This holiday shopping season isn't expected to be much better than last year's, which was the worst in decades. Retailers have done almost everything they can to get customers to buy things, from putting things on sale to offering hot breakfast on Black Friday to shoving half-naked women in holiday windows. But now they're working on something they've neglected for ages and are notoriously bad at: customer service. The Retail Service Quality Index that came out December 1 revealed that luxury retailers like Saks offered no better customer service than Lowe's, the home-improvement chain. Consultant Rick Miller worked on this index:
“Retailers are very good at the sales transaction,” Mr. Miller said, “but they are not very good at building sales relationships. If I am not going to get service that is any different walking into Wal-Mart as walking into Nordstrom, why would I go to Nordstrom?”
Oh, we don't know, it's more pleasant to shop for shoes for your 2-year-old niece without feeling the chill of the raw-hamburger cold case behind you?
According to the Times, no store, even on Madison Avenue, is too good for your business this Chrismukkah. Salespeople will pounce on anyone, rubbing all up on them with free Champagne, compliments, and shopping solutions.
Take Hermès, scion of waiting lists, where salespeople are actually calling other stores to try to find bags for people instead of writing their name down on a list that's probably just for show anyway. One New York shopper had a bag called in from California, and when she didn't like it, the salesperson called in an entirely different bag from an entirely different store, which she wound up buying.
David Yurman is handing out Champagne to lollygagging college students. Bergdorf Goodman even hired a new security staff after discovering the old guards weren't friendly enough. They're also sending thank-you notes to customers who only bought one $18 nail polish (but $18 for a tiny bottle of liquid deserves recognition, if you ask us). Lord & Taylor is even giving people compliments:
Lord & Taylor has been coaching sales people to be less intimidating. When approaching a customer, they are not to ask, “May I help you?” Instead, they might remark on what the customer is looking at, saying something like: “That’s a great sweater. By the way, we have it in three additional colors.”
Dennis Basso is greeting shoppers in his store personally. Seeing the way the finest of this city's bridge-playing set flock to him after fashion shows to fish for their bi-annual dose of compliments, this is probably highly effective, too.