I went to the local outdoor mall yesterday and wanted to share a couple of varying shopping experiences and how they relate to customer service, sales and how it got me thinking about the over-all experience we provide our own customers in our day-to-day businesses.
For the record, I’m not particularly fond of going to the mall. In this case, I already knew what I was going there for:
- I wanted to check out a copy of Hug Your Customers by Jack Mitchell at Barnes & Noble at the recommendation of Ryan Rodenbeck from SpyGlassRealty.com (a current Diverse Solutions client).
- I wanted to look into buying a blue Hurley hoodie. And yes, I was very specific about the color. I own a yellow one and a black one now. And I used to own a blue one that I’d take with me whenever I’d go snowboarding (I’ve been snowboarding for about 11+ years now).
- Lastly, I wanted to look into buying a new pair of running shoes. I hate looking for shoes. I remember the days when shoes were simple. Today, I feel they all have a funky design, and they’re heavy. Maybe I’m crazy, or just overly picky. But in this case, I looked online and I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted.
Stop #1: Barnes & Noble
I was greeted twice upon entry, and not in a pushy way either like a sales rep rushing you at a retail store. The cashier looked over to say “good evening sir, welcome to Barnes & Noble” and the Nook rep said “hello, welcome to Barnes & Noble.” I nodded, said “hello” back and headed to the Business & Sales section of the book store – I already knew where it was as I visit the store often enough.
I wasn’t quite sure where exactly the book would be and frankly, I didn’t even check if they had a copy in-stock before visiting the store. I figured I’d grab something to drink from the cafe and if they had it great. If not, no big deal as I’ll just find something else to read.
After walking two or so aisles over, a Barnes & Noble rep approached me and said, “good evening sir, can I help you find anything in particular.” I said “sure,” and we tracked down a copy of the book. I sat down and read through about half of it (I cheated and skipped the chapters that didn’t sound all that interesting). About an hour later, I was finished with the book and I returned it to it’s proper location.
All in all, I found what I wanted, it was a pleasant experience and I left the store with a smile on my face.
Stop #2: Tilly’s
I’ve walked past this store before and for some reason, always assumed it was a girl’s clothing store. I didn’t know they carried menswear.
On entry I was greeted by the cashier who looked up to say “hello, welcome to Tilly’s” and another sales rep who was organizing some clothes. We chatted briefly about the weather out (it was drizzling outside) and she said “if you need anything, just give me a holler.” I took her up on her offer and said I was looking for a Hurley sweater and asked where I could find those.
She walked me towards the back of the store and pointed out 3 racks of clothes. “What we have is going to be in here, I know it’s all kinda scattered so I’ll help you look for them. And we also have some in the front, so give me a sec while I run over there and bring a few back for you to look at.”
After about 30 minutes of browsing and small talk I didn’t see anything I liked; at least nothing from Hurley. I said “thank you,” and on my way out caught a sweater hanging on a rack across the way. “Ooh” I thought. I tried it on and thought, “hey, this doesn’t look bad.” She replied, “you know, I know that’s not what you were looking for (I initially said I wanted a Hurley hoodie, not a zip up sweater) but that looks really good.” To which I replied, “nah, you’re just being nice, you have to say that.” She replied, “No, straight up. I got that one for my boyfriend last week. I like it. And it looks good on you.”
She wasn’t pushy. She was helpful. She helped me try and find what I was looking for and she complimented me. In sales, this is the part of the pitch where you make the potential customer feel confident about their purchasing decision. She did that very well. And I walked out with a brand new $70 sweater.
Stop #3: Finish-Line
Of the three stops, this was the one I was certain I was going to make a purchase on. I’d looked up a pair of shoes on-line prior to visiting the store. I wanted a simple $50 pair of running shoes.
Upon entry, no one. An empty store. But no big deal, I knew what I wanted so I headed towards the wall where the running shoes are to find the pair I was looking for. I admired a black and white pair of Jordan’s and thought, “damn, those are sexy!” (I own a grey and white pair of Jordan’s already).
I found what I wanted, looked around… No one.
No problem. I stood there and checked messages on my iPhone. They’re probably in the back grabbing something, I’m in no rush.
10 minutes later, I’m done checking messages, battery is at 12% and I just want to purchase this pair of shoes (if they have any in stock) so I can head out and get to the gym before it gets late. I walked towards the register, no one. “Hello,” I yelled… nothing.
17 minutes in, feeling impatient, annoyed, and neglected, I left the store.
If a store is busy, like the Apple store for example, I’ll wait, no problem. I get it. It’s out or your control and I’m happy to wait. This store was empty with not a customer in sight. Why do I have to wait?
What’s the Point?
How you greet and treat customers upon entry to your store, matters. You don’t have to bum-rush someone to get them to buy something from your store, you just need to make them feel welcome.
Furthermore, customer service matters more than sales. When I was at Tilly’s, the sales associate wasn’t just tossing one item after another at me with a sales pitch. I was looking for something specific, and she helped me by showing me what they had in their inventory that matched the description of what I was looking for. Because of her attitude and willingness to help, I walked out having purchased something entirely different than what I initially wanted. (And I told her that too. “I wasn’t going to buy anything other than that Hurley sweater I was looking for by the way… Thanks for your help.”)
At stop #3, no one was there to say hello. No one was there to help. And heck, I even knew what I wanted but no one was there to charge my card for the money I was ready and willing to pay.
Who’s Minding Your Digital Store?
Kris Berg and Jim Duncan are two real estate agents I know who are using on-line chat systems on their websites to greet site visitors when they land on their site. Jim is using a system that I’m familiar with – SnapEngage – it renders a simple notification on the lower right-hand side of the site that prompts a welcome message. As of the time of this writing, I don’t have a screenshot as it’s off-line but it’s really not intrusive at all. It’s akin to the greeting I got when entering Barnes & Noble or Tilly’s – a simple “hello, welcome and let me know if you need anything.”
So let me ask you this, what are you doing to greet site visitors? How are you presenting opportunities for interaction with those site visitors?
Furthermore, what’s the response time when someone submits an email inquiry on your website to ask for help? I submitted a few inquiries for a freelance project a few weeks ago. Response times varied between 1-2 days all the way up to 6-7 days. I’m sure you can guess who didn’t get the project.
If someone needs a question answered on say, a property listing that they found on your website, and they want to speak to a real human-being about it, is your phone number readily available on your site? Can they call you directly and speak to you right away? Or do they hit an automatic voicemail message or phone directory prompting them to enter an extension? (Sadly, the latter happens far too often.)
Who’s minding your digital store? What can I expect my shopping experience to be like on your website? If it’s anything like store #3 on my list, you’re in trouble…
Rick Clark says
Sounds like you were in Brea. Next time call me and I’ll meet you. I don’t mind going into the back room and grabbing someone… or covering for you as you run out with a new pair of Nikes!
Ricardo Bueno says
Haha! Thanks for having my back Rick 😉
Ben Fisher says
Ricardo, ever make it out to Park City to snowboard?
Ricardo Bueno says
Nah, only Mammoth and Big Bear. Used to do Mountain High for a quick day trip but it’s alway so crowded and the runs feel so short…