Monday, February 17, 2014

Customer Service and Stereotyping

By Bennett Parks -  Research Associate, Integrated Insight

I recently had a disappointing, albeit somewhat expected experience at a jewelry store.  I bought a charm bracelet online for my girlfriend for Christmas, and not a cheap one.  (Hello Pandora!)  We needed to exchange the bracelet for a slightly longer one.  Being 21 years old and walking into a jewelry store, I feared the experience I would probably have.  We walked inside and were basically ignored by the saleswoman behind the counter.  About 10 seconds later, a gentleman in his mid-40’s walked in and she instantly looked up and began interacting with him.  Disappointing?  Yes.  Expected? Sadly, yes. 

We waited for a good five minutes before another saleswoman came over to help us. She was extremely friendly and kind, but was also closer to our age than the first saleswoman.  I overheard the gentleman that came in after us being helped.  He didn’t purchase anything beforehand, nor did he purchase anything during his brief stint in the store.  Granted, we didn’t purchase anything while we were in the store, but I did make a fairly large purchase online.  My point is, just because someone young walks in to a nicer store or restaurant doesn’t automatically mean they are going to misbehave, or be cheap, or waste the time of the staff.  I understand why many salespeople have this attitude about young people, because many in my generation do behave like the stereotype.  But that doesn’t excuse the stereotyping behavior of service personnel.

It’s this lack of customer service and respect for all customers driving many to online shopping.  Why bother going to a store when you have the convenience of shopping from your computer where the search bar offers more customer service than the staff in a physical store?!  Being a former valet manager at Disney, I know good customer service and I expect it anywhere I might spend money.  I used to train my valet staff to treat every guest with the best customer service possible, partly because it was Disney but also because it’s the golden rule “treat others the way you want to be treated” and experience shows it makes great business sense.  It is well documented that companies with strong customer service capabilities and competencies for delivering customer experience excellence are outperforming their competition.  According to Lee Resource Institute, about ninety percent of unhappy customers will choose to not do business with you again and unhappy customers are twice as likely to tell others about their experience as compared to a happy customer.  Further, attracting a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an existing one. (Peppers and Rodgers 2009 Guest Customer experience monitor)  A staff that is considerate and respectful is more likely to have kind and respectful customers.  You get what you give. 

Granted I’m young, but I think it’s just good business sense to treat each person who walks in your store like you would want to be treated.  Young adults are very quick to jump on social media and share about their good or bad experience.  Don’t judge a book by its cover.  Don’t judge a customer by their age.  

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