Just back from another exciting adventure in bricks and mortar retail shopping. I went to the usual suspects, Office Depot, Petco, Home Depot and Staples and guess what, save for one item on my list, all my money came back home with me. My one purchase? Dog food at Petco. Where after standing around at the cash register for what seemed like days, I finally knocked on the office manager’s door and asked her to come out and ring me up. Where was the lone employee on the floor? In the back cleaning out fish tanks.
Seeking some envelopes, I stood around in the printing department at Office Depot without being acknowledged and finally gave up and drove to Staples. Their employee advised me to get back in my car, drive home and order what I wanted from their web site.
When your customers have to beg you take their money, maybe that’s a sign you’ve have cut the employee count too much. When your employees urge your customers to drive home to shop, maybe that’ s a sign that you should improve your training.
I can drive a Zamboni down the aisles of Home Depot and not hit an employee and I live in Atlanta, the home of their corporate headquarters. In fact I will wager a bet that the 8,400 square feet Apple store at the nearby mall has more employees on the floor right now than the 100,000 square foot Home Depot store down the street. And this dismal employee count isn’t limited to big box retailers and discounters. If I can get that Zamboni up the escalator at Neiman Marcus in Lenox Mall I can drive it down the designer floor and not see a soul, although I may completely take out Dolce & Gabbana. You see, a few years ago they forced out all of their older, experienced, and presumably more expensive saleswomen who actually knew something. I am so tired of driving to Barnes & Noble, Best Buy; you “fill in the blank” and coming home empty-handed.
Retail stores don’t get it. They have the one weapon that online retail will never have – face-to-face, living, breathing human beings. Who, if they are correctly trained, supervised and rewarded, will care about the company, know their products and provide excellent customer service. Examples: Apple, Nordstrom or Lowes.
Everyone dreads online support. In fact, just finding a phone number on a retail website is a daunting cat and mouse game, because let’s face, it they really don’t want to you to call them. Oh, you can wait in a queue for an online chat, but that’s not real customer service. So why aren’t retail stores stepping up their game? Rocket science it ain’t.
So dear retailer, here’s my solution to the unemployment crises. Hire some people. Don’t view your retail employees as a necessary inconvenience. Train them on what you sell, how to sell it and how to engage the customer so that they will come back. Pay them a decent amount of money based on sales and service. Just think how much more money you can make if you actually have people in your store to sell your stuff. To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies, Miracle on 34th Street. “We’ll be known as ‘The Helpful Store.’ ‘The Friendly Store.’ ‘The Store With a Heart.’ And consequently we’ll make more profits than ever before.”
Now excuse me while I go online and find those envelopes.