Retail

The Dying Art of Customer Service: Who Is To Blame?

It’s almost Christmas and if you’re brave enough to head to a major department or grocery store – as opposed to shopping online – here’s what you will most likely encounter (or not encounter, to be precise): customers as far as the eye can see, but very few sales assistants.

RELATED: 10 Ways To Get Rock Star Customer Service and Tips For Stress-Free Christmas Shopping

“Excuse me,” you say to middle-aged Mavis (*not her real name), whom you catch sight of, gossiping with her colleagues in a stockroom at a major department store. “Can I please get some help over here?”

You just want to purchase an item, nothing too taxing, but poor, ol’ Mavis purses her lips in the manner of a cat’s bum, adopts the air of a seriously slighted victim and regards you with contempt: how very dare you interrupt her, you needy, horrible customer?

Being ignored in retail is an all-too familiar problem these days, but equally frustrating is the barely-legal sales assistant who makes a mockery of helping you, almost as if his or her job is beneath them.

bad customer service, retail, online shopping
Just recently, my best friend and I were shoe shopping at a major department store, and when I asked a young sales assistant for a particular size, she delivered the box, and then asked me to return all the wrong size shoes to the shelves. Say, what?!

Then, another friend recently recounted the tale of when she dared to ask a very young sales assistant for a price on an untagged designer dress, only to have said sales assistant roll her eyes and say her manager would have to get back to her sometime the following week. Frustrated by this appalling lack of customer service, but keen to purchase the dress in a hurry for an event that very night, my friend persevered, and gently suggested: could said sales girl take the time to phone head office to get a price?! Problem solved.

Big business seems aware of the problem – take Myer’s new “Find wonderful” ad campaign: the retail giant’s first brand re-launch for nearly a decade. Finding wonderful? Hell, sometimes, you’d just be happy to find an actual sales assistant in this great era of cost cutting and automated checkouts replacing actual human beings.

And so for many people, shopping online is the Holy Grail: no queues, no parking woes, no one slamming their trolley into your ankles, no sales assistant’s drought = far less stress.

But avid shoppers will surely agree – online shopping definitely has its place, but when it comes to shoe or dress shopping, for example, nothing can replace that actual traditional bricks-and-mortar sensory shopping experience of being able to see, touch and feel different textures and fit.

And, listen up retailers: when you actually do get some great customer service, I don’t know about you, but I’m often so pathetically grateful I feel more inclined –  obliged even – to spend up big!

bad customer service, retail, online shopping
And when it comes to dining out, or staying in a hotel, customer service horror stories abound here too. The smarmy waiter who greets every woman with “Hello lovely lady” who seems more intent on picking up than serving the hordes of actual hungry customers and/or the five-star hotel staff who never even ask you if you enjoyed your stay.

So, is poor staff training and/or an extreme lack of etiquette to blame for the dying art of customer service?

What do you think? Do you have a recent customer service horror story?

Main image via clubtroppo.com.au; second image via setster.com; and final image via blog.zopim.com.

Shoes of Prey Scoops Top Retail Award

It’s not every day you can say you’ve beaten “King Karl”, ie. Chanel head designer and icon Karl Lagerfeld at something, but Sydney e-tailer/retailer Shoes of Prey has done just that. And Shoes of Prey’s smart, elegant and ever-stylish global face of the brand, chief creative officer Jodie Fox, 32, (pictured), couldn’t be more chuffed.

Shoes of Prey is a global, multi-channel retail brand which enables women to design their own unique, perfect pair of flats, heels, wedges, sandals, boots and more online at shoesofprey.com. The process is easy and fun – check out my custom-designed pair I’ve dubbed The Nicole (pictured). Using 3D technology, customers choose the shape, colour and height of their shoes. Designs are handmade within five weeks and delivered worldwide.shoes, design your own shoes, fashion, designer,
However, it was the brand’s first foray into traditional bricks-and-mortar retail, the Shoes of Prey’s David Jones-based concept store in Elizabeth Street, Sydney which outclassed King Karl’s concept store in Paris to win Store Design of the Year at the recent World Retail Awards in Paris.

