Customer service is not the most important thing in retail - contrary to what you may have been led to believe.
- If you run a fast food joint and your staff greets the customers most politely and you produce their order really quickly, it doesn't mean the customers will keep coming back.
- If you run a boutique and your staff ask their questions in a non-threatening way and don’t come across ‘salesy’, it doesn't mean the customers will keep coming back.
- If you run a five star hotel and the concierge knows the customer’s name and the bell hop is fats and friendly and the room service is super quick, it doesn't mean the customers will keep coming back.
Most people say customer service is the most important thing in retail. Everybody seems to think that ‘great customer service’ will see off the threat of online retail.
Some consultants want to sound more contemporary so talk about customer experience when they still mean the same old customer service.
Here is the thing though:
- Your hamburger pattie may taste like minced cockroach.
- Your dresses may fall apart at the seam after two washes.
- Your hotel bed may be rock hard and there is a funny smell in the room.
If that were the case then friendly smiles won’t help. Greeting the customer nicely won’t make them order another burger.
Of course service matters.
But the best customer service in the world will NOT overcome inferior or inappropriate product. That does not mean that only premium products will do. A hard mattress may be overlooked in a 1-star motel because people consider value (not price) to assess if a product is appropriate. Nobody expects a $5 t-shirt to last for years – we understand that it is disposable fashion.
Some may actually say that value-for-money, hygiene, convenience etc are ALL aspects of good customer service.
That would mean that EVERYTHING is customer service – or that NOTHING is customer service; so that is not really a useful definition of customer service.
But nothing matters if the product does not do what it is supposed to.
People ‘say’ the customer is buying the sizzle not the steak. That is not quite true. They buy the sizzle IF they are happy with the steak.
The assumption is that it relatively easy to replicate a ‘good steak’ but no so easy to replicate really ‘good sizzle’.
But when determining the relative priorities in your business, remember this: A great product can survive poor service but great service won’t rescue a bad product.
I know I am right, because Jerry Seinfeld agrees – if you watch his skit on the Soup Nazi you will know what I mean.
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