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Insights from a World Retail Tour – Part 2

by daniel

Customer Service Portobello Mushrooms. That was the one ingredient I needed to complete the culinary masterpiece I was throwing together last week and also the one ingredient I was not able to get at the supermarket. So I went over to one of a smaller chain of stores, specializing in produce. Surely they of all places would have it? Unfortunately I was met with “what’s a Portobello Mushroom?” So at this point not only is my dish ruined but I am fully expecting the 20 year old assistant in front of me to say “sorry, if its not on the shelf, we don’t have it”. {Disclaimer: So it wasn’t my culinary masterpiece, I had a list and apparently should know what a Portobello Mushroom is. But none of that is relevant to this story} Wouldn’t you? Isn’t that the level of customer service we have all come to expect these days? Total lack of interest or care, take it or leave it, move along there is someone else waiting etc. etc. It certainly is from my personal accounts, talking to people and reading a lot of opinion pieces on the matter. The presence of good customer service was undoubtedly the one experience that all participants on the Westfield Retail Study Tour shared and agreed on almost immediately. And so was the question ‘Why is it so rare in Australia?” I have no idea why but what I am sure of is that there does not appear to be a good reason why it should be. None of the below that we all saw and experienced seem to be too hard to achieve;

  • A smiling friendly face to greet you at the door.
  • Equally friendly, helpful and engaging staff inside
  • An assistant never more than a few feet away when needed but who is never too pushy or overbearing
  • Knowledgeable staff who seem to want to assist you rather than sell to you. At times you know the desire to assist may be fabricated, but at least it happens.
  • Assistance with finding what you need. (Or don’t really need but feel compelled to buy because of the good service)
  • Warm well wishes as you leave the store, whether you purchased or not
The frustrating thing about receiving poor service is that getting it right seems to be so easy with just a little bit of effort. Effort that if most people are to be believed, will translate into customer loyalty and repeat business. That surely makes it worth it. So what happened to my dinner? Was the service as bad as expected? Well, the 20-year old assistant took out his personal phone, searched ‘Portobello Mushrooms’, realized that they were the same as those on shelf under ‘Swiss Brown Mushrooms’, walked me over, helped me pick them out and wished me all the best. Dinner saved. Brilliant. I'll shop there from now on. This service lark is easy.

This article was published on Thursday 21 February, 2013.
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