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Does Customer Service Matter Any More?

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In an age of instantaneous streaming of information on products and price, where consumers can buy something on a computer or on a variety of mobile devices, is in-person customer service an antiquated notion?

Many believe that price is the driving factor in purchases, but once price is equalized, customer service may be the tipping point that drives the final sale, adding perceived value.

When shoppers go to a store, they want to touch, demo, sample, try on—in short, experience a product first-hand. In-store customer service can turn a shopper into a buyer, making that shopping experience rewarding and compelling.

Brand loyalties are slowly fading, so whatever a sales staff can do to promote good customer service is noticed by shopping-weary consumers who are used to more mediocre customer service. Customer service can keep you in business—eye contact, being polite and addressing a customer by name can make a difference in a store’s bottom line.

Take Apple, for example: Apple’s pricing is consistent and not prone to discounting by outside sources. Their products and engaging advertising may draw people in, but staff plays a large part in Apple’s success since they’re always friendly, helpful, and passionate about their products and the “Apple experience.”

In Steve Job’s biography, Walter Issacson wrote that “Jobs’s primary test for recruiting people in the spring of 1981 … was making sure they had a passion for the product…. he would dramatically unveil a prototype of a Mac … and if their eyes lit up and they said ‘Wow’, after Jobs pointed and clicked, he’d hire them.” Having this mix of good personalities who aren’t technical experts, yet show that they care and work well as a team, helps further Apple culture and profits.

Nordstrom’s is another example of profit bolstered by a savvy product mix and excellent customer service. Rather than overwhelm sales staff with rules and regulations, Nordstrom’s has always taken the “less is more” approach.

Simply put, “providing outstanding customer service; and using your best judgment in all situations” is the mantra Nordstrom’s lives by. Nordstrom’s demonstrates their commitment to customer service by 1) being able to access past purchases without a receipt; 2) accepting all returns; 3) researching across departments to find the customer the right item.

Product selection has a great deal to do with my shopping preferences, but if I’m going to go to the trouble of shopping in person in any store, then the service had better stand out, and time and time again, I have found Nordstrom’s sales associates polite and helpful to a fault.

Retail Staffing Agencies are sensitive to their clients needs in customer service whether it’s on the sales floor or the stockroom and they can save their clients time and money by pre-screening the right candidates for temporary labor and permanent positions.

Job seekers who consider a job in retail should take stock and see if they meet these necessary qualifications when interviewing:

* Make sure you’re committed and enthusiastic about customer service and express the desire to be better.

* Embrace the team- player concept, which is important for a well-tuned operation.

* Cite examples of great customer service you have provided.

* Ask about training that a prospective retail employer might offer—a clear indication of their commitment to excellence and you as an employee.

Simply put, customer service is still considered the backbone of retailing and keeps you in business.

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