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Customer service: businesses have taken their eye off the ball

As the economy suffers, so does retail, but could retailers be cutting off their nose to spite their face by implementing new policies that are anti-consumer?

store closing, retail in trouble

store closing, retail in trouble

A narrow bottom line for the narrow minded

The fact that I own and operate and major business publication with a few million readers doesn’t cause me to be more aloof when it comes to being a consumer. The bottom line is very important, but your bottom line will grow narrower with a narrow minded sense of consumer experience – a novel fact that has withstood the test of time, just ask any boyfriend or girlfriend that’s ever dumped you for your poor consumer experience! AHA! Bingo, you get it.

Making idiotic business decisions to save money over consumer experience can be as small as no longer refunding cash to cash paying customers, rather insisting they wait for a check like Z Gallerie (humiliating the patron for having the audacity to return an item in the first place) to Best Buy’s decision to limit returns to 30 days from 90 days. These small shifts in the paradigm of the retail experience seem tiny when taken on a case by case basis, but retailers nationally are doing all sorts of irrational things in a down economy to keep more money in the bank and from consumers, even if common sense tells them they shouldn’t mess with consumer experience unless improving it, and no, don’t hand me a gift card, Apple.

Walk into any Banana Republic store and you’re bound to find the sale racks where last week I inadvertently picked up a pair of slacks, only to realize when I got back home that I’d already purchased the same trousers a few weeks back. What’s interesting is that I paid $15 more for the exact pair of trousers in the same store. I get it, the sale must have been different that week, 30% to 40% off depending on the mood of Banana Republic. The problem here isn’t the depth of the discount, it’s the consistency of the the experience. Which should I return? The more expensive ones, or the less expensive ones? Hmm, that decision won’t be difficult. But you get the point.

Maybe it’s not the economy, stupid

Retail is suffering right now, you see it from store to store, and in some cases you simply don’t see the store anymore, I get that, but maybe, just maybe, it’s not the economy, maybe it’s how retailers behave in a gloomy economy (where consumer sentiment is at an all time low) – a quick buck at the expense of consumer loyalty?

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I’m not saying Best Buy is going to go out of business for burning consumers on the legnth of time for returns, but I am saying that I’ll be a little less sad about it if/when they do succumb to the economy, and I’ll support them a little less in the meantime, as I hit up other electronic chains that understand that the consumer really does come first, and in 99.9% of cases, the consumer is right whether retailers like it or not. For example, if your staff was foolish enough to leave a sale tag up on merchandise, do you honor the price? Not at Forever 21, or American Eagle – these two retailers are two of the worst offenders when it comes to sales confusion in their stores.

Food for thought, retailers.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. kenbrand

    September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    I’m with you brother.  A cool logo, if delivered would be, “We really do give a shit.”  Treat people like friends instead of products.  Of course it’s smart to think of consumers in terms of share of wallet, but only if you freaking earn it.  No tricks or inconsiderate fine-print surprises please.  
     
    I will say one great response to the recession was the number of happy hour style meals at some pretty cool restaraunts around town (Flemings Steakhouse for example).  The smart ones will keep us coming back the pretenders will roll back generosity and Indian Give.  I wish you had time to write more Benn.  

  2. kenbrand

    September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    I’m with you brother.  A cool logo, if delivered would be, “We really do give a shit.”  Treat people like friends instead of products.  Of course it’s smart to think of consumers in terms of share of wallet, but only if you freaking earn it.  No tricks or inconsiderate fine-print surprises please.  
     
    I will say one great response to the recession was the number of happy hour style meals at some pretty cool restaraunts around town (Flemings Steakhouse for example).  The smart ones will keep us coming back the pretenders will roll back generosity and Indian Give.  I wish you had time to write more Benn.  

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