After spending time in London, shopping in between meetings with clients, I am convinced more than ever that superb customer service IS possible. I saw it first hand in store after store, whether they were department stores (Selfridges, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason) or smaller brands (Poetry, Wrap London, Me & Em, Jo Malone London, Hacketts London, and the list goes on).
So why do stores in London (UK) deliver without hesitation? Where does the consistency come from? I interviewed a manager who works at the hotel we stayed at (The Cadogan, A Belmond Hotel) and he said it is a challenge for sure, but you have to deliver the unexpected every day, not just when you feel like it. It cannot be an emotional decision on if you want to deliver superb customer service.
Define Superb Please.
So let’s define what “superb” means. The dictionary defines superb as ‘excellent’, or ‘impressively splendid’. Those are all words that paint an image for me of what this experience looks like. Said another way, it is about anticipating your customer’s needs before they even realize they have a need.
Let me give you an example. I was enjoying breakfast at the hotel (sidenote – breakfast was amazing every day – where does this food come from?), the manager came over to our table with an umbrella and said, “It is starting to rain, you will need this on your journey” and handed me the umbrella. Wow. That is anticipating my needs before I knew I had one. I did not know it was raining outside, the day was predicted to be sunny. This is how I define superb.
I was shopping in a mens store (@HackettLondon) and my husband tried on a sportcoat. After a couple of tries, the sales associate excused himself and came back with multiple styles available in his size. Then he showed trousers, not just any trousers, the ones that were a classic fit. We didn’t ask for that, he listened to my husband and I talking. The sale that should have been a shirt and sweater became much larger. We didn’t want to buy that much, but everything he showed us was a great fit and watch this – was helping us build a wardrobe, not just multiple pieces. Another superb customer service experience.
The Opposite Experience.
The UK is proud of their reputation for leading the world in sustainability. You cannot find plastic water bottles or soda pop bottles. Glass or nothing. Harrods is already eliminating bags. It is now £6.00 to get a bag with your purchase. This was a huge disappointment for me. I had to walk around carrying my purchase wrapped in a piece of tissue paper. Harrods – this is an example of when you need to FOLLOW, not lead.
Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason provide a bag free of charge. That is what customers expect when they shop at high-end retailers. Customers don’t want to walk around with their purchases in their hands. The £6.00 on a .25 bag is a profit step, not a sustainability step.
Light It Up.
Retailers – it is time to light it up in our retail stores. Treat every customer like the non-renewable resource that they are. How might you help your teams deliver the unexpected with each interaction? The good news is you don’t have to have all the answers. Ask your team. They are closest to the customer. They might have ideas, but we have to ask.
The biggest opportunity I see in apparel retailers that we can all address right now is the fitting room experience. A superb customer experience means you don’t leave me customers in there, having to get dressed to get another size, color, or item. Bring your customers a new item, a matching item, your favorite item, I can keep going but I think you get it.
Lets Do This.
We are in the busiest time of the year, right now. It’s holiday. Every single customer who walks in the door has the opportunity to become a raving fan. I know you can do this…and so can your teams. But we have to set the expectation, train the ones who need a little more, hold them accountable, recognize improvement, celebrate results and take care of your people. Be good to them and they will be good to your customers.
In Your Corner,