How to Make a Customer Feel Lousy About Herself

So I was shopping at this store called Feminu (in Serangoon Nex Mall) last week for an attire for my latest workshop, and I experienced pretty bad customer service there. 🙁

Feminu at Serangoon Nex Mall

Feminu at Serangoon Nex Mall — lousy service. Avoid to spare yourself the pain.

How to Make a Customer Feel Lousy

I learned four things from them to make a customer feel bad about him/herself:

1) Impose your judgement

At Feminu, I tried a dress at “S” size and asked the store assistant (let’s call her X) to get me the “M” size as “S” was a little small.

Rather than help me do so, X took a look at me in that dress and refused, because — she said and I quote — “‘S’ fits you fine and ‘M’ would be too big. There’s no need to try ‘M’ at all.” Even when I said I wanted to try it anyway, she didn’t do anything to help me but continued whatever she was doing! (I think she was fixing a dress for a customer.)

While I appreciated X’s input, shouldn’t my dress size be a decision I make by trying out the sizes myself? I don’t know. As a customer, I felt  oppressed into deciding on my purchase without given the chance to try other sizes and see if they fit better (for me).

2) Push flawed merchandise

As it turned out, I decided to purchase the dress at “S” size anyway as it was okay-ish and I was in a time crunch to get my attire. I had already shopped the day before with Ken and this dress was better than all other pieces I had seen/tried.

I asked for a new piece (a standard request you make in Singapore retail shops since some display only display test pieces) to which her junior assistant retrieved for me.

However, upon inspection, I found that this ‘new’ piece wasn’t 100% clean: there was a small grey patch on it! Same for the testing piece which I wore in the dressing room actually.

Given that the dress was white, I didn’t want to take a chance. I asked if X could retrieve another new piece, to which… she refused. She said either of the patches could be washed away, and it was either I get the one she had retrieved or testing piece on the rack: both of which weren’t in 100% clean. -_-‘ Which were kinda like… non-options if you asked me. <.<

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get anyone else to help as X seemed to be the person in charge. I felt boxed to make a purchase on non-salable merchandise.

3) Focus on making the sale without regarding your customer’s needs

After some reluctance, I took one of the two pieces, hoping the patch could be washed out.

Immediately after I said I would get the dress, X immediately zoomed in to my purchase method, took my credit card from me, made the sales transaction, got me to sign the transaction receipt, and moved on to whatever she was doing.

As a customer (and person), I felt like I was only good for my money, and my utility had been exhausted having made the decision for the purchase and handed over the money. It was like X had no use for me anymore, not even regarding that I could be a future customer.

4) Make it seem like it’s the customer’s fault

After a day, I decided to return the dress as I didn’t really like it after all. To begin with, I felt pushed into making the purchase with limited help and options, and I wasn’t really satisfied with the buy.

Since Feminu allows for exchange within three days, I immediately returned the next day with Ken to get my dress exchanged for another. I was ready to top up if need be.

However, when X saw me back at the shop with my exchange request, the first thing she uttered was, “Wow, tried so many clothes yesterday (and only bought one), and now you want to exchange (the only item you bought)?

That really made me feel awful actually! To be honest I was already half-expecting something like that from X because her service from before was terrible. I just kept quiet and continued to hand over the dress I bought, hoping she would agree to an exchange.

What X Should Have Done

While I eventually got to exchange for a dress I like from Feminu (luckily), X’s service attitude left me thinking, I don’t want to return to this store again.

The fact that she isn’t just an assistant, but the assistant-in-charge, made it even worse because I knew that I would definitely have to face her if I returned to the store. I rather go to other shops or pay a premium for a better service attitude.

Here’s what I would have done if I was in her shoes:

  1. If the customer wants to try a different size, let him/her do that! You stock up merchandise to sell them, so why are you being so stringent about letting customers try the clothes? Your clothes are meant to be tried so that they would sell! Even if you have your opinion about what dress or size fits the customer best, the dress/size is a decision the customer has to come to on his/her own. Share your thoughts, but do not impose your judgment.
  2. If your merchandise is faulty, acknowledge that, and get a new piece that has no defects. It is your job to ensure that the merchandise you are selling has no defects to begin with. The customer is paying money to get good quality goods and you shouldn’t expect them to exchange their cash for defective goods.
  3. Be customer-centered. Meaning, understand his/her needs and concerns and address them thoroughly first before talking about purchase or sale, vs. being focused on nailing the purchase and getting the cash. The former builds positive goodwill and potentially creates return sales, while the latter makes you seem like a money-grubbing business owner.
  4. If your store has an exchange or return policy, honor that duly while giving a 100% service attitude. There’s no need to be snarky, rude, or demeaning. All you will do is to push the customer away and turn him/her off from returning to your store in the future.

Focus on Building Customer Relationships, Not Sales

Ironically, in being so sales-centered, X has negatively affected her store’s long-term sales because I have no interest to return to the store anymore. (Or at least, that particular branch. I don’t know if Feminu has other branches.) If I think this way, chances are there are other people who think this way too because they have received the same treatment.

The sad thing is that she’s not even the store owner (I don’t think so), and she — with her unhelpful service attitude — is driving sales away for her employer!

While X is from China (I gathered based on her accent), I’ve observed bad service attitudes in Singaporean retail and F&B service staff before. Usually more lackluster attitudes than brash ones.

If you are in sales or you run your own business, the above tips and my 10-step customer service guide will definitely help you build long-term customer relationship (and as a result, sales). (The Customer Service Manifesto will be useful as a print-out reminder for your staff.) I’m proud to say that many of my product and course purchases come from past customers, and I believe that’s because of satisfaction with the products they bought and the courses they attended in the past.

PS: In the end I didn’t even get to wear my new dress to the workshop because I was informed by my client to wear a different attire a day before the event. Well, I look forward to wearing it nonetheless for a future event or training. 😀

And You?

Any negative customer service experience to share? What are your tips for great customer service? Do share below!

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