Thursday, November 15, 2007

Retail Boom - customer service is the key

Everyone around the world is talking about the retail boom happening in India and the way it is going to explode and everyone who is anyone in the world retail space wants to be in India. Having said that things have changed quite a bit in terms of presentation and availability of products in India but what has not changed is the attitude of the sales staff and the way customers are treated in the stores. The feeling one gets is that the store is doing the customer a favour by existing and serving the customer and its not the other way around where the customer is king and you need to do all you can to delight the customer. Let me give you a few examples of my experiences in the last couple of weeks to illustrate this.

I visited Metro Cash and Carry (India) here in Hyderabad and I wanted to pick up some furniture. So I found what I wanted and was waiting for someone to help me find a packed piece. There were a couple of sales guys who were buying shirts (yes during store timings and wearing the metro yellow overall) so I approached them and asked them to help me - they made a phone call and I waited for 5 min (they continued buying their shirts that were going at 99 and 199 each). I then went to the front desk and I saw someone dressed like a manager I told him and he too made a call and I came back and waited for another 5 min - nothing happened. I then told a couple of more sales people who came and went but no one was able to help me - at last after nearly 25 min a sales person approached me telling me that he was the in charge for the furniture - only to tell me that they are out of stock.

I then continued on my shopping and bought a lot of stuff that was on discount due to the 83% clearance sale that they were having - I especially bought stuff from the Johnson Winter Care offer. I then approached billing and everything was going fine till I realised that none of the discounts were showing up on my bill. So a few more phone calls and about 10 min of waiting nothing happened so I approached the main cash desk and saw a lot of sales persons (including the one in charge of the furniture section) loitering and chit chatting there. So I asked them what is happening about my problem and they told me that they already informed the person in charge about it. So I waited for 5 min - nothing happened. So I approached them and asked for the manager - they told me that the manager is in a meeting and that he cannot be disturbed. The other weird thing is that the person who was to help me said - only the manager knows about the offer - but he is in a meeting. That's when I lost my cool since it was already more than 30 min that I was waiting and they were still not ready to bring the manager out. Anyway after a bit of my screaming the manager came out and told me that all the stuff that I bought was not on sale - I then opened the metro mail magazine and showed me the pictures of the products that were on sale and they matched the products that I had - but he insisted that none of them were on sale. This clearly shows that even though something is on sale in the magazine it need not be on sale the day you visit the store. I left all that I bought and walked out of the store having wasted enough time already.

My other bad experience was at Big Bazaar in Ameerpet. The store is a new store but it lacks the following - very bad traffic management, parking is still being constructed, construction material all over the place, water all over the place, very few and badly organized billing counters, very few sales people to get clarifications from and when you add the crowds into the equation it just ends up being such a bad shopping experience.

Of the two experiences - I will never go back to Big Bazaar but I will go back to Metro. Metro is a nice shopping experience, its a nice store will well laid out aisles and items. All it needs to improve is the customer service when customers have issues. Big bazaar is just the pits it leaves one being frustrated after you shop there.

There are a lot more stores on the smaller store front that have opened like Reliance Fresh, Fresh @, Ratnadeep, Trinetra, Subiksha and so on and things are changing - I have had good experiences in many of these stores. Things are improving but the stores have to realise that the key to their success is
  • Ample parking
  • Well stocked stores neatly arranged
  • Quick billing
  • Customer service help desk that can actually help

1 comment:

Ourspace said...

Metro Cash & Carry - Hyderabad sucks!! This time it is regarding Christmas Decorations. The prices are atrociously high. The weirdest part is that their In-Charge Sandeep says on the phone that they have lots of stock of christmas decorations and nativity sets etc. but you dont see much. Wonder for whom they are storing it all in for !!!
I have noticed the folks at the Hyderabad Metro dont care, terrible apathy !!! More like an attitude of I've come to earn and go home, care a damn abt the customers, they should fend for themselves.