This holiday, I actually took a REAL holiday. Not one of those “i’ll look at work emails today, do a bit of this and that” holidays, one where I didn’t even open email. None, nada, not one.
I also have to preface this post, with, I really don’t like to go to shopping malls.
I know, how do you build a business on retail, if you don’t go to retail stores? It’s not that I don’t like stores, it’s just big shopping malls. They lack any customer experience, there is no ‘vibe’ no sense of excitement, no ‘what’s in the windows this week’ , that I get when I shop at smaller stores.
But like most people, I find I have to venture into them. And EVERYTHING was on sale, so I took the opportunity to invest in myself and (gasp!) upgrade my underwear. Specifically, some new sports bras. I’ve committed to exercising 4 times a week, as part of upgrading the ‘me’ side of my life, so I needed to invest in some clothing that wasn’t held together by a few wash-worn threads.
Does any woman like bra shopping? I doubt it, but I was committed. I was in it for as long as it took to find what I needed, even if I had to spend a whole day at the local mall.
The big sales happen here in Australia on Boxing Day, and also the 27th for suburban centres. There was NO way I was facing those crowds. I was prepared to take whatever was left after the sales junkies had their spoils.
So, it was on the 29th, that I did it.I was prepared. I arrived before the stores opened, I wasn’t focusing on ANYTHING else.
The first department store I went into, I loaded my arms up with various colours and styles. Now, with this kind of shopping, assistance is greatly appreciated by this gal. There were not one, not two, but THREE sales assistants standing behind the counter.
Oh, if there is anything that makes my blood boil, it’s sales staff that can’t see the customer literally right in front of them, because they are too busy to chatting to their colleague.
Here I was, clearly keen on purchasing something, but no one gave me the time of day. I trudged past them to the fitting room (which I had to find myself), got the first few on, and then gave up. I walked out and dropped my pile onto the sales counter and walked out.
I was so cranky.
I tried another store, which I knew was a self-serve type of place, got what I needed on the first try and bought up.
But it didn’t end there. I had my husband and daughter in tow. My mission was accomplished, but my birthday was also coming up, so they insisted on taking me shopping for something new.
I have too say, every store we went into was the same. And, I’m not exaggerating. We did get the occasional, offhand, “Hello”, but no one seemed to want our business, or to help.
And, at the risk of having rotten tomatoes thrown at me, this is the problem when sales people are on a set wage, with no incentives. Here in Australia, retail staff are paid a pretty good rate – between $20-26 per hour, for casual staff. Some companies have targets and incentives, but at the end of the day, it’s a pretty good wage, for someone who doesn’t have to have formal qualifications.
I really notice the difference when I travel to America, where staff are paid a smaller base wage, and then commission on sales (I’m mostly focusing on clothing stores). These retail employees are super keen to help. Ok, sometimes too keen, and they’ll try to sell you stuff you don’t need, or don’t look good in, or up-sell you to the bigger better model. But, you get attention. They genuinely give a crap whether you buy from them.
I know, there will be people who get up in arms, and think I’m trying to undermine the years of work the unions have done for employees in Australia, but that’s not what this post is about.
What I am passionate about is the customer experience.
Part of my retail store’s culture is that every person has to be genuinely greeted, or acknowledged, when a person walks in. Now this may not be possible everywhere, but having staff that actually want help, IS possible.
And it’s businesses, here in Australia, that aren’t instilling this culture in their staff. If they did, I wouldn’t be whinging about the wage retail staff get. I’d be gloriously happy.
I’m not professing that we go and cut the retail wage to the American equivalent. BUT, if businesses can’t see that customer experience is super important, then we need to find an answer that works.