display | more...
There are a couple of major problems with the logic of presuming that the cost of customer service is disporportionate to the gain. To begin with, not all items of retail in a store are marked up by the same amount, this can vary between the minimum 1% all the way up to as much as 200% or more depending in part on the nature of the goods sold (grocery stores typically mark up less than luxury goods stores) economic climate, and of course cultural background. Thus the notion that for every good 'stolen' there need be 100 extra sales to recoup the loss is somewhat exaggerated and perhaps alarmist.

We must also consider that the distribution of the so called 'theft' doesn't usually centre on a particular shop, and is usually spread between a group of shops held together on a high street or mall. Each of which compete for the attention and the custom of those customers who walk past. A customer who's had a bad experience in a shop has the option to keep on walking, and it is antithetical to everything the shopowner stands for to let him do that. You want people in your shop, thus you have to make your shop welcoming. A simple catalogue with an automated security system or maybe guards and a credit card slot in the wall next to a hole from which your bought stuff appears has been a possibility for decades now, and is perfectly adequate for most retail needs and the reason it hasn't caught on is as simple as it is universal, people like the human touch. They like someone to be grateful to, and also just as importantly, someone to blame.

The next point of issue is the notion of 'theft' itself. It is inevitable that there will be unsatisfied customers, in the same way that there will inevitably be unsatisfactory merchants, and the notion that one is simply selling the product is a fallacy.

You're not only selling the product, you're selling the shop, and the shop's relationship with the customer.

Without this, the customer will never buy the product.

In the intensely competitive world of retail, those shops with excellent customer service, are those who win the loyalty of their customers not individually, but enmasse. For when I have a complaint against a product or a shop, it is usually the case that there are other customers in the shop to see how I am treated when I complain, as well as friends to whom I will describe my experience. Whether my experience is positive or negative will thus have a knock-on effect on more than just me in an indirect but profound and real manner. Thus those staff employed to deal with customers, and help them with any problems they may be having are serving to protect and enhance the attractiveness of the shop, and increase it's competitive edge.

Yet if your task isn't to deal with customers, but to actually just stock take, or stack shelves, or something similar, then all you have to do is inform the customer, and that will be that. Most customers understand this, and those that don't usually have an emergency or aren't worth your aggravation. Neither of these things negates the value of customer service, there should always be *someone* there to talk with the customer and help them, even if it's just the cashier.

Another point, mentioned by the lovely and charming laggedyanne is that a lot of customer service is returning faulty or broken goods, and this cost is absorbed by the manufacturer, not the retailer, and so can't be figured as a loss. As well as this: "even if the customer BREAKS IT. IN THE STORE. they'll pretend it was damaged during shipping". And thus the costs are still absorbed by the manufacturer, and not the shop. So as far as they're concerned they may as well be nice about it, and take the credit!

"So why all the emphasis on making customers happy at all cost?"

Because customers are your most important asset, that's why. That's why they call it "customer service". As Jaez pointed out, you're not selling pickles - you're selling your service. You're building a relationship. The goal here - in every business, and I would assume it's especially important for grocery stores - is return business. Not today's sale, but tomorrow's and next week's and the coming year or two and the next five decades. You need to retain those customers, for they are by far your most important asset. Yes, even the ones who only buy a candy bar and a cup of coffee. If they do that every day, they will eventually make the shop some money. Maybe not millions of dollars, but it's going to add up to an amount that justifies your efforts to keep them happy. And if you don't, if you make them angry enough to stop shopping at your store, they won't just leave - they will take their friends with them.

There is a rule of thumb in all customer service industries, that a very happy customer will recommend you to 2-3 friends, but a very unhappy customer will complain about you to an average of 5 people. To be quite honest, I don't know where these figures came from, but after a fairly long stretch working at a company that completely dominated its market because of its superior customer service, I can vouch for the figures' relative accuracy. When people feel like they've been mistreated or screwed, they WILL bitch about it. Always. Humans have to "vent" when they get angry. It's your job as a customer service representative to make sure that by the time they leave your store, they have already vented sufficiently and are no longer a danger to your business.

Those angry customers who came back a week later despite dire threats are probably a sign that somebody in your store is doing this job adequately. Well done, guys, whoever you are.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.