Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Shopping Experience, Part 5

It was only a few days ago that I talked about a shopping experience at Staples and Office Max and I mentioned that Staples just opened a brand new store in Fairfield. I talked about how nice it was (of course, it is only a couple weeks new). I also mentioned that Office Max was the only game in town until Staples arrived a few weeks ago and that now things have changed.

The value of competition to the customer is choice. You can be assured they are making one. It is their experiences that will determine their choices. People are emotional creatures, so it isn't going to be logic or even reason that will help them to choose. It will be how they feel about you. That makes it more complicated, but you do have power to help them decide on you.

A few days ago, I was praising my first experience at the new Staples store. Yesterday, I had the opportunity based on some discount cards that I had from each store, to go to each store and make a purchase. The cards expired yesterday, so I had to use them or lose them. It made sense to use them.

I went into Office Max and had a pleasant enough experience. I got what I wanted and looked around a bit and left. All went smoothly. Then I go to Staples. I am trying their copy & printing center for the first time. There is a large guy behind the counter sitting at a computer intensely watching the screen. I walk up to the counter and it was close to 5 minutes before he even looked at me and I was standing in front of him. Then when I told him what I wanted, he gave me a folder and told me to fill it out and that they could have them ready by tomorrow. No problem, I wasn't in need today anyway, it's just that the discount card expired. All the time I'm with him being ignored and then speaking with me, there was no smile. I look up and there are these huge pictures all around the wall in the copy department showing people smiling being helped by Staples people who are smiling. The pictures were silly because of the comparison between them and the real experience. Nonetheless, the employee decides to go ahead and do the job while I wait (although he never stated that, but I could see it by what he was doing). Job is done, he fills out a form and sends me to the cash register up front.

I go up to the main checkout registers and step right up to a smiling young man and present my purchase. He is trying to get it done and the computer is giving him some kind of grief. After several tries, a woman supervisor comes by and the clerk asks her for help. She looks for a second and says that copy purchases can only go through this other register and he would have to move over there. No smile from her, no other comments or help either. I go to the other register and get a new guy. He is working on it but is having trouble also. Finally, he calls the copy guy who guides him through the process. Finally done. I'm out of there.

What is right or wrong with this scenario? The store is beautiful and new, but it is not the store that serves me, it is the people in it. Was I served? Sure, but that isn't what matters. How was I served is what matters. Remember, it is not the logic or reason, it is the emotions. So what would your emotions be like in this scenario? I can tell you that I am having a dramatically different experience than I had just a few days ago. I also interacted with more employees and even a supervisor this time. What do you suppose my emotions are about that? I'm thinking that the employees need some training--not just training in what to do, but in how to do it. What is a much easier task than how. They need to know that each time they are helping to create my experience and my experience will help determine whether and how long they stay in business. They do have competition and that gives me choices. I already stated previously that the Office Max experience was generally going downhill, but yesterday, they shined in comparison. Also, I now habitually go to Office Max and have to think about going to Staples. Where do you think my next purchase will be?

The shopping experience is so important. If you could be invisible and watch the experience of your customers in your store with your employees (or you), how do you think they are feeling? You are probably not the only game in town and that gives customers choices. Where do you think they will choose to go next?

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