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Hiding Behind The Truth

I walked into the empty store clutching my receipt and the faulty garment. After one wear and one delicate wash several holes had appeared out of nowhere in the fabric. My ten-day-since-purchase window had expired so I couldn’t get a refund but I was happy to take store credit.

The manager examined the holes. She told me this had never happened before and explained that she’d have to send my shirt to head office over east (a five hour flight away), to confirm that the fault was ‘genuine’. She spent time carefully putting tape over the holes (so that head office could immediately see the problem). She filled out forms. Took my phone number and gave me a receipt. If my complaint was ‘genuine’ I would get a call within a week to confirm my store credit and I could go back and redeem it.

Here in Australia sales in department stores tumbled by 10% last month, one of the contributing factors is the rise in online shopping. Big retailers are scratching their heads wondering how to get shoppers back through their doors and giving deeper discounts every day. And yet they create senseless rules and company policies to squeeze all of the joy out of the shopping experience for the few remaining customers they have left.

Yes you can protect your profits by giving your employees rules and manuals and policies, the truth that they can hide behind. But before you do, think about how that truth makes the customers you have left feel.

If bricks and mortar retailers can’t delight customers by empowering great staff to deliver outstanding service, what advantage do they have left?

Image by Jason Pier.

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