Monday, 2 January 2012

Does Customer Service Rarely Exist Now?

2012 has now hit us like a giant shopping bag full of festive sale bargains and as shoppers pick and fight over last seasons stock, the media churn out the same old stories as they do at this time every year. "Struggling retailers to shut stores..." "Retailers face being squeezed into extinction"..."Job loss will hit all time high in retail" and you've read the rest....

But what is it that's putting customers off from shopping the high street and independent shops alike? In a culture where we choose virtual fitness games (eg WiFit) as opposed to real life exercise, ready meals over home cooked grub and a night in watching reality TV instead of living our own lives, we have become submerged within this 'lazy-boy' lifestyle; and the same can be associated with shopping too.

Armed with bags, these shoppers took to Oxford Street to find some sale bargains...

Why venture outdoors (god forbid!) to spend your money when you can sit in the comfort of your own home and do it with a TV remote in one hand and an over-active credit card in the other. I'll admit I have succumbed to the magnetic force that is 'online shopping' and at times it may be convenient and stress free but the majority of the time it is just a terrible nightmare.

Picture this: four weeks ago I ordered a Christmas present from retailer Store 21 from their online shop. I paid extra for 2-4 days delivery and at a click of a button my order was complete: perfect. Or not. Twelve days in and no sign of my order. Telephoning the company was a no-go situation (I think they are incapable of picking up a phone as well as not delivering items on time...) so back to the trusty internet as my only means of communication.

Several toeing and throwing of emails later, my parcel turns up: one item short (I ordered pyjamas and only received the bottoms!) and with a delivery note for a lady living in Birmingham who ordered a wall clock - marvellous. So there I am with a random pair of PJ bottoms and a receipt for a product that isn't even mine. With the telephone still being unsuccessful, I emailed them asking them to call me. That was two weeks ago....

Streets should be buzzing like this every weekend - not once a year!

Don't get me wrong, if my order had turned up then I probably wouldn't have too much to grumble about but what is missing from shopping online is the customer-retailer interaction, the brand loyalty and the ability to get what you want and need in the here and now instead of in the then and whenever.

But retailers themselves need to step up their game when it comes to shoddy customer service. We, as customers, don't want to be hassled to buy a new season summer jacket when it's raining outside, nor do we want to be completely left to wander around blind sided either. We don't want our items stuffed in a bag after payment but we don't want to have to reach over and put it in a carrier bag ourselves(believe me, its happened..) If customers enjoyed the shopping experience and the way retailers make them feel they would a million percent return again and again. Shopping is about more than just spending - it's about feeling valued and inspired; something that doesn't exist online.

So if you're reading this as an employee within the retail industry, strive to deliver the very best customer service and ensure that your customer returns to you again in person and not virtually.And if you're a customer (which we all are from time to time!) give retailers a chance. If the service is shoddy, let them know! If it's brilliant let them know that too! Customer service is already diminishing but don't let it extinct our retail high street!

Image 1 taken from
Image 2 taken from

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