Thursday, April 23, 2009

Customer Experience

I recently went into the Apple store to get a battery changed since it was starting to bulge out. (I forgot to take a picture. It's gone now, so it's too late) I was actually surprised that they do have an actual concierge that deals with reservations, and not just a virtual concierge to deal with bookings. Apple stores are so fancy that they're like hotels. Haha!

When I arrived at the Apple store, the salesperson, Dan, I think was his name, at the front took one look at my problem and set me up through the concierge system since I didn't have an appointment. I didn't realize I was supposed to make a reservation before I came in through Apple's concierge system. To my delight, it wasn't too busy and I got snuck in and pushed my priority up. I sat around for about a minute when the "Apple Genius", Chris, took a look at the battery and then zoomed off. A few minutes later, he plugged in a new battery for me into my Macbook Pro. He shook my hand and off I went.
This has been one of those rare customer service (repair) experiences that have been painless. Usually it takes a couple of days, and in some cases, a few weeks before I was able to get back into my standard workflow.
Props to Apple and their Apple Geniuses at the stores.

In contrast, I have had really bad and sometimes contrasting experiences at other stores. On visiting the Harry Rosen store at Oakridge Mall, I have been scolded at before from salespeople to not touch merchandise. Can they truly be serious? I mean, I'm not going around the clothing racks and like knocking everything around. They sell jackets and clothing. People NEED to touch clothing before they buy it. I assume the salesperson that time was pre-judging me by how I dressed. Harry Rosen sells expensive high-end clothing, but outright scolding customers is bad business everywhere.
I do have a contrasting story to that though. I went again recently to that same store. When I was going through looking at jackets, and doing a "touch-and-go" which I do with most things. He made a, what I assume a joke, about how there's a promotion today about how everything that's touched is bought on the spot. I wasn't sure what he was trying to pull. Trying to get me off the merchandise or trying to break the ice. I laughed and moved on.
I was about to leave the store when I decided to take a look around the other side of the store. The same salesperson approached me and my friend and then decided to make a recommendation for me. I liked the jacket he suggested. A dark brown Italian waterproof coat. He didn't sneer at me like the previous salesperson though I don't doubt the other salespeople in the store would have done just that.
I was impressed by that one salesman. People are not given good enough customer service normally, but in those cases where prejudice is rampant, it really irritates me how some people can truly call themselves in "sales". You are trying to sell. It doesn't matter how much, every customer is important. You piss a customer off, they NEVER go back. Even if they can afford to buy things there, you have completely tainted the brand in their mind.

The idea of pre-judgment is talked about in Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Blink". People make snap judgments about others all the time. The case that Gladwell talks about is in car sales. Salesmen will often ignore younger customers because they assume they are not serious about buying or even have the necessary resources to purchase. This type of prejudice is what kills the customer experience. What if that younger customer is rich? What if the teenager is checking out what car to tell their parent to buy for them? Maybe, the salesperson think that person who in cheap clothing will just be a waste of time. But you have to consider the fact that some people may not dress nice because they'd rather spend it on big ticket items.

This type of problem occurs more often in stores with expensive products targeted towards consumers who are more affluent.
Prejudice is a fact of life, but how it affects your actions is up to you. To be a good salesperson, or yet, any type of representative for a company, there are a simple set of rules. The following set of rules exemplify the qualities of an excellent customer experience.
3) Preach your brand: Always make sure you're representing the best face for the company. Believe in your products and be honest. [You solidify your company/brand. The customer will have the idea that your products are of superior quality.]

2) Every person is a prospective customer: Each person is different. They have different needs and treat each accordingly. You don't know anything about them, so ask them and listen. [You satisfy their needs. The more you know about the customer, the more you can help them and offer a solution.]

1) The customer is always right. ALWAYS: Just because something isn't in your job description doesn't mean you couldn't do it. They know what they want. Option A, deliver what they want. Option B, agree that what they want is reasonable but it is out of your hands. (This obviously ignores the situation of those customers who are just unreasonable, but seriously, most things people ask for are not that difficult). All people want is to be treated fairly and if you give them that, they will always come back. [This is basic - if you go beyond the call of duty, they will know it and you will have earned a customer for life]

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