BrainTrust Query: Start a Customer Service War
Commentary by Doug Fleener, President
and Managing Partner, Dynamic Experiences Group
Walmart, Target, and
Amazon.com have spent the last few weeks locked in an ever-escalating
price war. Although consumers may be short-term winners in the price
war, the long-term cost of selling products below cost will be high —
impacting other retailers, authors, studios, and other companies associated
with the products.
Forget price wars: I want to see a customer
service war. I want to see companies try to one-up each other over who
can deliver the best service. Instead of dropping prices by a penny,
add another something you do for the customer.
Of course the big discounters
will never do this because they don’t really focus on service. It’s not
their competitive advantage. But it is the competitive advantage for
smaller, specialty stores. Shouldn’t they be starting a customer service
war? As a matter of fact, shouldn’t specialty retailers be starting one
To win the war they obviously have to be
better and more consistent than the competition. Here are some things
the local shop might be able to declare:
We warmly welcome every customer. We’re happy you’ve come to
our store and it shows.
We treat customers like old friends. Many of you are.
We call customers by name and are happy when they know ours.
We make our customers comfortable by sometimes serving drinks
We understand our customers needs and wants before we recommend
We provide a great experience for the entire family, including
We offer unique and interesting products at competitive prices.
All of our employees are product experts. More importantly,
our employees are customer experts. You won’t find a better staff
Our store is fun. One thing you’ll always find in stock is a
We make shopping easy. The same holds true for returns and exchanges.
We offer special touches that our competition doesn’t. This
might include free seminars, free gift-wrapping, special delivery,
charitable events, etc.
Our checkout process is fast and efficient, but more important
We’re thankful for our customers and we prove it with thank
you cards, follow-up calls, and invitations to future events.
No matter how busy the store, our employees are able to work
with multiple customers and still give individual service. It’s
an art and we’re good at it.
We understand that we’re not going to be a customer’s only retailer
but we’ll do whatever it takes to be their favorite retailer.
I say let the big box stores duke it out over who can sell the farthest
below cost. That’s a war that none of us can ever win and, unless you’re
Walmart, Target or Amazon, you’ll be a big loser if you try.
Win the customer service war. That’s a war worth fighting.
Questions: To what degree can customer service help specialty stores
survive or thrive in an environment increasingly focused on price?
What aspects around customer service should smaller stores