According to Moody’s Investor Service, sales at retail stores have declined. There are many reasons:
- Shift to on-line sales
- Less impulse purchasing
- Pre-sales research about who has the best prices/coupon offerings
- Low income consumers who cannot afford even discounted prices
While I agree these are contributing factors, I think there is a more compelling, underlying reason why customers are not going shopping. Customer service at the brick and mortar store has become almost non-existent. There is no staff in place knowledgeable or capable of creating and building a relationship. Repeat business is generated by personalized service. Without individualized attention, why take time to visit a retail store?
When I was a teenager and worked in my dad’s men’s shop, he knew every customer’s name and if he didn’t know the person when they walked into his store, he certainly knew them by the time they left. Even if nothing was purchased, customers would always return to buy something for themselves or a gift for a friend or relative. My father made an impression and was remembered and people wanted to do business with him. He welcomed everyone into his store as if they were visiting our home. He understood how to make people feel comfortable and important.
Unless more of what I just describe becomes routine, retail sales will continue to decline. Specifically:
- Turnover is rampant. If you do return to a store where the associate was helpful, the chance is that person is no longer there. He or she jumped ship because they weren’t appreciated or given a well-deserved raise
- Frontline staff are more interested in their text messages than in making a connection with a customer
- The customer is looking for a particular item and is assured by the sales person that they will call when it comes in. Rarely or never does that happen
- Stores are understaffed, especially during peak times and lines at the checkout counters are long. Customers drop the merchandise they had in hand and leave to look for the item online
- Repeat customers are not recognized. Who wants to spend money in a place where their business isn’t valued?
There are many reasons why retailers are struggling. It is a complicated issue and there is no simple answer. However, when I find a retailer who values me, understands I’m a good customer, knows the merchandise and calls me periodically to share information about special sales or something that might interest me, they win my business.
Customer Service is the glue that keeps me going back. If that bond is non-existent, I will look for another store or site not only for that particular day, but for the long-term.
What’s your opinion? Am I the only consumer who shops on-line because retailers have lost their customer service mojo?