Now that the holiday shopping season is in full swing, I thought it might be prudent to get some advice on customer service. And who better to ask than the hosts of CBC’s Marketplace, Erica Johnson and Tom Harrington.
Now that we’ve got the important things covered… Erica turns to Tom and adds “yours are nice too”.
My husband always says I’ve got a skewed version of what customer service should be. I used to joke that I could walk into a store and nobody would ever help me. But it was true. So is it just me or is that how it’s done?
Erica: Oh it is done. It’s done in every store. We did secret shopping and it was appalling what was going. And these are stores that pride themselves on wanting to give customer satisfaction. So what you think is not acceptable is what we’re finding quite widely.
Why is that?
Erica: Customer service costs money: it takes people and person power is a cost that stores are seeing they can do away with because what they want to compete on is good prices. So if we offer stuff cheap enough, it doesn’t matter if our customer service stinks. That’s not what we’re hearing from customers. They want good prices, but they also want someone who’s knowledgeable about what’s in the stores, where the stuff is, whether it’s in stock, and they want to be greeted in a friendly manner. But it seems that that’s sort of become the least important thing for retailers, which is odd because you can directly tie sales and service together: the better the service, the higher the sales.
Tom: Just speaking as a shopper and a former sales person -I used to sell clothes many, many years ago- I do think Canadians, generally speaking, don’t demand enough from staff when they go in. It’s almost in our nature not to intrude.
Erica: Part of the problem around complaining about bad customer service is that it takes time and who has time? You’re running into a store, you have a few minutes and you want to grab everything. So the clerk is rude to you or they don’t have what you need, are you really going to take the time to get the manager’s name, phone the manager, try to get him or her to phone you back? It’s a lose/lose for the customer.
I just go on Twitter instead.
Erica: One of the people that’s in our special on customer service is Dave Carroll who wrote “United Breaks Guitars”, the song about the airline breaking his guitar. 11 million people watched it on You Tube, and he says social media is the way to go. Stores want to give you an email address or an 800 number that never gets answered, and he says just go to Twitter. I’d just interviewed him and that night I had a problem with an Air Canada flight. So I tweeted, and within 20 minutes they’d resolved my problem.
Tom: Not Facebook. They monitor Twitter more than Facebook, because Twitter is in the now, so they have to pay attention. When we’re on the air, we’ll be tweeting during the shows, so if anyone has questions or comments or a reaction, we can go back and forth live.
Not everything is equal. Some companies are much better about it than others. But as Erica says “It’s easy to tweet. It takes 30 seconds to reply to somebody.”
Remember that when you head out to the malls. I know I will. And if you’re looking for more tips, the new season of Marketplace starts in January on CBC.