“I feel pretty good about beating Karl Lagerfeld. I have a cat as well – he and I should hang out!” says Jodie, referring to the designer’s famous couture cat, Choupette Lagerfeld.

“I’m excited with how well we’ve come so far, but our vision is so much bigger than where we are now. I believe designing your own fashion will increasingly become the way that people purchase in the future.

“Fashion designers are important for inspiration – I don’t think they’re at all irrelevant – it’s a new shopping frontier for consumers.”

Shoes of Prey was founded in 2009 by Jodie and her two former Brisbane law university student colleagues, Michael Fox, 33, the brand’s chief executive officer and her now ex-husband, and chief technical officer Mike Knapp, 33. Both men are ex-Google executives.

“I always liked shoes a lot, but I never really loved them because I couldn’t get what I wanted – the heel height, embellishment or colour was always not quite right,” Jodie says.

So, when Jodie began commissioning shoe designs and online retail took off, the trio set to work, and Shoes of Prey was born. “Online shoe designing is like a game for big girls,” Jodie says. “I have more than 100 shoes, not 1000 – I don’t have enough room at my house!
“Shoes are so covetable. When I put on shoes, it affects my physical presence.

“It’s like a sunny thought – I have a real emotional connection to my shoes. It’s extraordinary.”

And consumers are also enamoured with Shoes of Prey, taking its success to dizzy heights. “The company has grown by 200 per cent in the past two months,” Jodie says, “and the concept store has been such a positive experience – sales are double the amount we forecast.”

In addition, five million unique viewers have visited shoesofprey.com in the past year; Shoes of Prey now has four offices globally and 60 staff, and the business broke even at two months and hit multi-million dollar revenue in under two years. Jodie spends four months of the year travelling, but says her life is far from all glamour.

“Running your own business is a tough journey, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s very personal. I’m very emotional at times – it’s been a really big learning experience,” she says. “I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression in my life and I’ve learned to deal with it; I’ve learnt to compartmentalise.

“My new partner has his own business too, so he really understands.”

And Jodie’s fave pair of shoes? “It changes daily, but my ‘go to’ pair are our Carla Zampatti Australia Fashion Week collaboration [see the website gallery] – a neutral shade with a 4.5 inch, thicker heel which are really flattering on the foot,” she says.

And if you’re still nervous about designing shoes online, you can always call on Shoes of Prey’s online shoe stylists or its online community, with thousands of active fans on its social media, for advice. I’m still enjoying perfecting mine!

Shoes of Prey Stamps Out Karl Lagerfeld For Top Award

Australia’s First H&M Store Opens

“We are happy to announce that we will open our first H&M store in Australia, in 2014! Stay tuned for more details.” Swedish fashion company H&M finally opened its Melbourne doors last night after send out that proclamation to all their Facebook and Twitter almost six months ago.

The second biggest retailer in the world will officially open its doors to the public on Saturday morning at 10am. But last night, H&M threw one heck of a shopping party! Check out the pics here.

The premises of the retail giant is Melbourne’s grand GPO building in Bourke Street. The 5000 square metre floorplan houses three levels of men, women and children’s clothing, homewares and accessories.

H&M head of design Ann-Sofie Johansson said the Swedish fashion outlet had been in operation since 1987 but opening their first Australian store was a significant milestone.

“We want to be exciting, fresh and really give something special for our fans and we think we have achieved it here,” she said.

H&M chief executive Karl-Johan Persson said: “In any market we go into we take it step by step, we have a huge respect for Australia even though we are successful in all the markets we have entered into so far, it’s a new set up for us, a fantastic new store and I think it will be successful, and if it is, well, we are already now looking for stores in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and some other cities.”

Will you be heading to Australia’s first H&M store?

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