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  • Retail and Customer Experience expert Doug Fleener is president and managing partner of Dynamic Experience Group, a retail consulting firm in Lexington, MA.

    As the former director of retail for Bose Corporation and an independent retailer himself, Doug has the unique experience and ability to help companies of all sizes.

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August 11, 2010

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I'm looking at this question as a business owner and customer. First, the customer isn't always right- I've worked in retail too long to believe that. Second, employees are only as good as their training and the freedom they're given to act on the company's behalf. Who wants to be on a pedestal? Isn't it better to be on the same level where people can build relationships and actually help each other? I believe that authenticity is far more important than catering to someone's every whim, unless your clientèle is made-up of entitled egomaniacs who believe that money trumps all, in which case your pedestal analogy would be correct.

When I go into a warehouse store, it's so huge, I'm rarely able to find an employee to help me and thus feel insignificant. When I go into, say, a clothing store, I'm bombarded by commission junkies who suck up to me as a walking credit card and, I have to say, the insincerity annoys me. What happened to perfecting the basics? Treating people with respect and appreciation? That's all I really need as a customer; not a shopping companion or a sycophant, just an unobtrusive attendant to help facilitate my shopping experience when I need it.

After saying all of that, I don't believe that customer service is the be all, end all, of a good shopping experience because all companies should be expected to do that. I'm more interested in the extras: the company culture, the unique products, the sights, sounds, maybe even smells, that make people think "wow". This kind of experience is a far better reason to get people to come through your door than any pedestal.

Chris,
Thanks for your insight and especially the effort you made to post it!

I agree with everything you said. The idea of putting the customer on a pedestal was really about making them a store's priority. I think you nailed it when you say you don't want pushy or obnoxious salespeople. I'm with you 100%.

It does come down to treating people with respect and appreciation. And I believe we do that by making the customer the reason we're in business. I wrote this because after a recent shopping expedition I realized that every store I went in could care less about it. It was so bad I would have even appreciated some of those pushy salespeople! Okay, maybe not, but I wanted better than to be ignored.

I can see how I wrote this that it might come across as I'm advocating sucking up to customers or taking crap from them, but rather I'm saying the pedestal is doing all those things you listed.

The culture comes through in how we treat the customer. The products are selected for the customer, and ensuring the right sights and sounds are in place is all about the customer.

Thanks again for your insight, and I'm looking forward to reading your novel.

Doug

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