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Are you being Served?
How retail became a joke!
Constantly accused of being a grumpy old man, I sat down last weekend to eat a plateful of humble pie. Like so many of us strange thinking wrinklies, I'm sensitive to the word 'old' but as I can do little about time I turned my attention to the descriptive 'grumpy'. I soon discovered that being misunderstood, was not exclusively reserved for when I was sixteen. I concluded very quickly that being 'grumpy' was interpreted by alerting others to things which annoy the living bejesus out of oneself. Sure I let people know when something is up my skirt, but grumpy? Well that's not what I call it.
But as Einstein said, "You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew." Mmm! Anew!. Hold that thought... so with the Genius's words ringing in my head I thought I'd tackle one of my biggest pains in the arse by offering a few solutions instead of just stating the problem. I secretly hoped this may assist me relinquish the title of 'Office Grump of the Year'.
My major pain in the rectum is long lived and for those who know me, predictable - I hate retailers. I make no apologies, I simply can't stand their whinging and bleating and their complete lack of acceptance of responsibility for their own demise. These guys didn't suddenly implode over 24 hours, these guys have been working at screwing their own industry for at least 30 years.
Their lazy attitude, their reluctance to change, their primitive approach to the consumer, their ignorance and their total lack of awareness of the nuclear explosion which was hanging over their heads, like a funnel spider. Ironically it was the web spiders which got them in the end. So that's my 'grump' and it's a huge lumpy, bumpy grump.
Suddenly we've got an alternative called the internet. The perfect solution, where we can shop from home 24/7, with a cup of coffee and not have to trudge through a store full of comatose sales zombies who are too busy playing solitaire on their iPhones or ringing their mates to have a chat. It's shopping in an instant and our purchases arrive, gift wrapped in just a few days - it's a no brainer.
So apart from the lousy experience they keep delivering, what is it that retailers have continued to miss throughout the years? Here's my take and hopefully it's where I transition from grump to de-bunk. Mr. Retailer, get with the program and realise that the consumer's real issue is a complete 'lack of free time'.
Don't make us stand in queues, put a bomb up your people, teach them to live life loud and take them off the Valium. Rip up their paperwork and find a system which doesn't include the use of an abacus. Quit complaining about offering us shopping hours which are covenient to us and not you. Give autonomy to your personnel and let them decide whether they should exchange the undersized pair of undies Mrs. Brown got for Christmas. Get rid of exchange counters, floor walkers and mono uniforms. Turn shopping into a trip and focus on us, not you. Most of all get the attitude right.
Sure we're awkward, selfish and often too expectant, but here's the news, consumers have the gold and they rule. They don't want a good experience, they want a GREAT experience and they don't want to take a number and wait an eternity until you're ready to deliver on it.
Certainly it's unfair, but the world's unfair. Certainly it's unreasonable, but retailers have been unreasonable for years. Certainly we're disloyal - you made us that way. Through it all, one other certainty remains. If you don't adopt new strategies you're not going to be around to complain and only then will you know what it feels like to be a really grumpy old person.
It's all about TIME and the way it's always in your favour. While you're busy ensuring your personnel abide by your rules make sure those same rules don't impede our TIME. In fact start a campaign to get rid of your silly rules because all rules impede service. Start to create some customer values and make your first value, a mission. Repeat after me, "We exist to serve the Customer".
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