These Two Service Experiences Could Not Have Been More Different!


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You might not believe it unless you saw the amazing contrast in these service experiences between two retailers who sell almost identical goods and products, who are both inside of the same mall, a short walk from one another.

Because you obviously could not see what we experienced, I am going to do my best to give you some visceral examples and insights regarding our radically different service experiences.

Myself, our VP of Customer Implementations, Senior Director of Marking and Director of Social Media are meeting in San Diego to strategize on our book projects and corporate communications.

This morning we were discussing with a publisher the concepts for the two books which we are releasing (Creating Celebrity Service Experiences and Engagement is for Couples, Enablement is for Companies).

It struck me that the best way to have our team feel, see and experience the content and principles from the forthcoming Celebrity Service book was to actually take them to a mall where we could have an active learning experience.

When we were in the parking lot just before entering the first retail establishment I asked the group of ladies to observe and consider the following:

When we walk in, observe and take in the general vibe and atmosphere.

Don’t do anything out of the ordinary, except to look like you are interested in something specific or act confused like you are looking for help.

Observe the interactions between the associates and the customers.

After letting them know the types of things I would like them to be observing, I let them know that after we had the chance to experience these retailers experiences I would then pull aside an associate and ask him or her a couple of follow up questions.

The four of us enter the first retail establishment.

We walked around, taking in the vibe and the first thing I notice is that I only see two associates on the entire floor. I see six people
sitting in chairs around the cash register and I see one customer waiting at the register while the associate is on the phone with her back turned to the customer.

As I observe the three ladies browsing in the shoe section, picking up different shoes and boots, I notice that no one approaches them, no one interacts with them and no one even makes eye contact with these three probable purchasers.

After several minutes of milling around the shoe department and not getting any acknowledgment or assistance, we all decide to move on to the accessories and purse section.

Here we spot two associates helping one customer trying to find a Michael Kors purse in the color she desired.

The interesting thing is our VP of Customer Implementations had a Michael Kors purse over her shoulder!

Our Director of Social Media politely wedged herself in between the two sales associates, picked up a new Michael Kors purse and said, “Oh my gosh. These are going to be all the rage in Toronto.”

The VP of Customer Implementations circled the two sales associates with her Michael Kors purse on her shoulder while admiring the same purse in different colors.

All the while this is going on, our Director of Marketing is showing interest in Coach purses and really admiring the unique colors. She was also trying to find a price tag so she could determine if this was something she wanted to purchase.

While I am observing these interactions, I have to tell you I was a little shocked these associates were missing such clear buying signals, but

I was not at all surprised.

The only words that were ever uttered to us the entire time we were in this retail establishment was, “Hi.”

Not only was this a totally inappropriate response to guests in the store who were showing a strong interest in the product, both associates also missed the fact that their guest actually had the purse they had on display in six different colors and never even made a comment about it.

I then said, “It’s probably not worth my time asking a follow up question to one of these associates, but I’ll do it when we come back through on the way out.”

As we left this retail establishment to walk to the next one I asked the ladies, “What did you think?”

They said things like:

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe no one came up and interacted with us! ”

“I can’t believe I held the purse up right in front of an associate and was never asked if I was getting the purse for myself or if I was interested in another color.”

“I obviously like the product because I have it over my shoulder. I circled them twice to try to get their attention and they never even acknowledged me.”

I said, “I totally agree. The only interaction was a missed opportunity.”

For the same amount of time the associate said, “hello”, she could have said, “Hi, isn’t that a great purse? Are you getting it for yourself or for a gift?”

As we strolled to the next retailer I gave the same instructions and asked the ladies to not do anything different in this store than they did at the first.

It could not have gone any better had I staged this active learning experience.

The minute we entered the second retailer it was a completely different energy and experience.

The first thing we all noticed was a radically different associate to guest ratio.

This company obviously believed in providing proactive service. This retailer had obviously made the conscious decision to over staff so they were enabled to provide proactive interactions.

We again started in the shoe department, but had a radically different experience.

Within the first 30 seconds of our Director of Social Media picking up a TOMS shoe the associate approached her and said, “Aren’t those awesome?

In fact, here are two new styles of the same brand that have a firmer sole for support.”

He then greeted each one of the ladies while nodding and smiling at myself.

The ladies spread out through the shoe department while I watched each and every one of them being approached and greeted by more than one associate.

The cool thing is these interactions were done in a subtle, non-smothering style.

What I mean by this is no commission breath.

I also noticed that each of these associates were wearing the products they were selling.

As we mumbled to ourselves about the dramatic and positive difference, we figured we should give the accessory and purse section a try next.

This experience was even more exceptional.

Every person from the department seemed to come by with a smile, a piece of product info, or to offer help.

I was offered a glass of water or coffee while I patiently watched the ladies browse.

I then gathered the ladies and one of the associates who was helping them and told the associate that we are writing a book on customer experiences and asked if she would mind if I asked her a couple of questions.

She said, “No problem!”

I asked, “First of all, how long have you worked here?”

She said, “Only a week.”

I said, “Cool. Have you been in retail a long time?”

She said, “Yes, about six years.”

I then asked, “What’s it like working here compared to the other places you have been?”

She said, “This place is a little crazy.”

I said, “How so?”

She said, “They tell us to do what ever the customer wants, to use our best judgement and wherever possible to go above and beyond what the customer expects.”

I said, “That’s pretty cool. How does that make you feel?

She said, “It’s a lot more fun to be able to go crazy with a customer because that’s what I like to do anyway. Here they really support us in doing that.”

I then thanked her for her time.

The three ladies were saying universally,”I can’t believe that just happened. What a contrast and difference between the experiences at these two organizations!”

Now think of the implications for the first retailer on the lost sales opportunities as well as the type stories we will tell our friends, family, and anyone else who will listen to us about the experiences.

The ladies said for the first retailer, I would tell my friends and family to go anywhere BUT there.

The ladies also universally said they would recommend their friends, family and dogs shop at the second retailer as a result of the positive experiences and interactions.

Now think about the impact on recruiting and retention of associates at these two retailers.

The second retailer barely needs to do recruiting because the minute they announce they are opening up a store in the local mall, the best and brightest from the other retailers apply to be a part of this great organization.

Today’s experiences provided one of the best examples of enabled and energized associates who are empowered to create exceptional experiences for their guests. That is what inside out service experiences are all about.

Inversely, at retailer number one we know there is no way a disengaged associate is ever going to create an exceptional guest experience.

As we were leaving, I figured I would attempt to interview an associate from the first retailer.

Amazingly, the two associates I encountered walking through the store were both on their smart phones texting and never made eye contact with me or the three probable purchasers who walked with me.

Not only were they not enabled, they clearly were disengaged and did not see the potential customer or the opportunity right in front of them to create delight.

It seemed they viewed us as a hindrance or an inconvenience, and not a guest or the reason for their job.

Now, I have one really tough question for you; Are the experiences that you are creating more like retailer number one or retailer number two?


If you want to know who the retailers are, just email me!

Republished with author’s permission from original post.

Peter Psichogios
Peter Psichogios is the President of CSI International Performance Group whose mission is to help companies create engaging employee and customer experiences. Prior to joining CSI International Peter served as an executive member of one of the largest Instructional System Association companies in the world. In this capacity, he led all the front-end analysis and worked directly with Dr. Ken Blanchard. Peter has been fortunate to work with the who's who of the Fortune 500, helping them deliver innovative learning, engagement and recognition solutions.