Are you REALLY being served? And Do You Care?

Every bookseller knows the importance of great customer service BUT do we really get how important costumer service is, or is it?

We pride ourselves on going the extra mile, on being knowledgeable and helpful.  BUT let’s face it as consumers we have all gotten accustomed to, accepted even, what is at best lacking and at worst really, really bad customer service. Of course I’m mostly talking about large retailers, although you could probably substitute “retailer” for large “any-kind-of-business.” What large does have on the little guy is better selection (usually) and cheaper prices. Quantity over quality. Gone are the days of “Are You Being Served?” I suppose.are-you-being-served

Every book ever written on running a retail business will tell you how you treat the customer matters. For me, I worked with a veteran retailer who demonstrated how important it is every single time a customer walked through her door. As I write rain is falling in place of the usual snow. Winter weather has walloped our little corner of the world this year. Shoppers are staying in and Main Street retailers are thinking positive thoughts of spring – if it ever should arrive.  Still, when customers wander into The Book Garden I greet them with a cheery hello, explain the flow of the store, ask if they are looking for anything in particular and then leave them to browse. I greet every single customer the same way. Even if just one person walks through the door after being open several hours and I am tired and consumed in paperwork, I try to be pleasant and welcoming.

A few weeks ago I found myself in NYC and since I wasn’t far from the toy store on Times Square decided I would try to find a certain Monster High Doll that is coveted by my daughter, and apparently every other 8-year-old girl in the U.S. Inside I scurried past a giant giraffe posing for photos and stopped for a moment to take it all in – the flashing lights, colorful toy displays, the Ferris wheel floating up out of the lower level and the dance music pouring out of, well, everywhere as shoppers of all ages swirled past me.

I located the Monster High display but not the specific doll I was looking for. When I finally found someone who worked in the store, she barely stopped what she was doing to answer my question with “All the dolls we have are on the floor.” She had no idea what I was talking about and she had no interest in finding out. Neither did the next two salespeople I approached. I wandered down to the basement to buy a Wii game instead.


Now on a mission, a few days later I found myself with my daughter and her friend at another toy store, the same chain, this one located in a quiet suburb, not NYC. There is no dancing giraffe or loud music and very few shoppers. The girls and are contemplating the Monster High Collection for at least fifteen minutes – sales people walk by but not one asks if we need help. 

Both times customer service was poor, even lacking.  Both times I made a purchase. My daughter didn’t even notice we had to corner a sales person to ask about the coveted doll and was happy to leave without the item she came in search of as long as she left with a doll (although her happiness was short lived).

So my point, and my questions for all of you are, “Does good customer service really matter?” Could it be that size and supply and demand allow for customer service to take a back seat, and we are okay with that trade off?checkout