I walked into Courts yesterday to purchase a clothes rack. Courts is a large furniture and electronics outfit in Singapore, with branches around the island and a megastore in Tampines.
The wonders of being connected meant that I could look up their online catalog the night before to pick out what I wanted and verify stocks (to the point of even knowing that certain colours were already out of stock and will be restocked in February/March 2013). All I needed to do was to step into the store, look for the item, purchase it and out I go. Sounds simple enough.
It was a three-storey megastore, so I decided to ask the staff for directions. The staff on the second floor directed me to the ground floor “because that’s where all the accessories are”. Sounds fair, so I proceeded to the ground floor. After walking around in circles, I realized I was going nowhere and needed help again.
So I approached a boy in a black ‘Courts’ tee and relayed my question to him. After giving me a blank stare for several seconds, he admitted that he was “just a promoter” and that I had to approach a staff member in a blue tee. Those blue tees were pretty elusive to find, though. I nearly walked up to an ordinary shopper in a blue tee but common sense soon took over (he was carrying a shopping bag) to prevent potential embarrassment.
Circled the place again for nearly 5 minutes before I finally found two blue shirted staff members who were happily chatting with one another. I proceeded with my inquiry. One of them glanced at my phone (screenshot of the product), looked at me and went “no more!”
“No more?” I asked. “Seriously? Because I checked your website and it stated there is stock!”
“If you want, you go outside there and see!” He gesticulated wildly to the area outside the checkout counters. “If it’s not there then it’s sold out. No more!”
He immediately went back to chatting with his friend, totally oblivious to me gaping at him, my mouth wide open in disbelief.
This is what happens you hire staff (or salespeople) who don’t care about your business. The typical staff member will simply show up to do the bare minimum, leave on time and take their monthly paycheck. On the other hand, the engaged, dedicated staff member who believes that he plays a crucial role in the success of the company would do more.
In this case, a dedicated staff member will be able to recognize this interaction as an opportunity to retain a potential customer. He would have known that the product will be restocked in a couple of months. He would also be aware that I could have placed an advance order online and request for a self-collection at any outlet near my home. All this is not rocket science – I knew it simply by browsing their website. This information will have been relayed to me as alternatives, and the he’ll provide any necessary assistance.
This staff member on the other hand, seemed to be more interested in his bantering.
After finally confirming that the item was out of stock – seeing an empty rack with the item label – I decided to ‘test’ another staff member on their service knowledge in the hope that the guy spoke to earlier was just an anomaly. No dice either.
By then, I was completely annoyed with the lack of staff knowledge that I just decided to give up on the product altogether. Sure, it was lighter and more compact. Sure, the product was cheaper as well. But it’s no longer about the product. IKEA was just next door, and they retail products that are of equally good quality. And I haven’t had a bad experience with them yet.
So, I headed over.
The PORTIS hat and coat stand.
Now, I have myself an awesome new rack at home from IKEA. While Courts lost a customer for life.
In today’s age, the average consumer is presented with a wide range of equivalent options for a singular product, that they’ve become indifferent. Companies can no longer afford to compete based on products alone because there is a low barrier to entry for consumers to simply do a brand switcharoo anytime they want. The products are all the same anyway. It’s the experience you provide that makes you stand out.
What makes the consumer sit up and take notice is not the “average” shopping experience, but something out of the ordinary. When faced with an extraordinarily bad service, the consumer will take to bitching online (which is what I’m doing now) or spread the negative message through word of mouth. In the consumer’s mind, your company will be tied to that bad experience forever.
Conversely, when the experience is surprisingly great, word spreads equally fast. In a world where consumers are generally used to receiving bad service, it’s extremely refreshing. Even inspiring. As for me – I’d most probably be waxing lyrical about the company to anyone I meet. And yes, I will definitely return.
It is the positively memorable experiences you provide that make your customers stick to you.
It’s high time companies realized that. Especially consumer-facing ones.
Yesterday evening, mum and I were queuing up at an extremely packed Fish & Co restaurant. We were inching closer to the front of the line when we witnessed the following scene.
Said lady was already at the front of the line (and just in front of us). Apparently she was so tired of waiting that she bugged the waitress for a seat. When the waitress informed her that there are no seats available, not even for one person, she turned nasty.
“I am a tourist, you know. How can you tell me that there are no seats for me?”
The waitress had to pacify her (when she could very well be serving other customers, grateful customers may I add). The supervisor was called out. And the duo struggled to appease her.
Later on …
“How can you say that just because I am only one person, you don’t have a seat for me?”
Well, now she was twisting words.
The duo continued to explain the situation to her which seemingly didn’t work, because she just turned away and stalked off eventually.
All that time, I stood behind that her, silently seething because she was giving the poor young waitress hell when the latter didn’t deserve it. Was extremely tempted to tell her off, but kept quiet. Now I’m regretting the fact I didn’t stand up for the waitress.
Please. Being a tourist doesn’t mean the world owes you a living.
This woman wasted the resources of two people (in a packed restaurant) which eventually amounted to nothing. It’s best to not give a hoot with unreasonable people. They’re just crying for attention.
So, I was patronizing a particular store on level 3 at Bugis Street this evening when I chanced upon a series of button-on collars. I knew that I was definitely getting one, though was still quite undecided on the colour. So I told the salesgirl that I’d think about it first and return later.
Her response left me dumbstruck.
“If you walk out of the store and come back later, the price will not be $10 any more, it’ll be $15,” the salesgirl informed me in a snooty tone.
“Wow, really?! Then I’m NOT coming back,” said I, and strode out immediately.
(She spoke in Mandarin, and what I’ve just quoted was a rough translation to English. Apparently – according to her – $15 was the original price of the collar, while she decided to quote me $10 out of niceness … which everyone could see by now, had a huge caveat attached to it.)
I was experiencing a lot of indignation after that. Though I really wanted the collar, I hated her attitude so badly that I simply refused to give her any form of business (or commission, for that matter). She sure as heck didn’t deserve it.
Luck was on my side, though.
I chanced upon another store selling the same collars at $15. After a bit of haggling, I managed to bargain the price down to $10, while the salesgirl even offered 20% on all her apparel if I bought the collar (the last bit was on her own accord).
I ended up buying two collars. (But no apparel.)
Button-on collars in yellow and green.
The salesgirl was also full of #win. She remained friendly throughout the entire transaction, even when I was showing signs of indecisiveness. No trace of snootiness anywhere. I like.
Salespeople out there, your attitude and sincerity matters. If you don’t have it, I’m going to your competitors.