Tuesday, September 6, 2011

@RevRunWisdom and Retail Revenues

"In relationships::: True love doesn't have a happy ending,, TRUE LOVE doesn't have an ending" -- @RevRunWisdom

Many moons ago, I saw that tweet (complete with multiple weird forms of punctuation) from Rev Run and, true to form, saved it for a future blog post.  My friends, this is that future blog post.

A dose of retail therapy.

This past Friday, I was dangerously close to Bloomingdale's (with whom I've had a true love relationship), I decided to pay homage.  It was "safe" of course to do so, I reasoned.  Even if I were to purchase anything, it would be on sale and I had a coupon, too.  Virtually guilt free!

I said hello to the pretty shoes, winked at the David Yurman counter, and innocently, happened upon a cute little dress which, after multiple discounts was roughly 25% of the original price.  It had me at hello.  I didn't have my Ultimate Premier Insider card with me but, no matter, I knew they could look up my information at the register.

Gone are the halcyon days of service.

In store service hit a new low for me on Friday.  And it's because the register I approached was managed by a person in the middle of a personal phone call -- a call she didn't end during said purchase.  She took the dress, scanned the bar code, scanned my coupon, affixed a return sticker to the label, took my credit card and asked for my zip code while she was still on the phone.

The multitasking was impressive -- especially when she stapled her business card to my receipt while speaking to the other party.  The only time she stopped multitasking was when she realized she couldn't still cradle the phone under her ear while placing the dress in the bag.  She finally asked her friend to hold.

Frankly, this experience was hilariously bad.  

The mind boggles at the seemingly small things that people do.  I'm not so naive as to just notice that customer service in large department stores just isn't like it was "in the old days" et cetera.  The mind boggles that we sometimes forget that there are multiple opportunity costs from these seemingly small actions.  In this case, there were at least four opportunity costs (however tiny in scale) for them:
  1. I changed my mind at the last minute and didn't use my Ultimate Premier Insider card to make the sale.  It wasn't in a fit of pique - I just didn't "feel the love" at that point in time.  This is bad because stores enjoy a margin savings when you use their card as opposed to another piece of plastic due to interchange rates, etc.  The dress was 75% off and they lost a few more basis points (at least) because I chose another method of payment.
  2. I did end up going to another department afterwards and chose only one other item even though I had my eye on another -- margin hit.  And, though it was a different register, I still used another piece of plastic instead -- another margin hit!
  3. The business card she stapled to my receipt serves as a good reminder (to me) of who to avoid on my next trip given the less than stellar performance on this last trip.  It's not dislike per se but perhaps I'll avoid her department altogether next time.  Or perhaps, if I want to buy something and she's my only choice, I may not buy at all.
  4. I'm telling you this story.  No need to say more on this point! 
Wait for it...

I do have a point in all of this and it's not a sneaky ploy to get special attention from Bloomingdale's.  Rev Run is right that true love doesn't have an ending because a constant true love is continuously fed and nurtured by each person in the love affair.  It doesn't have to be tumultuous and it may even occasionally be a bit of a snooze but it is sustaining because of the care given to it.

And so this experience, however small in the grand scheme of things makes me wonder at the sin of omission/sin of commission element to how we treat customers.  Sometimes we know we're not doing right by them and yet sometimes we don't.  In the former case, my little anecdote should perhaps help you consider changing habits.  In the latter case, my little anecdote reinforces the need for checking in, sincerely asking for meaningful actionable feedback (beyond Net Promoter Scores) and then putting action plans in place.

It's about revenues, ultimately.

The opportunity costs I outlined for you all had a revenue impact for Bloomingdale's.  If we want the revenue love to be true and never ending, we've got to open our eyes and realize that the things we do and the things we don't do matter.  What are we willing to do to keep the cycle of revenue love moving forward?  That's the ultimate question.

Your take?  Please leave comments below and, if you'd like, please share with friends.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef



  1. Your post really rang a bell. Why are these old established bricks & mortar brands not paying more attention to the customer experience? Both the real life and the online kind. It seems I am having similar incidents almost every week with brands I have done business with for years. I used to shopAlot at Bloomingdales, but I don't have one in my area..... however after what you wrote I'll hesitate visiting a store should I find one on a trip somewhere. Don't they realize the power of the internet....... the trickle up effect?

    Customer service is my focus this week.....I am thinking a lot about it. Thank you for this post.

  2. Hello and thank you for stopping by! I've loads of possible reasons in mind as to the cause of poor service generally and in this instance. It's easy to make an example of the employee in this case but, in all fairness, the story made me wonder what is going on "behind the scenes" and beyond my POV as a customer. How is this employee made to feel by her management team? Something in me says that my story is a symptom of a larger problem.