Is good customer service back in fashion?

Like many people did, I spent a little time wandering around the shops this weekend. I haven’t been shopping for a while (due to a combination of minimal funds and general lack of shopping motivation) and was pleasantly surprised by an improvement in the customer service ‘experience’ in a good few of the shops I visited.

That might sound terribly patronising but, having worked in a health food shop for many years, I like to think I give good customer service – something I try to extend to any interactions I’m involved in on Etsy, be it convos or sales. I really appreciate shop assistants and Etsy sellers going the extra mile to make the experience memorable and will return to a shop or seller where I’ve had a particularly good experience.

This weekend’s most interesting shop interactions were in a high street clothing shop and a supermarket. At the supermarket, every time that I have bought something recently, the cashier (a different person every time) has asked me, ‘And how are you today?’ – at which point I usually get really embarrassed and mumble something about being fine, thanks. But my shyness is not really the point, the fact that they ask the question, with a smile, is the point. It seems to make the transaction far more pleasant for everyone involved. I mean, everyone likes to have human interaction from time to time, right? I’m going to assume that, given the number of different people who have asked me the same question at this particular supermarket recently, the employees have all been asked to make sure they make conversation with their customer for the purposes of improved customer service, and that ‘How are you today?’ is a good place to start.

The clothes shop was another interesting one. It wasn’t particularly price-y, nor particularly low-end, just somewhere in the middle. I had three different members of staff ask me if I needed help with anything (again resulting in my embarrassment and a mumbled reply, but hey, that’s my problem and not theirs). Then once I’d collected a few items to try on, but was still browsing, a sales assistant approached and asked if she could take them to the changing rooms for me, so I didn’t have to carry them round. My cynical side says that this was only so my hands were free to pick up even more items, but the trusting, innocent me thinks that they wanted to improve my shopping experience so that I would shop there again. I’ve only had that kind of service in the higher-end high street shops so to see that it’s filtered down to regular high street level is A Good Thing, I think. In fact the whole shopping experience had gone up a notch since the last time I shopped there – if only they wouldn’t insist on constantly pushing their high-interest-rate store card at every opportunity (between every song on the ‘radio’, in the fitting rooms, at the cash desk).

My cynical side comes out again at this point, and ponders whether all this extra effort is just down to this whole recession thing, and if shops are just keen to get us to associate them with being good thus resulting in us spending more there. I don’t know if it might be the Mary, Queen of Shops effect (I hasten to add that I have never seen her programme, but I have heard good things about it, and her crusade for improved customer service in Britain’s shops). Her programme has made customers and shops alike think more about customer service. Expectations have been raised!

I’d love to hear your experiences of particularly good or bad customer service on the High Street. Wonder if everyone’s bucking their ideas up?

Becky

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