Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tale of Two Customer Service Experiences

Recently a friend of mine introduced me to a friend of his who was visiting from Budapest, Hungary, where my friend had lived for several years. They told an amusing story that My American Friend (AF) would always complain that in Hungary one couldn't get good service. He would brag to Visiting Friend (VF) that in America sales people were more helpful and if you asked a question they didn't just respond to the question, they took you there. VF didn't believe him, and frankly I was a little befuddled myself. (Later, I realized this was because I exhibit the traditionally male trait of never asking for directions or help if I can possibly help it, so I really wouldn't know.)

Sure enough during VF's visit they went to both a Safeway and a Target, asked where something was and were led directly there by the salesperson. VF was suitably impressed. AF felt patriotic and proud.

I recently went to a Best Buy on a weekend in search of gifts for the S.O. Now I know there have been a lot of stories, like this one from Business Week, about how Best Buy has tried to re-jigger their store lay-outs to appeal to women shoppers. I don't know about that. I didn't find the lay-out any cleaner or more appealing than before.

What I did find was that their sales people seemed more responsive and more, well, helpful than before. I was up in video game land and asked about a particular console. The sales woman explained they didn't have any, but proceeded to tell me what date they would have more and how they were handling the process. (Since it sounded like it was going to be a first-come, first-served riot, I decided to pass.) After I moved on to asking about my second choice, she started walking me toward the escalator because they were kept downstairs. I wasn't done shopping upstairs, so I let her go and went back to stare mouth agape at the video game selections.

I am somewhat handicapped by the fact that we (meaning my S.O.) own the PS2, the Xbox and the Game Cube. Too much choice. (Much as I complain about the scarcity of vegetarian choices at most restaurants, I must say I am always the first to have decided what to eat!)

Noticing my dazed look, another sales person asked me if I needed help and then proceeded to recommend games, expansion packs, product warranty add-ons etc. But he executed those recommendations sincerely and seamlessly. He steered me away from one more expensive game in favor of another after asking what kind of games the S.O. liked to play. Once he got a sense of the S.O.'s advanced level of video game geekdom, then he mentioned the warranty program...not as a throwaway at checkout, no, he mentioned that the product I was buying had some issues with pixels dying in the screen, and that my S.O. sounded like the type of guy who would be driven crazy by even a single pixel being down, and this way he could get a full-on replacement even way past 30 days if pixels died. (Well, my S.O. did replace his first Nintendo DS because of a single dead pixel, so this was a no-brainer.)

The he took my impending purchases out of my arms and helped me carry them downstairs and walked me all the way through check out. And I am willing to bet I spent quite a bit more money than I would have left to my own devices.

But, here the significant part: I don't feel angry or remorseful that I bought what I did and spent what I did. It was a pleasant, rational buying experience, guided by a relaxed and friendly and knowledgeable sales person. Could I have bought stuff on my own? Definitely. And I hate to say it, but if I had gone to Game Stop I would have been completely on my own.

Speaking of Game Stop. The other night after dinner the S.O. decided to pop his head into a Game Stop and see if they had any Xbox 360s. We knew chances were about nil, so i didn't even get out of the car. We could see into the shop and see there was one other person in the store.

The S.O. came back within seconds, slightly peeved. The entire sequence went something like this:

S.O.: "Do you have any Xbox 360s in stock?"

Sales person: "No."

Pause. Pause. Pause.

OK, that's it, that's all you're getting from that guy. End of conversation. And while I might not have been the one who had the conversation I can tell you that just from hearing about it I'll be steering clear of that store in future. It surprises me to say it, but Best Buy, big huge faceless box store that it is, is doing a better job and deserves our geeky video game business.

Moral of the story: the experience your customer has today can dictate a lifetime of buying decisions. That's why each one counts.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?