Archive for December 16th, 2008



Hopefully, this headline caught your attention. I’m not sure if it is me just getting older, or it is the fact that customer service at the retail level has dropped to an all time low. Store clerks that aren’t well trained either don’t approach you or are totally uneducated on the products/services their company offers. It also seems that retailers today are trying very hard to alienate their customers and guess what…are doing a great job of it.

Here are 2 excellent examples of what I’m talking about. First, is Costco. For those of you not familiar with this retailer, they are a membership only warehouse, similar to Sam’s Club or BJ’s for those of you back East.

Last week I went to my local Costco’s to window shop and pick out some gifts for Christmas. Yes, OK…I was looking at a big screen LCD and new Blu-Ray DVD player…totally a guy thing. Well, it had been a while since I used my membership card and thought I’d better see if I was current.

Here’s were my customer experience fell not only flat, but it was truly humiliating. The clerk at the service desk reviewed my account and in deed, it was time to re-up my membership dues. She was nice enough to tell me I had a credit of $48 coming, but it would take 7 to 10 weeks to verify. No problem I told her, I’ll either re-up then or when I make my purchase of my TV, I’ll pay at that time. After all, I can’t purchase anything unless I’m a paid up member.

“May I have my membership card back?” I asked. “NO, you aren’t a member any longer, when you pay your dues, we can give your card back.” she reply. Well, right at that moment it was a turning point for me. Frankly, it was like being at a used car lot and the sales person just tossed my car keys on the roof…”buy now or walk home!”

Gee, didn’t she realize I was a loyal customer of 20 years? Didn’t she realize I probably spent over $60,000 with her company during that time? Didn’t she have the vision I would probably spend at least that much over the rest of my lifetime with her company?

So why get so upset? It isn’t that Costco has planned to alienate their loyal customers, it is just they don’t care. Listen, in this down economy retailers need to be more proactive and reward their customers with the same loyalty they’ve shown them.

This gets to the point I mentioned in prior blogs…next year, your #1 strategy needs to be on current customers. Why? Simple, it costs less money to sell to someone who’s already bought from you verses spending dollars fishing for new ones. If they bought from you once, they want to buy from you again. And every customers needs to be treated like they are a million dollar spender.

Sorry this blog is getting a bit long, but point number 2 is what I call the “Dude” syndrome. I’ll make this quick I promise. I was looking to save some money on my mobile phone and started looking at new providers. Along the way the new Google phone caught my eye…an exclusive of T-Mobile.

As I entered the T-Mobile store I was promptly greeted by an 18 or 19 year old who said “Dude, can I help you?” Wow, hadn’t been called Dude in a while…but hey. As the young man eagerly tried to answer all of my questions about the Google phone and T-Mobile services, he ended each sentence with “Dude.”

I wasn’t getting upset about him calling me Dude, I just thought what poor training T-Mobile gave their sales people. The story ends with the young man realizing he couldn’t close me and calling his manager over…a 20 something. With a big smile on his face he greeted me with “So, Dude, how can we make you a customer today?” Needless to say, I didn’t buy from them, but did leave the store with a smile on my face…WOW, I’m a Dude again.

I’d love to hear some of your stories…

UPDATE: I heard back from Costco and to my surprise very quickly. It seems they really do care about their customers and offered me a sincere apology for the misunderstanding.

December 2008
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