Retailers service actually gets worse in response to On-line competition!?!?

shoponline On a recent visit to my local Nordstrom, I found a style I liked but they didn’t have my size in stock.  “No problem,” I thought, “Can you have the proper size transferred from another store, so I can try them on and get them marked for alternations if I choose to buy them?”

Imagine my surprise when the Nordstrom salesperson told me “No.”

He went on to tell me that I could purchase that pants (without trying them on), they’d be shipped to my home and then I could bring them back to the store for alternations.

In my 25 year relationship as a Nordstrom customer, I’ve had items transferred numerous times, but it turns out that service is now a casualty of the internet era.

When I told the salesperson, if that’s my only option that I’d rather order them myself, he responded with a list of lame (and largely inaccurate) reasons why I should let him order them for me.  If I ordered them myself, I’d get to browse a larger assortment, get automated tracking info, and all my shipping addresses and billing info is already on-file making the transaction much faster.  But what it boils down to is that the salesperson wouldn’t get the commission if I ordered them myself.  So he was stuck trying to talk me into a worse customer experience.  Can that really be what Nordstrom intended?

People shop physical stores for the potential for immediate gratification, to viscerally interact with the products, and for the human provided customer service.  When you don’t deliver on those benefits, you fail!

Of course brick and mortar retailers should try and send shoppers to their on-line fulfillment rather than lose the sale, but that option should be considered a last resort when a retailer has failed to fulfill their brand promise, it should not be viewed as a customer benefit.

borders_free_shipping_out_of_stock Last year Borders rolled out a new marketing campaign.  Giant posters appeared in the windows of all the stores, a greeter handed you a printed explanation when you walked in the store, and signs were prominently placed throughout the store.  What was this new policy?

“If we don’t have the book you are looking for in stock, we’ll send it to you with free shipping.”

Now, that’s a perfectly reasonable policy and I’m glad Borders has it.  But is that really the most important thing to tell shoppers that have made a special trip to your store?  Every customer’s first impression is going to be, “this store frequently doesn’t have what it’s customers are looking for, and I’d do better to just shop online.”  Followed closely by “wait… doesn’t Amazon have free shipping for most orders too?  Is Borders making a big fuss about adopting the industry standard practice?”

There are lots of great ways for Click and Bricks (multi-channel) retailers to leverage their advantages to better serve the customer.  But don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

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