I read two stories yesterday that caught my interest for two different, yet related reasons.
The first story is about the results of a survey of 600 mall shoppers across the country. The results showed that a larger percentage of Millennials believe that sales associates are “extremely important to their retail experience” than Boomers believe that statement. Doesn’t this fly in the face of conventional wisdom about Millennials that they just want to be left alone to shop with their headphones on and smartphones in hand?
Haven’t we all been told that today’s young adults don’t value customer service as much as previous generations?
This study says you’re wrong. Only 9% of the Gen Y respondents did not believe sales associates add value to the experience. In other words, Customer Service is not dead. It is as important as ever, even to this current generation of tech-savvy shoppers.
The second story is about a new store concept launched by Nordstrom called Nordstrom Local. The store is 98% smaller than the typical department store. In fact, it doesn’t stock any merchandise. It is a location for BOPIS (buy online pickup in store). It is a location for fashion advice. It is a location for meeting with a personal stylists. it is a location for alterations and tailoring. It is a location for manicures and refreshments. It is a location for all of the services that make Nordstrom special except for one thing—the actual product.
I am watching this project with a lot of curiosity to see how it pans out. It will be a true test of whether customer service is really that important to a significantly sized crowd or not. In many ways Nordstrom Local seems to be embracing the concepts I read about in this article. Nordstrom is betting that customer service and experience is more important than the product.
Me? I’m not too sure. I’ve always believed you need a solid mix of both to truly be successful. At the same time, I would love to see this concept be successful if for no other reason than to prove once and for all the Customer Service is not dead.
PS The first two links come from a daily email I get from Chain Store Age. If they didn’t open up for you, you need to get an account (It’s free!) If you are a retailer and are not getting this information and these stories, you should sign up. While many of the stories are about chain stores, the information you will glean about retail in general and about your competition is priceless.