Mr. Happy Can Get A Lot Of Action Right Now.

My mood was destroyed the other day by shopping in a prominent discount department store. I am a big supporter of discount department stores and have to admit I have consulted to some of the more successful operators in Australia and internationally. I am also only using this particular occasion to illustrate a point – not denigrate the category.

On this occasion, the store looked great. It was full of the right merchandise and the housekeeping was very good. I got what I wanted – three Top Gear DVDs – very quickly and like a well trained soldier, took my place in the “express” cue knowing that my wife and daughter were impatiently waiting outside for me to go to a movie with them.

I got to the front of the cue only to be confronted with an assistant who was – to put it as nicely as I can – a black cloud with no silver lining. The machine that removed the security devices didn’t work and apparently that was my problem for buying the item in the first place and ruining her day. Eventually she rang up the transaction and directed me to the “customer service” desk to remove the tags as I was told I was holding up the “express” cue.

When I approached the “customer service” desk there were ten people waiting in no orderly fashion all vying for attention from a very bored and ponderously slow moving matching pair of attendants. I have seen glaciers move at a faster pace. Eventually I was served and in thirty seconds the offending devices were removed and I was on my way. Twenty minutes after I entered the “express” lane. With no apology. With no smiles.

And my wife and daughter had abandoned me. I should write a country and western song about it. A very long-winded introduction to my point.

An important part of the DNA of the shopping experience is positive social interaction and an uplifting experience. It doesn’t matter what category or type of retail business you operate, the customer should leave feeling like you’ve added value to them in some way and wanting to come back.

For most customers today, every speck of positive energy they have stored up during their night-time regeneration period is slowly sapped from their being from the moment their eyelids reluctantly open each morning. There is not a lot of re-charging going on during the waking hours, rather more of the opposite.

Yet retail has the opportunity through clever self service and friendly, efficient human service to re-charge customers every time they shop, every day. When the world is full of doom and gloom often differentiation can be as simple as being happy. Happiness is infectious. Before employees post complaints about customers on websites, they should seriously look at their contribution to shopper rage and how easy it is to share happiness.

Walk into any store that is successful right now and you will not only see but feel happy, smiling staff who understand that making the customer feel good is a huge competitive advantage at any time – but especially now. Make the customer want to spend their money with Mr. or Mrs. Happy.