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Is Customer Service Dead?

I just spent several days in Las Vegas for the ABC Expo, the largest trade show for the juvenile product industry.

Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (btw, they mean the money you gamble stays in Vegas).


One thing that didn’t happen in Vegas was me drinking beer. Not that I didn’t try.

I ordered a beer in a burger & beer joint in one casino. Took almost 20 minutes to arrive. I probably would have had two if I hadn’t filled up on water waiting for the first one.

I ordered a beer at another restaurant just as I started my meal. When the waitress finally returned to see if we wanted our check, I switched it from a tall to a regular.

I understand the concept of not bringing the check in a restaurant until they ask for it, on the hopes that people will continue drinking and run up the tab, but I wasn’t getting either the drink or the tab. It’s hard to pay 20% on over-priced meals when you get service like that.


It wasn’t just the restaurants, either. I was in one of the largest booths on the trade show floor. I asked for a price list so that I could place my order. The sales rep said she was instructed not to give them out.


I’m about to write an order equal to one month of your salary. You have a stack of price lists in your arm that I can see clearly. And you won’t give me one? Did you forget why you were here?

Time after time, booth after booth, I had to ask to make sure they gave me a price list with the catalog. It was baffling how hard many of these vendors were making it for us to do business with them.


Another store owner and I, while waiting for our dinner check, had plenty of time to discuss the general lack of customer service everywhere. We shared stories of trips to the big box stores, department stores, mall stores, and yes, even indie retail stores where the bar was not met.

Think about it. Here are two retailers who understand the challenges of retail. Our bar of expectation is probably more forgiving than others. Yet we were lamenting how we couldn’t find anyone to consistently give us even simple basic customer service.

Yet a new survey from SAP SE says that one of the keys to future growth is, “Improve the in-store experience, because while a focus for many years on the in-store experience has paid off, retailers must continue to evolve and innovate to keep up with changing customer needs.”


The key phrase is changing customer needs. Actually they aren’t changing as fast as you might think. But if you aren’t hyper-focused on your customer’s needs, whether it be a beer or a price or just a friendly smile, your customer service is dead and dying.

My fellow retailer and I came to a simple conclusion. Customer Service is really quite simple…

Give the customer exactly what she wants.

WOW Customer Service is not much more difficult.

Give her exactly what she wants and then a little more.

We didn’t find that in Las Vegas. But if you do that in your store, it will pay off in ways the slot machines never can.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Your brick & mortar competition (chains and big-box behemoths) have pretty much given up on Customer Service. You know who hasn’t? The online stores. Amazon is hyper-focused on the customer. Other major online sellers are doing the same. If you can start exceeding your customers’ expectations, you can own the b&m landscape. Need an idea of how to raise that bar? Download Customer Service: From Weak to WOW! in the Free Resources section.

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