Shop, Horror!

As sure as a cheap pack of Christmas cards on Boxing Day, the festive retail sales figures got the usual media coverage.  And the winners are?  Next, Aldi, John Lewis Waitrose and House of Fraser to name a few. I pinged Steph McGovern a tweet with my thoughts (reply still pending Steph!)  Now, without the 144 character restrictions, here’s my  Christmas experience of a couple of those retailers.

We had saved  a couple of years’ worth of gift vouchers to spend on a new TV cabinet, so first port of call was second floor of John Lewis. Good old John Lewis who stay closed on the 26th December which meant this was day one of their sale (having worked in retail, one of my bug bears is stores’ need to open on Boxing Day). Armed with a fistful of vouchers and a vision of what we wanted, the lift’s ping announce our arrival.

John Lewis were incredibly busy and perhaps under-staffed to cope with the flock of folks wanting to get their hands on the latest 42” LED TV. We saw the cabinet we wanted and decided to buy it. Using the power of technology, I found the cabinet online,got the product code and we made our way to the till, ready to buy. The member of staff was excellent, friendly, knowledgable and above all a joy to have our transaction with. We talked about Christmas, it being the first day of their sale and how busy it was. All the time she was efficienlty putting through our order for delivery (it’s a big cabinet and we were in a small car!). “I’m really sorry, the earliest we can deliver that is 31st December”  We were doubly astounded that it could be delivered so quickly and that she was disappointed that it wouldn’t be sooner.

Job done, cabinet ordered and on our way out of Newcastle.  All before 9:30.  Result!, But no! Mr T is in the mood to shop. Eeek!

Next port of call, Next. The day after their Boxing Day sale? Brace yourself. Store not too busy but it is only 9.20 by this time. Long story short, perusing done and a selection of clothes to buy. Off to the checkout. A young member of staff greeted us with a friendly “Hi hello, how are you? Got much more shopping to do? What brings you into town today?”, type questions. An apology that the bag was too big but that was all they had due to it being super busy yesterday. Once again an enjoyable transaction.

And then to our final retailer and Which? Supermarket 2013: Aldi. News Year’s Eve and final plans in place, so off to do a spot of food shopping. Well, I say food, but mainly fruit for the cocktails. Aldi was pretty busy but as the queue at the checkout grew, out popped a member of staff and we were soon served. The member of staff was chirpy, in spite of his (disclosed) huge hangover from the night before, but we didn’t mind as it showed he was human after all and he was engaging with us.  In no time we were done (Aldi folks really are very efficient), and on our way with a chirpy “Happy New Year “ from him.

Where does this all fit in with my original comment to Steph McGovern? Simple, all of these retailers enhanced our shopping experience by being human, having a conversation with us and a spot of banter. Retailers and shop workers get so much stick and believe me, I have been on the receiving end of some shockers. However, the figures don’t lie: Aldi, Next and John Lewis have done well because in my opinion they have understood that treating customers well results in sales growth. There is more to customer service than handling complaints; its about customer interaction and a level of engagement that makes you stand out for the crowd.

Well done John Lewis, Aldi and Next. Keep up the good work, keep investing in your people, keep providing excellent customer  experience and you will continue to be retail winners. It’s time for some other high street names to step up and do the same.

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