When I worked in website management, one of our creative development people said something that has stuck with me for years. While discussing a particular project that our senior execs wanted done super quickly and with very limited budget, she remarked: “You can have it fast, you have have it good, or you can have it cheap – but you can’t have all three.”
I was just thinking about customer service — especially as it relates to bookstores — and the same principle applies.
So many stores talk about delivering outstanding customer service, but how many really take the time and invest the resources to train their frontline staff? With pressures to get staff onto the floor and behind the register, to start bringing in the dollars, many stores seem to be fast-tracking the training process and cutting back on training programs.
Retail stores are in a particularly awkward position right now. Desperate to keep revenues coming in during a difficult economy, stores are cutting prices and emphasizing bargains — inadvertently teaching their customers that the bottom line is the only one that counts.
There was a time when we overlooked shoddy customer service in discount stores — hey, at these prices I don’t mind that there’s little personal service. But what happens when we can no longer differentiate stores based on price? How long will store loyalty keep me coming back when I can get the same – or better – prices at other stores?
Customer service will be the deciding factor for me — my dollars go to the stores where I see that employees are valued and given the tools to do their job.
UPDATE: Customer service at bookstores was a popular topic this week. Over at the Brews and Books blog, Josh Christie expresses the need for better customer service at indie bookstores much better than I ever could. Check it out: http://brewsandbooks.com/index.php/2009/09/its-still-about-customer-service/