Everybody’s Talking About Service.

‘Public Service’ and ‘Common Sense’ are two of the most dishonest pieces of labelling known to modern society. Public servants don’t serve the public and common sense isn’t common. Truth be told, customer service in retail is a bit the same.

We don’t employ store staff to service the customers.

We employ them to sell – and to sell in a way that makes the customer want to come back and buy again. Much of the media comment around customer service in retail stores lacks insight because it fundamentally misunderstands the critical container of customer context.

Customers react to the context that confronts them.

There are customer service surveys for example that try to establish ‘best practice’ service benchmarking that demonstrates our domestic service levels are lower than international retailers. While the fact that many of these ‘surveys’ are sponsored by customer service professionals or travel related businesses might not be relevant, what is relevant is the context in which the ‘survey’ respondents made their judgements.

There is no doubt that when you are travelling internationally and shopping in immersive retail experiences outside the everyday you can get the impression that service is amazing in the best stores around the world. Generally when you are shopping on an international trip your shopping is less stressed and generally does not involve everyday shopping needs.

Being a retail voyeur, I have been lucky enough to travel the world since the early 1980’s and observe, study and consult to all forms of retail in many countries. Can store staff in this country deliver a better customer experience that leads to greater sales productivity? Absolutely. Is the general standard of store service in this country equal to the general standard of everyday store service in leading mature, western economies around the world? Absolutely.

Try buying groceries in local stores in the southern states of the USA or shopping in the local bottle shop in Brixton (London).

Smart retailers don’t invest in store service for the sake of meeting international benchmarks. That is how consultants sell their services not how smart retailers motivate them-selves to improve. Smart retailers review any initiative within the context in which they compete, with a critical eye on how it improves competitiveness that drives profit increases.

Retail selling environments are there to sell. Well-trained people who have a skill for engaging customers and selling to them make all the difference.

Making the customer feel happy buying from your store is the goal.