhaps have been under the same economy pressure and doing the best they can to keep their stores afloat.

I have to say after two painful experiences with one retailer I’m more swayed to the first option because regardless to the pressure these stores may be facing, we ‘the UK consumer’ have been subject to the provision of bad customer service way longer than the 2008 recession.

There is no excuse for the way some of the nations biggest retailers have treated many of their customers, advertising half truths, using loopholes and all kinds of trickery just to gain cash from the average shopper, without so much as a ‘thank you for choosing to shop with us.’

According to a survey from Clear Returns, 67% of surveyed respondents have returned items online, and over 40% say they have returned several items. The post, which you can read here goes on to suggest that a large portion of consumers are committing fraud and retailers are doing themselves no favours, by giving consumers discounted items and placing tags on the inside of garments.

Whilst I appreciate there may be a fair amount of this behavior going on, and their best intentions are to address this area. I think it would be naive of us to think that all consumers are committing fraud are to blame for the growth in returns made.

The 67% of folks who have returned items, did they admit to committing fraud? Or where they simply within their rights of the Sale of Goods Act?

In less than one month, I have been in two River Island stores, once to try to replace a damaged top (that I absolutely loved and found by accident, when out shopping with a friend) which was sadly damaged under the armpit after the first light wash – after following the instructions on the garment itself.

My second trip was yesterday, with a friend who like many UK citizens was reluctant to return his worn hoodie that he bought less than two weeks ago and had already started to bobble on the arm after two wears. In this particular case, my friend had looked at the label inside to discover the material was no made of cotton, but a cheaper material which became apparent in a matter of days.

On both occasions, we were met by reluctant and rude members of store management after the counter staff flew like the wind to find them before they even looked at the receipt and goods for return. There is certainly a pattern happening in River Island – And perhaps the retailer are receiving a higher return rate that usual, however, this doesn’t omit them to treat the consumer guilty before charged.

In my own experience, the girl flew to get the manager before I could so much as explain my reason, other than to ask me a yes or no question. Have you worn this out? In my mind I hadn’t worn this on a night out, no. It was for work use. In a split second, the girl was off and there was no way of knowing what she had said to the manager because it was out of sight, but I knew it wasn’t right when he came flying towards me a few minutes later. The angry store manager proceeded to, no word of a lie, shout rather loudly in front of the whole store, calling me a liar and telling me that ‘this top had been worn on a night out’. Again, I bought the top for work, not clubbing; And I couldn’t even tell you the last time I went clubbing. I work night and day. Cheeky monkey!!

If I wasn’t stunned speechless by this manager’s abuse I would have explained as I have in this article. Instead, I found myself forced to defend myself blind to whatever information he was given as if being questioned by police. Screaming inside; ‘I’ll gladly take a lie detector test!’

Needless to say the top I originally hoped to replace, was returned as a ‘goodwill’ gesture after his ten minute rant of insult. Later to find that I too was well within my consumer rights, and River Islands returns policy. Might I also remind us I was looking to replace the top, not return it.

The same happened to my friend when he reluctantly returned his hoodie yesterday, disappointed by the poor quality of his product from a store he thought he could trust. This time the manager was a woman and after the same 10 minute break to whisper in front of the consumer came back with the lame excuse, ‘what’s wrong with it? It is just the kind of material.’ After a few huffs and puffs, I watched on as she gave exactly the same spiel as the Glasgow manager, ‘Ok, well I’ll return it as a goodwill gesture this time, but if it happens again I won’t.’

Are you now recording each customer now? I wondered. No need for a police force when the managers of River Island are quite happy to do their job for them.

What kind of excuse is, ‘it’s just the material’ for rejecting the consumer’s right to ‘reject’ an item that is not of satisfactory quality under the Sale of Goods Act?

Is this low quality the kind of quality we can expect from River Island now? Personally I’d rather pay ten times as much for my clothes and shop somewhere were the consumer is not treated like a criminal.

At the end of the day, retailers have a business to run and yes they shouldn’t be taken advantage of by the consumer. Certainly not. However; this coin flips two ways, and they also need to learn to appreciate the consumers who go into their store and choose to spend with them – especially in today’s economy.

I must also say that many stores, including Next, Boots and several other high-street retailers have continued to improve in this area of service, (based on my own experience) which Mary Portas helped highlight to the UK consumer over a year ago with her documentary ‘Secret Shopper.’

Never the less, it seems there are some stores are either getting worse, or have a long way to go.

Do you have a good, or bad customer service story that you would like to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts and finding on this subject below.

Go the extra mile

Despite reservations on whether I’d like the film, I was curious about these seats that seem to be generating a sufficient amount of local buzz. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to be escorted to my reserved seat, and almost waited on by the general manager of the whole cinema; in addition to the usual cinema attended who pops in and out on any normal occasion. This, however; was not a normal occasion, but it was a rather odd and refreshing experience to be greeted by the extremely keen manager with a slightly nervous look upon his face, dressed in a sharp suit and tie attire.

Bringing me to my point today, which is customer service and real life experiences still matter. Despite all the ‘tricks of the trade,’ that many businesses may try to use that say, ‘pick me, I’m the best’. The truth really is in the pudding. So if you want to be a success, and remain in business for the long haul, go the extra-mile on every opportunity, and make the customer glad they chose you.

A crazy little thing called love…

Perhaps it’s the most welcomed phrase in the whole world, and one more brands/businesses should be tempted to use when communicating with their consumers. If not in words, then at least in action. I certainly believe the shift in culture is forcing more and more businesses to rekindle their love for the consumer. After all it’s the consumer who keeps us all in business.

Just like our natural instinct to determine the difference between a true relationship, and a ‘friends with benefits’ kind of relationship. The same analogy, I believe, can be applied to world of business, branding and marketing both now, and in the years to come.

We appreciate businesses who take the time to thank us, or acknowledge our custom in even the smallest way. Do I think some consumers take this too far, and abuse businesses. Certainly; but I’m batting for the consumer and business who plays fair.

Happy Valentines everyone!