The Ultimate Cost of Service
by Marge Laney
Seth Godin’s blog yesterday, Open Buying and Open Selling , made me think about retail customer service in a different way. He writes, “When the customer does a lot of work for the seller, the seller can afford to sell it cheaper.” And he ends his blog by saying; “The cost and method of selling (and buying) have a lot to do with the ultimate cost (and benefit).” Sort of a “duh”, but the ideas are brilliant in their obviousness.
I posit the following to all brick and mortar retailers, big and small: It doesn’t matter whether you give your customers one on one personal service or require your customers to service themselves, either way you’re paying for it.
If I go to a store where I don’t get much help and definitely not expert help I don’t expect to pay as much as I do at a full service store. If in the case of a clothing store I’m left to schlep in and out of the dressing room trying to find something that fits without help, I don’t expect to pay as much as I would if the staff were attentive. When I’m finished shopping I’m met with a self-service checkout or a long wait at a service desk, I expect the bill to reflect the inconvenience.
On the other hand, if I visit a store where the staff is helpful and knowledgeable I expect to pay more for that attention and expertise. If the associates in the clothing store show me the newest styles, service me in a dressing room by bringing me the correct sizes and complementary items, I expect to pay for that service as well. And when I’m finished shopping and I need to have a garment altered and the associate lets me know that they can take care of it, I happily pay more for that convenience.
On my next shopping trip, who will I remember and where will I return? I will probably remember the stores where I had the worst and the best experiences. Where will I shop again? Definitely not where I had a bad experience and was treated poorly or where my needs were ignored. More than likely I will return to the store where I feel like I got what I paid for.
The next time you’re in a meeting and customer service is the topic, realize that whether you require that your customer’s service themselves, or you provide them with great customer service, either way it has a direct impact and ultimate cost to you on your bottom line in margin and customer loyalty. So no matter how you figure it, you’re paying for it.