As marketers, we spend an inordinate amount of time developing strategies and executing campaigns to increase leads into the sales funnel, nurture leads, upsell, cross-sell and retain customers through elaborate loyalty programs. But as any experienced marketer also knows, a monthly churn rate can often outstrip the acquisition rate — effectively losing customers faster than you’re gaining them.
Want to know why?
Forget the ridiculous phone research surveys (those alone make me want to leave my new automobile manufacturer). Or the online survey interrupters that pop up in the middle of searching for that beautiful little, black dress (“We’d love your feedback!” — um … stop bugging me while I’m still shopping, for starters…).
Nope. I’m here to tell you the problem is what’s going on at the retail level. And, if my colleague’s recent experience at a Comcast/XFINITY store is any indication of our future generation of customer service reps, then all brands are in trouble.
If your brand’s future is in the hands of millennials, you should be worried.
It seems that most customers are in a store on their way home from work because when she entered at 5:30 pm, she was not surprised that there were 20 people ahead of her. So why was there only ONE person servicing the floor?
Every so often she’d see someone (yes, a millennial) come out from the “back,” take a look around at the hoard of customers waiting, and scurry back from whence they came.
When she boldly inquired why the rep was working alone, she was told there were 5 – 6 others working in the back counting cash (… um, can you say “hold up?” Apparently this gal missed the training module ‘What not to say to a customer’).
After my colleague got home and the brand new remote she just picked up didn’t pair with the brand new XFINITY box (that’s a customer service/retention story for another day), she had to return to the store the next day — and wait with the rest of the unwashed masses that were being serviced by one cashier.
No wonder DIRECTV is gaining market share.
And then there’s my local Safeway — another example of how not to let the kids run the asylum.
After spending nearly 45 minutes strolling the aisles and loading $200 worth of groceries in my cart, you’d think the cashier and bagger would do everything in their power to ensure a pleasant check-out experience so that I’d come back again. The cashier (a little older, wiser and a lot more savvy) was trying to get me through the line efficiently, but the millennial bagger found his cell phone far more fascinating than my groceries piling up at the end of the runway.
I finally caught the cashier’s eye and murmured “tell him to put his phone away.” Her response was barely a whisper: “YOU tell him to put it away. No one listens to me.”
So I did.
And he did.
And I filled out the survey at the website at the bottom of my receipt, suggesting it be a store-wide policy that workers leave their cell phones in their lockers. Shouldn’t that be an obvious “rule” in 2016?
When I repeat this story to others, I hear equally challenging experiences from clothing boutiques to shoe stores, cafés to bookstores. Young, entry-level workers choosing to keep their heads down, eyes focused on a tiny screen instead of looking at customers and offering help.
Retail stores, while declining in total traffic as compared to websites, are still the brand face for many businesses. So instead of pouring millions into automating back-end, online, shopping tools and sending me daily emails with specials, invest in some in-store customer service training. My experience with your brand is in their hands. And for the folks at Comcast/XFINITY and Safeway, that should be a scary thought.