I’ve noticed for the past few years – now I’m well into middle age – that sales assistants can’t be bothered helping me any more. The good-looking, young people are getting all their attention. Face-to-face customer service could (and are) missing out on a big slice of the customer pie.
This happened at a health food store that I’ve been going to for more than 10 years. I was in there recently to buy a particular brand of herb tea bag. The (new) young man working there told me the store didn’t have it and it would more likely be found in a health food shop.
“But isn’t this a health food shop?” was my reply.
“No,” he responds, “it’s a supplements store.”
He was desperate to get back to talking to a group of younger women somewhere near the protein supplements, despite the fact that his colleague was already assisting them. He pretended to look in the computer to humour me when I asked him to, saying “no” they definitely didn’t stock it. But obviously he didn’t really look, as the next time I returned to the store they had the product in stock.
Similarly, when I go to Sephora, Mecca or other beauty emporiums, I sometimes have trouble getting assistance. Hey gals, hey guys: women in my age bracket need help with cosmetics and skin care as well. And, if we’re in the store, we could really do with your help.
Face-to-face customer service is taking a hit
This type of service, or lack thereof, is detrimental to a store’s sales. The fact is that my generation is used to buying products in a bricks-and-mortar store. Younger people are just as likely to buy online. Which is often what I do now. This is mainly so I don’t get messed around by someone who can’t be bothered looking for a particular lipstick shade I’m after.
One young female sales assistant obviously couldn’t be bothered helping me in a high-end beauty store, but when I approached another one at the sales desk they said they might have it out the back, which they did. Message: if I hadn’t been pushy the store would have missed out on a sale.
Money is money is money (no matter who spends it)
Retailers need to wise up. Maybe commissions need to be reintroduced. If a staff member was going to get a percentage of everything a customer bought, they would soon realise that the over-45s tend to have more disposable income, and can be more demanding in what they’re looking for. A bit of positive encouragement and you will sell even more products to this demographic. And most of these beauty products are expensive, so the numbers would quickly add up.
And this means offering attentive service to everyone. Your front-of-house workers are the lasting memory of your business, so you want to make sure that they’re representing the brand the way you designed.
Back to the man in question. When at another location of the store in the city I asked if they had the herb tea bags that I was after. They said they didn’t as they didn’t have much space, but I should try the Glebe store, which is my local store. I related my experience there and was happy to find out that the person I was speaking to was the manager of both stores. I pointed out to him that this sort of behaviour is turning customers away.
Susi Banks is a newspaper-trained freelance content writer and editor.