Friday, December 31, 2010
Customer Service and the Death of the Offline Store
The Dread Daughters received bows and arrows for Christmas from my mother-in-law. (New at the Salerni House: Now More Dread per Daughter!) No worries, though. We approved the purchase, and my husband was the one to pick them out, buy them, and deliver them to his mother for wrapping.
Having never purchased such an item before, my husband went to a sporting goods store to look at what was available. (I won’t name the store chain, but it rhymes with Rick’s.) Now, I should say that my husband and I are big online shoppers, but in this case, Bob wanted to physically look over the bows and choose something appropriate for our girls. After finding bows of the correct size, each of which came with two arrows, he was happy enough to stimulate the local economy by purchasing them from this store.
The problem was, there were only two of the bow/arrow packages left, and one of them had a broken arrow. With great difficulty, Bob flagged down a store clerk and asked if they had any more. No, the clerk informed him. Everything they had was on the floor. Next to the bow and arrow combination pack, Bob spotted a display of extra arrows, priced $1.99 each. He asked the clerk to swap out one of those arrows for the broken one that came with the bow. No, the clerk told him. Couldn’t do that. He was sorry one of the arrows was broken, but that’s just the way it was.
So, Bob pulled out his Droid, scanned the bar code of the bow and arrow kit, purchased them on the spot from an online vendor, and walked out of the sporting goods store – probably never to return. Unwilling to replace a $2 arrow, the clerk lost a $60 sale – and a customer – and it made no difference to the clerk, who’d get paid for his day’s work no matter how many sales he lost.
If businesses can’t train their employees in customer service (not to mention thinking their way through that $2 /$60 dilemma), then it’s no wonder that retail sales stores are going to lose out to Amazon and other online vendors.