Is the customer always right? I thought so. I’ve seen those words written behind retail counters so many times that it has been burned into my brain as fact. Until this weekend that is, when I found out that this is not the case according to Holt’s leading Canadian competition – Harry Rosen. I had two stops to make on Saturday. One at Holt Renfrew and one at Harry Rosen.
Now, to lay the groundwork, we are clearly in a recession. Premium clothing goods are taking a beating just as much as anything else, if not more so. $350 Zegna and Armani shirts are certainly not immune to the downturn. High end clothing stores are like ghost towns in Toronto. I walked into Harry Rosen and found twice as many customer service people as customers. Great I thought – I’ll be well taken care of. Not so.
I produce a shirt I received for Christmas and a gift receipt. I am told I have $185 to spend based on the return. I select a $165 shirt and try to make the exchange. After lots of discussion, I am told that I owe $50. The shirt I return was apparently now worth less than $185. I said I was told $185, and after much discussion between clerks, they agree to honor the $185 they originally quoted. I am impressed. Next, the register tells them that I still owe $50, so another set of clerks and now managers get involved, and I am told that I owe $50 again. Backtrack #2. I am informed by the manager that an employee made a mistake, and that “I’ll just have to deal with it”.
I immediately try to imagine my consultants making a mistake and asking a client to pay for it. Ridiculous! I could accept this, but the manager was very rude (during a recession with an empty store) and actually said “are you really going to argue over $50?”. Without going further into it, suffice to say I was more upset about how I was treated than the money, paid my $50 and left. The sale of the suit I was planning to go back and buy was lost at that customer experience touch point.
What’s the point? I believe that Customer Experience is the most powerful remaining untapped lever to affect long-term profitability and competitive advantage. Remember, people are having experiences with your company whether you are proactively managing the experience or not.
The economy is down and products are becoming more and more commoditized (you can buy a Boss shirt anywhere) so companies need to win on customer experience. Yet, I see examples weekly where companies appear to be going actively in the wrong direction. Who wins? Holt Renfrew just earned the purchase of my next suit based solely on the customer experience I regularly have with them.